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If the last two years have taught small businesses anything, it’s that adaptability needs to be a top priority. Despite the many ways SMBs have had to change the ways they do business over the past two years, the fundamentals of marketing remain constant.
Marketing, at its roots, is a simple practice. While landscape changes may add some more window dressing, the most effective marketers listen keenly to their customers and communicate with them through the channels they prefer.
A successful marketing strategy is all about doing the simple things the right way.
We’re sure to see new trends and channel-specific tactics each year—it’s part of the process—but, here are the timeless tips you need to know to be successful in your online marketing this year.
1. Get a lay of the land
It’s important to have a clear idea of your business’s most important dates on your yearly calendar. Try to identify those moments for your business early in the year and create a plan to capitalize on them.
For example, in 2021, 42% of shoppers started holiday shopping in October, in part due to supply chain disruption. If consumers are more inclined to plan their shopping and make purchases earlier than usual, it likely makes sense for you to be prepared early this holiday season too. It may seem far away right now, but supply chain challenges and online ordering are trends that aren’t likely to go away any time soon. If your business has a retail component, set aside time to take a critical look at your holiday marketing activity well before October to meet high demand.
As for businesses that may not have a retail-first model, think about when you are at your busiest during the year, and what external factors may be contributing to that surge. Are any big-ticket events coming to town? Which national and local holidays align with what you offer? What are some overlooked moments that you can capitalize on? I recommend using these questions as a starting point and consulting your customers on promotions they may want to see.
2. Set smart goals
The new year is a time when people look to improve themselves, but many goals are abandoned early on because they’re too lofty, vague or unrealistic. Businesses can fall into the same trap.
Setting business goals that are specific, measurable and attainable will set you up for success and make day-to-day decision-making easier. Identifying areas of opportunity and where you want to improve is a great place to start. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I want to increase or decrease?
- How will I track my progress? Is there a certain growth metric I want to hit?
- What channels will I use to accomplish my goal?
- How soon do I want to accomplish this goal and what are the benchmarks along the way?
Once you answer these questions, you’ll see your clear, defined marketing goals come into focus, and have an airtight plan on how to achieve them.
3. Define your audience
Understanding who your customers are will help you to cater your messaging to them. The best way to do this is to listen to the people who support your business. Gauge what draws them in and what you could do better, and don’t be afraid to actively seek their feedback.
Customers value having input and feeling heard—it’s one of the main advantages that small businesses have over their larger competitors. Whether by word of mouth, online feedback forms or some other method, you should try to understand what leads your customers to your business. If there are common threads, apply these insights to the way you do business. Your customers will be grateful.
4. Tell your story
Small businesses have another differentiator in that they’re often tied to communities. They give their towns a local flavor, and offer an opportunity for more meaningful customer relationships. That personal touch can be a deciding factor in where locals choose to shop, so lean into it.
Your story should drive your strategic decisions.
Even if your company mostly does business online, leverage your web presence to form a connection with the people around you. Tell them about your ties to the area, how you got started, and why your business is important to you. It’ll make customers feel better about buying from you, and help you build a long-term rapport. Be sure to include images and videos as well, as visual mediums are becoming increasingly popular.
When you can tell your story effectively, it allows you to have a voice in the marketplace while attracting those who are a good match for your business and rallying those on your team toward a shared vision for what you want for your customers. Your story should drive your strategic decisions.
5. Share your story
Telling your story is easy (who doesn’t like talking about themselves?), but amplifying it is another. That’s what your marketing is for. The more people know about your business, the more opportunities for them to engage with you. Your goal should be to demonstrate your values and priorities in your messaging, and that requires alignment across all the places where you promote yourself.
First, make sure that you have a website and that you are keeping it updated—it’s your new first impression, and one of the best ways to bring all your other marketing tactics together under one roof. An engaging website makes it easy for visitors to learn more about your business, follow your updates and make purchases. It’s also a terrific way to grow your email list.
Email marketing is a tried-and-true medium that customers have engaged with consistently over the years, so make that central to your outreach. You should be using other platforms to supplement your messaging, but email gives you the tools to deliver your story directly to a customer’s inbox and generate more engagement.
6. Measure your success
How will you know your marketing efforts have been successful? There was a time when email opens and clicks were the barometer for understanding whether your campaign was successful, but that’s not the case anymore. Use them as leading indicators, but focus your attention on other metrics like list growth, ROI and conversions instead. After all, how effective is an impression if the reader doesn’t do anything except scroll past? Instead, focus on asking: Are people taking the actions I want them to take? That means are they visiting your website, joining your email list, making purchases, calling you directly or anything else that is meaningful for your business growth.
You can also track and analyze data like website traffic, social media engagement and sales stemming from your campaign. Data is the most useful tool that modern SMBs have at their disposal, and using a tool like Constant Contact to help you take action on that data is a surefire way to improve your marketing strategy.
Putting it all together
Ultimately, a successful marketing strategy is all about doing the simple things the right way. The best way to make sure that happens is having a proactive plan that’s adaptable. You should have a general picture of what your year ideally looks like, but the past two years have shown just how fluid things can be. If you’re constantly collecting information and keeping pace with changes in the market though, daunting overhauls can become simple tweaks, and your business can continually thrive as a result.