Don’t shoot the messenger but the latest great small business marketing techniques you may have heard about won’t work. Now I have that off my chest let me clarify that statement – it will not work in isolation. Only a joined up marketing process will produce the required results but don’t expect it to be easy and it won’t happen overnight.
Single Tactic Marketing
Let’s look at the old outbound techniques first. Yes, many of them did work in isolation and that was why they were so popular. However, things have changed telemarketing does not work, the effectiveness of traditional advertising and direct mail have been in decline for years and sales orientated Emails increasingly end up in spam folders.
What about the brave new world of online marketing? The website salesman arrives at your door with what appears to be a compelling argument. A new website increases the credibility of your business, it raises your profile, allows you to deliver your message to the marketplace and presents the opportunity for you to jump ahead of your competition.
All true, but what is the point if your great new website cannot be found online by prospects who may type in a relevant term to a search engine. Various search engine research documents show that 92% of searches never look beyond page 1 of the search results. So some method of ensuring your website is on page 1 is required but that really does open up a can of worms.
Historically, there were three main options, Pay Per Click, organic SEO or a combination of the two (SEM). Taking PPC first, yes it does work well in many markets (not all) if set up and managed correctly. Consistent results can be achieved in time but it does require an initial investment to build a reliable process. However, the amateur can waste considerable sums on poorly set up PPC campaigns.
Some research (GroupM and Neilsen) shows 94% of searchers prefer the organic results to PPC. Although this figure is extremely difficult to measure and the figure is unlikely to be correct it is probably safe to assume more searchers prefer organic results. SEO tends therefore to be the preferred route for many businesses and, in the past, there were many SEO agencies that could deliver results for a relatively low cost.
Those days have gone and good quality SEO services are far less easy to find. The costs today can seem much higher than in the past but that is based on the reality of the time and effort that is required to generate the required result. One thing is certain when it comes to SEO, if a deal seems too good to be true then it should be avoided at all costs. It really is possible for a poor quality SEO supplier to more harm than good.
Marketing Strategy And Process
The number one reason any marketing activity fails to deliver results is a failure to think through both what a business wants to achieve and what makes the business different from all the rest. If a business cannot document why a customer should choose them then, unless all of their business is via recommendation, they are in a very dangerous place.
With the basics in place a strategy to deliver the required result can be assembled and this can be flowed down to the promotional plan. The process does not need to be complicated and a simplified marketing strategy can often be documented in a few pages. The time invested is usually refunded many times over as it prevents the waste involved in jumping from the latest marketing bright and shiny object to the next.
A Customised Marketing System
There are many possible marketing tactics (a colleague recently documented a total of 46) both online and offline. What matters is how those tactics are chosen and combined to achieve the planned outcome. Every business is different, their objectives are not the same and markets constantly evolve and change so it is not possible to produce a one system fits all system. Many have tried, and failed, to develop a standard approach.
There is however, one constant and that is the value of content. The amount written about content marketing is enormous. Although, it has to be said, a large amount is produced by those with a vested interest in content marketing services its value should not be underestimated.
Various marketing research studies show that up to 81% (GE Retail research) of consumers of items worth >$500 research online before contacting a supplier. Buyers in general are generally more resistant to the old push marketing tactics and much more likely to research a product or service before making a purchase. They are looking for credible information (content) to guide that process and are likely to value a supplier that delivers that information above the rest. Content, in its many forms, is the fuel for any successful marketing process.
Most small businesses are quite rightly focussed on the product or service they deliver and their customers. Marketing and promoting the business is often recognised as a key task but in house marketing expertise and resource can be an expense too far. Outsourcing can therefore be the norm, which is fine, if it remembered that whatever service is bought in fits with the businesses joined up marketing process and is delivered by those with the required expertise