Marketing is a big, HUGE field that's pretty overwhelming to most business owners.
I know, because I work with business owners every day to decipher what marketing will be most effective for them. Some of these businesses are small, one person contractors. Others are big $1 million+ revenue companies.
The problem always persists: with so many options, how do you start?
First thing is first. Get your business in order.
It won't matter how effective your marketing is if customers have a bad experience doing business with you. The best and worst type of marketing is word of mouth.
Give a stellar experience to every customer you do business with and encourage them to become advocates of your brand. That's the most effective form of advertising.
That usually isn't enough on its own. Especially if you have competition that is also providing good experiences. You need to do more to stand out.
After spending over a decade trying to dwindle down marketing categories, the three that make the most sense to me (but are still pretty wide) are Location/Property, Organic, and Advertising.
The most effective businesses work from left to right. They really solidify location, then organic marketing, then advertising. All-the-while, they're making upgrades to the categories they've already "checked off."
Things really get convoluted and "in the weeds" when a business jumbles this order or half-finishes one before the other. The result is a constant catchup game that is not only unproductive but expensive.
What I mean by location marketing applies to both your physical business location AND the locations your business "lives" online.
To begin, the basics need covered.
How's your signage if you have a physical location (or vehicle for that matter)?
Are you employees (or yourself) representing your company well to every customer?
How are your printed materials that you hand out or have on location?
Is your website responsive, easy-to-use, and have the right information?
If you intend to collect leads or sell online, is that functionality working the way it will need to?
Okay. Now you've covered all your initial basis. When a customer finds you, they'll love their experience so much that they'll come back with friends.
Next comes organic marketing. There's A LOT you can do as a business without spending a dime on ads.
Organic marketing is by no means free.
You could spend all your time doing it yourself, but most of the time it's worth the investment to pay a specialist.
What do I mean by organic marketing?
Social media falls under this category. (We've got a great guide for social media marketing)
Email marketing, promotions, offers, loyalty programs, and other re-engagement tactics also can be considered organic marketing.
Finally content creation is a big opportunity that many businesses miss.
The reason they miss out?
It takes some creativity.
If you're a restaurant in small town, how would a blog or videos help you? I don't necessary have the answer to that (yet!), but if you get creative you can find a way.
Content is more affordable than advertising and will last for years rather than a few weeks if done properly.
Things that fall under content creations: blogs, videos, podcasts, photos, quizzes, interactive tools, etc.
I'm in NO WAY trying to talk any business owner out of advertising. Spending money on advertising is essential to keeping your brand top of mind and in front of consumers.
If you don't do it, your competitors will.
However, if you're pouring money into advertising (traditional or digital) without strong Location and Organic marketing, then you're losing many of the potential customers you reach through advertising.
Any kind of advertising can be effective. Again, it takes a bit of creativity to find the right mix.
Consulting a few of your sales reps (if you have a business, you'll have them wether you want to or not) or local marketing consultants can help sort out the slew of options available for advertising.
Some options include sponsoring local events, radio advertising (sponsoring local radio station events is a big win), local newspaper, trade magazines, display ads on trade websites, social media targeted ads, television, video pre-roll, and targeted search ads.
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Craig Inzana is the Director of Digital Sales & Services for Priority Digital Services. His mission is to bring big city marketing to small town and regional businesses.