Gaining those first few sales or new customers when launching a small business is hugely exciting. However, if like most startups or new businesses, these have come through your existing LinkedIn network or word of mouth, you will instinctively know this is not a scalable way to grow your market share.
Unfortunately, the maxim of ‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t hold much weight in today’s world of digital marketing and most success stories are the result of many years’ of hard work and marketing efforts. Yet start up marketing is a unique challenge as you often have limited time, money and talent so need to ensure these are used strategically.
So, if you are in the process of launching a new business, here are our top dos and don’ts for navigating a route to marketing success:
- Don’t copy what your competitors are doing
It is tempting to start a new marketing strategy by looking around, seeing what your competitors are doing and trying to replicate the bits that appear to work. Do not do this! You have no idea whether your competitor’s email marketing strategy or online marketing strategy is working to draw in potential customers and emulating their templates will not give you a clear position in the market. Instead start with who your customers are and what problem you are solving for them.
- Don’t ‘Do It Yourself’ unless you really have to – but do educate yourself
The end results of marketing – blog-posts, newsletters, adverts – may seem straight forward, but the marketing ecosystem is highly complex and generating quality content is a skilled business. Buying in specialist help either through an agency or freelancers is an up front investment, but will save you significant time in the long run; time you can spend elsewhere growing your business. Moreover, it is pretty easy to burn through a marketing budget unless you have a clear marketing strategy, target audiences and technical know-how. Using experienced marketers will help ensure marketing spend is targeted and delivers a return on investment. That said, do take time to educate yourself so you are confident in briefing and challenging your team or suppliers. Make sure you can use Google Analytics, understand how search engines work, look regularly at your market research and know what key metrics to look for on social media platforms, for example.
- Do build the right team – flexibly
I am yet to meet even a seasoned marketing professional who is an expert in every area of marketing. From branding to SEO, Google adwords, social media, press releases, working with influencers, content marketing and blogging, these are all specialist areas. Working with freelancers allows you to recruit the best in breed experts for specific projects as and when you need them. Alternatively, look for an agency that has a strong track record in the right mix of disciplines and channels.
- Don’t underestimate the investment of time you will need to make
Marketing for small businesses requires continuous incremental improvements and refinements of strategy and planning. Even with a crack team of experts, you will still need to be set aside sufficient time in your working week to engage with your team and understand the metrics. Likewise, your team will need your input to determine your target markets, pricing and to sign off marketing materials.
- Do write a great brief with clear goals and outcomes
Small business marketing follows the same principles as more established businesses: make sure you have a clear written brief with goals that tie back closely to your overall business objectives. Is your strategy about creating brand awareness? Or building your customer base quickly? Is your business model based on referral business? Or is an objective for customers to find your store via Google Maps or Google search? State what KPIs and milestones you expect your marketing team to hit along the way and within what timescales. The clearer you can be from the outset, the easier you will find managing the relationship long term and ensure you have the right marketing tools in place.
- Do be prepared to be flexible and adapt
Remember that marketing is part art and part science. Not all marketing plans will work and some marketing strategies (e.g. search engine optimisation and social media) are very much about the long-term. Some landing pages may not convert and some email lists may take longer to grow. Keep reviewing the results of your marketing campaigns and learning which tactics work and which does not in your market, then be prepared to change tack if something isn’t delivering high quality prospective customers.
Are you launching a business or new product and need some help with your marketing strategy or marketing tactics? Get in touch with CommsPeople and we can help you find the right support.