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  • Writer's pictureGrace Malinoski

How to Create a Marketing Strategy for Your Small Business

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

In Four Simple Steps

If you’ve read the other article (s) on my blog or have recently taken stock of your overall marketing efforts, you’ve probably run across this mysterious thing called a marketing strategy. You've probably been told that you need one in order to either ramp up your existing marketing or that you need a marketing strategy before anything else can be done.

And then you get a whole bunch of expensive quotes, “freemium” plans, and other costly “options,” which makes the thought of investing in your marketing efforts seem more trouble than it is worth.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The best small business marketing strategies are all based on the same four steps:

  1. Discovering your target audiences

  2. Connecting with them wherever they are

  3. Promising solutions to meet their problems

  4. Delivering those solutions

With time and research, most small business professionals can do this. Let’s take a look at each step, how a non-marketing professional can accomplish it, and how much time and effort you should estimate and allocate to creating your marketing strategy for your small business.

Discovering Your Target Audience

At the very beginning of your marketing strategy, you will need to work either from the very beginning for a new product or service or from an existing product/service. This is the most time-intensive part of any marketing strategy and will be the longest part of this post. Let’s take a look at both situations.

Confirming Your Product/Service Viability

One question before we get started: Are you solving a genuine need that a specific, identifiable and sizable group of people who are looking for and are willing to pay for your product or service? Make sure the answer is yes before you continue on. Some ways you can do this include:

  • Interviewing people that you think might need it

  • Asking people who are not your close friends or family for their honest opinions

  • Be willing to change your product or service if/when others see issues or flaws

If you’ve heard of buyer personas and segmentation efforts, this is the time and place to create them. Simply put, both of these tools look at people and narrow them down into a target audience for you.

However, the best buyer persona and segmentation plan won’t help if the people don’t exist in the first place. This is why it is so important that you make sure you have a target audience before you start anything else.

Re-Discovering Your Audience

This can either be easier or harder than working from a brand new base. It depends on what you have to work with right now. Are there old marketing plans from the past that exist? How about binders from agencies you may have contacted in the past or ideas that helped start your business?

If you don’t have formal documents, what’s worked for you in the past? What have people mentioned that they like about you? Unlike a company that is working from the ground up, you have the advantage of an existing customer or client base who you can talk to and interview. What do they have to say?

And there’s your target audience--all over again.

What if neither of these situations are true for you and your product?

When Your Target Doesn’t Exist

You may not find a sustainable target audience.

That’s not something most marketers will tell you up front. However, it’s true.

Some people, particularly in the startup or entrepreneur world, believe in their product or service to such an extent that they may not be able to see that other people may not need it. And it’s very easy to throw more and more money at people who promise that you need just a little something extra in order to sell that dream.

However, I believe that more people should realize this fact before they throw more money at it. Which is why I’m open about this fact.

In conclusion, the best way to find out if you have a target audience is to talk to other people about your product or service idea before you put any money into it at all. Seek people outside your network of friends so that you will hear honest opinions.

Finally, this is one area that might be better outsourced to a professional like me due to the sheer amount of time that finding a target audience may take.

Estimated time: 20 hours on the lower end, 40+ on the higher end.

Connecting With Them Wherever They Are

Once you know exactly who you want to sell your products or services to, you are then equipped to connect with them where they are today. And that’s not always on the Internet, believe it or not. Here’s a short list of all the places your target audience may be, depending on what your business is all about:

  • On the streets of a smaller town or city, such as Noblesville or Zionsville, Indiana

  • In independent coffee shops from 7am to 9am

  • At niche community events, like a family day marathon or kids’ day at the park

  • On Internet forums or Facebook groups focused on one specific topic

  • In office spaces all across the world

  • On a mobile device using a specific app

  • In a little boutique shop buying specialty items

One important thing to note about the above list: every situation is specific and tailored to a group of people. I did not put on vague descriptions such as “on the Internet” or “reading newspapers.”

When you are brainstorming where your audience may be, keep it specific.

After you find those people, you may be tempted to answer all their questions right then. After all, your solution or services seem to be what most of these people are looking for, right?

You must not immediately try to sell to them.

First of all, that is what everyone else is doing. And the big companies have enough money to do this on levels that smaller companies can only dream about reaching. And it’s one of the reasons clients hate otherwise beloved companies. That’s enough on this topic here.

Instead, earn their trust.

That’s going to look different for each group of people but the basic principle remains the same. You have to earn that trust before you can move into the next two steps of your small business marketing strategy.

This process can include such things as content marketing, branding, influence marketing, and a host of other industry buzzwords. The thing to remember is that you need to add value to peoples’ lives in order to gain their trust and pave their way to your solution.

Estimated time: A weekly commitment of 2-10 hours

Promising Solutions to Their Needs

After you’ve gained the trust of your target audience, you can then move into promising solutions to their needs. This is the fun part. A few things to keep in mind before you blitz everyone who you’ve been working with so carefully:

  • Keep it short

  • Keep it simple

  • Keep it clear

  • Keep it minimal

What does this mean? This is where select blogs, social media messaging, and other forms of marketing come into play. Videos, billboards, pop ups, and other easily recognizable “marketing” tricks all come under this heading.

A lot of people think that this part of marketing is “Marketing.” While it’s tempting to jump right into creating pretty flyers and witty Facebook posts, make sure you have the foundation set in place before you start pushing people to buy it now.

You also need to keep whatever you do consistent. People watch your marketing and they will draw conclusions about you from it. Keep it consistent and regular to the best of your ability in order to reap the best results.

Estimated time: 5-10 hours a month creating content, depending on your business needs

Delivering Those Solutions

This is where consistency across all aspects of your business comes into play. The best marketing in the world doesn’t work without a strong salesperson or sales process to back it up and to deliver the results that your clients/consumers expect.

When the foundation is strong, this last step flows right out of the others. When the foundation is not strong, it’s hard to deliver the solutions to people who don’t want or who don’t know about them. It’s also easy to say or think that marketing will never work for you.

And that’s simply not true.

Have you built the foundation for results and sales?

Estimated time: None

Final Time Estimate and Summary

The total time it takes to create, implement and deliver on a quality marketing strategy can only be estimated, particularly without knowing what exactly you may be working with at present. These are only rough estimates.

At the beginning, expect to put in about 20-40+ hours, then 5-10 hours a month and an additional 3-5 hours a week.

That’s a lot for a small business to invest in, particularly if you don’t want to or cannot afford to hire another full-time employee. However, without a strong marketing strategy, it’s very hard to stay competitive in today’s marketplace.

That’s where working with a freelancer can be highly beneficial for you and your business. Contact me today to learn more!

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