How to create a marketing strategy for small business
Understanding how to create a marketing strategy is the first step to growing your business. It is not just a shopping list of things to do for your business. It should be a strategic list of activities that will impact on the growth of your business.
- A consistent approach that sees you turning up day in day out to build awareness.
- Focus on the things that will make the most significant impact on your bottom line.
- A strategy that creates, over time, a flywheel of a continuous, consistent and ever-growing source of leads and sales.
Often how to create a marketing strategy will be an approach based on what a bigger business does, versus what a small business really needs.
Instead, a more direct focus on the activities that will make the most impact is a much leaner and direct way for a small business to focus their strategic marketing activity.
As a small business owner, how to create a marketing strategy should be practical and extremely focused on the activity that will make the most impact for your business.
Our approach is to understand your audience and their behaviour before purchasing from you, which means, how will they knowing the channels, content, sites, information that they look at as part of:
- Discovering you
- Being woo’ed to learn more and consider your offering
- Being convinced and convert with a sale
- Providing you with post-sales love in the form of word of mouth, referrals or reviews … to help more people discover you.
If you can get this right, tapping into the buying behaviour will help create a flywheel of continuous and consistent leads and sales for your business. It's the most effective "how-to" way to create a marketing strategy for small businesses.
How to create a marketing strategy for a small business: Start with understanding your customer
How to create a marketing strategy starts with the customer journey map. This is the process of plotting out the key ‘touch points’ that happen before someone buys from you.
We break this down into the following stages:
Discovery is all about understanding how people will find you. Ask the question, are they searching for you? Or do they search for a solution to a problem that you can solve? If they are not searching for you, what are they interested in, and what content do they consume that intersects with what you offer?
Take the time to understand how to put yourself in front of them based on what channels they use and actions they are taking, and this makes it easy for you to pick the right place to be and the content to be providing.
Examples of what this looks like: Optimised content on your website for search, appearing in channels they use, talking about things they are interested in like podcasts or socials.
This stage is about understanding what kind of information your buyer wants to see. Your goal is to make them spend more time considering your offer. This might be a highly valuable lead magnet or fabulous lifestyle images of your product that inspire them to look more closely, or perhaps it is an informative video helping to explain how to solve a problem they have. Regardless, the content you provide on your website or via your socials is key to getting them to learn more about what you sell.
Examples of what this looks like: A lead magnet for download on your website, product reviews or lifestyle shots, product comparisons, problem definitions and different options for solutions, information on how your solution can fix their problem.
Converting is where people will finally take action. It might be a checkout on your website or form to get in touch, a phone call, or booking a meeting to find out more. This stage is all about removing any objectives or barriers that make them hesitate in doing business with you. So you want to make it easy to complete a transaction with you and provide information such as reviews or social proof of happy clients, delivery cost information, warranties or returns.
Examples of what this looks like: Reviews and testimonials, social proof, warranty or guarantees, transparent delivery cost.
4. Post-sales love
When a customer or client has a fantastic experience with a business that exceeds their expectations, they are more inclined to share that experience with others.
In this stage, you want to put in nudges to encourage people to leave a review, or share their experience with you on their socials, or even directly refer new business to you. Having a plan to help encourage this positive behaviour makes a huge difference.
Examples of what this looks like: User-generated content, incentivised referral systems, loyalty rewards for repeat purchases, customer satisfaction rating, which you can then use in your socials, reviews on your Google Business listing.
Once you have mapped out all of these critical behavioural points, it becomes easy to create a clear marketing plan of the critical things to be focused on for your marketing.
Now let’s move to the next stage of how to create your marketing strategy.
How to create a marketing strategy for a small business - Objectives and actions
1. Marketing objectives and measurements
The next step in how to create a marketing strategy is to draw from the core objectives of your business plan or income projection eg.
- Generate x sales per month
- Increase leads generated per month from 5 to 15
Don’t over-complicate this and focus on linking your marketing activity directly to the sales behaviour of your buyer. You may want to revisit this after you have completed your marketing plan and check that it is realistic.
Note: You will also want to create a measurement plan only once you have completed the plan. You can use this handy KPI examples for small business how-to article.
2. Research and understand your audience
As part of how to create a marketing strategy, you will need to have a good idea of your audience and market before you can market to them. To ensure you focus on what will matter, you are seeking to understand the following:
- How will your (future) customers ‘discover’ you online?
- What information do they need to be convinced to buy from you?
- How will they ‘buy from you?
These three simple questions, when unpacked, become a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Based on your audience, develop your understanding of their buying behaviour (as it relates to your offer by doing the following:
- Do keyword research to understand if they are actively researching for your offering (product or service) directly or whether they google for answers to a problem you solve (An excellent tool to do this with is Google’s keyword tool).
- Do further research on other channels to look at what kind of content and on what channels they are engaging. (an excellent tool to do this with is Buzzsumo.com)
- Review three or four successful competitors and unpick their marketing activity, such as what social channels they use, are they advertising on Google or Facebook? Any other channels in use? What content do they have on their website, are there any offers or value add downloads on offer?
- List out any other information or research you have on your audience or market
- If you have been in business for a while, analyse your past sales and channels to understand where your customers found you, what questions they have asked before purchasing and the most important things they wanted to know before buying?
- If you don’t have an existing customer base, find some potential customers (based on all the information you have gleaned from the above and have conversations with them – your own mini-market research forum).
Create your custom journey map
Take the above information and plot out a customer journey with key ‘touch points’ using the below layout – thinking about how you will be ‘discovered, woo, convert and generate post-sales love’.
This approach is super effective because it helps you avoid:
- The shopping list syndrome where you attempt every single marketing tactic out there rather than focusing on the most important things.
- Copy cat syndrome where you are simply doing what other businesses are doing without really understanding if it’s a good fit.
Focusing on your customer and what they need – and their buying behaviour cuts through the noise to allow you to focus on the key things that will make the most difference.
A side note: there will be many things that you identify with the above research, but not all will be ‘key activities’. Keep these additional are initiatives down the track when you’ve established a clear and successful marketing framework and use them to scale and grow.
3. Creating a tactical plan
All the hard work of ‘what you should be doing is done! Really!! This step is about taking the customer journey map that you have created above and breaking it down into a framework of channels, tactics and content.
You now have the framework of what you need to be doing to drive customers from initial discovery to a successful sale. It’s an action list of what needs to be put in place and where to get down to work.
At the same time, you have also identified the key ‘measurement’ points that you will need to track to optimise and improve the marketing results as you go.
Pro-tip: Marketing plans should not be static. As you roll out work, you continue to learn what works well and what doesn’t. Refining as you go will help you get to the point of success you want for your business sooner.
You can find a complete set of templates in the Companion Planner that will help you connect your marketing activities to your monthly and weekly to-do list.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
With a strategy in place, you can now start plan the nitty-gritty details like a content plan for your blog, email or socials. A content plan should help you identify seasonality and with this campaign. Your marketing plan provides you with the framework that helps you keep focused on the right things and align all the activities like generating the content, campaigns and even ad and more to be aligned to what matters most – your buyer’s behaviour and what it takes to get them to buy from you.
A marketing strategy for a small business should be lean and focused on the things that will make the most significant impact on driving leads and sales for your business. Focusing on what your buyer needs, the behaviour that they take when making a decision provides all the clues to what will be most effective for your marketing. Once you’ve established these, it’s a matter of putting your plan into action, monitoring and adjusting as you learn more to keep a steady flow of new leads and sales coming through the door.