I often say branding is your most important asset. But marketing is your most important system. In order for your business to thrive, you need great branding and an effective long-term marketing strategy to make it all work.
If you’re a small business owner, you may have tried marketing on your own, hired a consultant, or looked to your web designer for help. And since you are now reading this post, I imagine your marketing plans may not have worked out perfectly.
If a small business owner tries and fails to create and effective marketing system, the reason is usually in the planning: They focus on a few marketing tactics—usually a popular trend, tool, or practice—instead of taking a step back and thinking through a complete A-Z marketing strategy. A strategy that results in building a system to effectively market their business for the long-term.
If you think about marketing as a system, one of your business’s most critical systems, you’ll be on your way to turning more ideal prospects into paying customers.
So here are 7 components to building an effective marketing system for your small business.
1. You need an ongoing marketing strategy.
Think about a new website design. Most businesses want to jump right into design instead of taking a step back and strategizing and asking questions like the following: Why do we need a new website? Is there a specific audience (ideal client) we should be focusing on? What, exactly are we helping them do? Is this clear? What about researching our competitors? Interviewing our clients to gain valuable insight? First, refining our brand and copy?
These questions tell you why marketing should be a system. Why? Because this is just step one in creating a system that works—working to define your ideal client, creating client personas, doing competitive landscape research, and refining your core marketing message and brand positioning.
This is systematic thinking and it’s just one step, your very first step, to creating a marketing framework that clearly and concisely describes what you do, who you are, speaks to the right people, and stands out from your competitors.
2. Your customer’s experience should be a journey, not a one-and-done experience.
You’ve probably heard the term, marketing funnel. Here, prospects are stuffed at the very top of this funnel, and squeezed until you have a few customers at the other end.
This is not the best model, because it doesn’t factor in what happens after the sale. You should seek to get repeat business from current customers. You should also create a referral system, that is, make it easy for them to tell others about your great products and/or services.
Where is your best sales force? Well, it might surprise you to hear this, but it’s your customers. And happy customers will gladly share their experience with others. This is the basic concept of John Jantsch’s Marketing Hourglass™.
The hourglass model treats your customer experience as a journey based on Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, and Refer. When your small business starts to fill in these sections you’ll start to see results.
3. Educating the customer is one of the most important things you can do.
And educating them comes in the form of blog posts, webinars, podcasts, white papers, etc. To gain traction online you really need to think like a teacher and publish educational content.
I teach companies how to effectively setup a content marketing plan. And part of that teaching is showing them how to leverage their experience and the content they already have, to publish content that educates. B2B companies should blog, but so should the local Chiropractor, Restaurant Owner, and Dentist, etc.
And this isn’t all about blogging because educational content is so varied. You can create a helpful eBook, produce your own podcast, or gather testimonials as part of a reputation marketing plan–testimonials act as social proof that you deliver the goods and they also educate customers on your products and/or services.
You can also conduct workshops or simply give a talk at your local Rotary Club. Just embrace a teaching mindset and roll with it.
4. You need a total online presence.
I mentioned how important content marketing is but this is just one practice. Ideally, you would setup a keyword-rich series of blog posts directed at your best customers, but this is just your website. To create a total online presence you need to expand from this center, creating a series of “spokes”–tools, practices, and tactics built to drive people to your site, engage with your customers, and ultimately move the needle in your business.
As John Jantsch so clearly lays out here, you need to build the following:
Create a listening station. This is basically a base setup to monitor what is being said about your business, your industry, your customers, and the competition. Google Alerts are a good start and a tool like HootSuite can prove invaluable for this.
Setup an editorial calendar. Write down 5, 10, 20 or more of the questions your customers and potential customers always ask. Create long-tail keyword titles and outline a post based on each. The result is the foundation of 5, 10, 20 or more blog posts. Posts that can easily be repurposed into an eBook, video, or podcast series.
Make your content more sharable. Add social sharing buttons to your blog. And don’t forget to get on social media and share the content of others. Filter, then share the type of content your readers want and need to know about. Create a social media marketing system after you create your profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more. Share content, build connections, and develop and online network.
These are just a few of the things you should do to create a total presence plan.
5. Advertising, PR, and Referrals are important.
You now know who your ideal customer is. You are starting to create an engaging system where they will come to like, know, and trust you. But how do you go further? Old school practices like trade show booths are expensive and frankly not as effective as they used to be.
So what about other ways to generate great leads? Part of the plan—of this system—is to make it easy for people to find you. Sending out a postcard mailer and waiting for the phone to ring just isn’t going to work on its own. You need to take advantage of the lead generation trio mentioned above.
With online advertising, experiment with Google and Facebook. Remember to promote education-based content vs. the quick sale. This is a better long-term strategy.
PR works and it’s not that expensive, really. It’s also not used by many small businesses. Today start building a list of key people in your line of work, journalists, and look to trade publications. Think about an announcement each month, then use these connections to help spread the word.
Referrals can be golden. Think about strategies to activate your customers, making it easy to spread the word about you. Make it easy for great customers to refer you by setting up a reputation marketing platform. Or simply take care of them and they’ll be happy to spread the word about you.
6. Selling has to be part of the mix.
Want to really start converting prospects to customers? Craft a sales process and build it into your marketing system.
There are more than a few small businesses out there with no real sales strategy. It’s more like finding great leads but not developing a start-to-finish sales system.
STOP thinking only about closing the deal. START thinking of your customers as the most valuable asset you have. Develop a “customer journey” mindset, meaning their after-the-sale experience should be just as important as their initial experience with you.
You should have plans in place from discovering that ideal client, to presenting to them, nurturing them, getting them to say yes, and most importantly, creating a process built so you can measure and communicate the results they got from working with you. A sales process where they will want to continue to work with you and want to tell others whey they should work with your company.
7. You must live by the calendar for your marketing to work.
You may have heard of the book, The Power of Habit. And to me, for your marketing to work, it HAS to become a habitual daily routine.
This means doing the following…
If you are blogging, create monthly themes. Each month create a series of posts based on one area your customers need help in. Build up a calendar 3-6 months out based on those questions mentioned in step 4 above. Once you get rolling you’ll start to gain traction, with the gods at Google and with your prospects. Think long-term.
As I wrote in the opening, “branding is your most important asset and marketing is your most important system.” So if you want your business to grow you must institute an effective marketing strategy that becomes a complete marketing system.
Do you want to bring your brand to life? Taking a few minutes to complete our brand audit will help you think about your current marketing efforts and what might need to change. It will also help me suggest several ways to improve your branding and marketing now: Brand audit.
After you complete the form, we’ll contact you to schedule a time to go over the results and see how we can help.
If you are interested in learning more about our branding and marketing process, sign up for my email list below.