For many small businesses, the thought of implementing a marketing strategy can be a daunting task, especially for those who don’t have the budget to hire an agency to help develop their website, improve their value proposition and develop their core brand guidelines.
However, research, commissioned by Xero, shows businesses know it’s crucial for their growth and recognise the need to improve their marketing efforts. More than half (55%) of SMBs want to grow this year and half of those see marketing as the key tool to achieve that growth. More specifically, when asked which skills they’d like to improve during 2019, 35 percent said online marketing and 31 percent said marketing in general.
When you’re a small business, operating in a crowded market, marketing can make the difference between struggling from week-to-week or beating the competition. And many SMBs are not only vying with other small businesses around them, they’re also up against organisations across the world. Consumers are increasingly shopping online and even utilising services from other countries, so being able to stand out from the crowd has become a critical part of business.
It’s not just external factors that matter: it’s also important from an internal perspective. Business owners, who want to attract people to their company and retain existing employees, need a good brand which encourages talented staff to join and stay with the business.
Small business owners often associate marketing with an unproductive expense and, in an arena where every dollar counts, people can get nervous about investing their money. The truth is some of the best marketing can happen through word-of-mouth, and so it’s all about getting your brand in front of the right people!
Small business owners who are looking to utilise marketing to grow their business should go back to basics and implement the following tactics.
Firstly, if there is a solid business plan in place, then a marketing plan will align to this in terms of objectives, value proposition and target market. It doesn’t matter if this is written in a formal business plan template or on the back of a napkin, what matters is that these fundamentals are defined somewhere and can be constantly reviewed and built upon. From a marketing perspective, the key thing is to be completely clear on your target market: who are they? What do they want? How can your business benefit them?
Secondly, it’s crucial to develop a value proposition that works and resonates with your target market. A popular way of testing a proposition is to talk to existing customers and suppliers to find out more information. Ask them what is unique about your offering, why they chose it or what customer problem it solves. There is also opportunity to enquire about how you compare with others in your industry. These conversations are an effective way of ensuring your business remains relevant and unique, with the ability to be communicated across various platforms.
For those who are struggling to know where to start, there is an abundance of material that can be sourced online, which gives an insight into Marketing 101 from presentation skills, to SEO help and tutorials with marketing experts. It is literally marketing at your fingertips!
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it alone: there are many business mentors that can help in this space. Sourcing information from experts in the field through the likes of LinkedIn and Facebook or from the various business networks around the country are all helpful channels to gather advice and experience. Once again, a word of mouth referral from a trusted source could be worth its weight in gold.
The best piece of guidance I would give to small business owners is to avoid trying to do too much at once. Less is more. Sometimes people are so filled with gusto and enthusiasm that they can underestimate the amount of work involved in building a brand. Getting the fundamentals right is key to developing a brand that not only appeals, but also resonates with your target audience – not just today, but over time.
Valerie Walshe is Director of Brand and Marketing at Xero.