Will Facebook work for my business? Should I invest in an email marketing platform? In the realm of digital marketing, there are hundreds of strategies and techniques youcan use to help customers find your business. You’ve probably tried a few of them already, with mixed results.
Creating successful campaigns across multiple platforms which complement each other is one of the greatest challenges of marketing. Each one has its own risks, rewards, challenges and advantages—and crucially, tone and personality.
Businesses often try to beat out the competition by throwing resources at all available avenues. However, investing time and capital into properly exploring a small collection of marketing strategies is usually more efficient and effective than the scattershot approach. You can more easily track the results, to find out the return on investment (ROI), as well as manage your brand image and client feedback.
How then do you decide which marketing strategies align with your business’ objectives, image, budget and customer base? Below we have a few questions you should consider when planning your marketing strategy that will help narrow down where to invest your time and resources.
1. What are your business’s marketing goals?
Before you start spending your time and resources on marketing products, you need to clearly define what your business is trying to accomplish with your strategies. Don’t limit yourself to one objective either. With a balanced campaign delivered through multiple platforms, your business can strive for many goals simultaneously.
Marketing isn’t just about attracting customers. You might focus on brand awareness, generating leads, customer engagement or delivering a message about a change in business structure or strategy, a new solution or offer for existing customers. Which of these you are looking to achieve will have a huge impact on the strategy you utilise.
Start by brainstorming with your team about what timeframe you have to produce the desired results. Many strategies require time to build an audience and convert those into actions or sales. The clearest comparison is with search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimisation (SEO). While SEM delivers adverts direct to clients immediately, potentially generating sales from day 1; SEO requires months of work improving keywords and creating content, but the long term pay off can be greater.
Once you have your overall goals, create specific targets to track the progress of each. For example, your campaign might aim to generate 100 newsletter signups or a 60% rate of repeat business. This helps you measure the ROI evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a particular strategy.
Whichever you choose, consistency is the key. If you give up on a platform after a few weeks, you’ll quickly lose whatever audience you had engaged with, and it may have just been an anomaly. Analyse the results over a period of time, then fine-tune the strategies based on whether you are meeting those smaller targets, as well as customer feedback.
2. What is your budget for marketing?
Of course, every business has a different amount of time, resources and money they can afford to allocate to their marketing strategies. In order to make sure those precious dollars count, carefully research your available options, be realistic about which you can afford, and choose a strategy which closely aligns with your business goals. Plan for the short term as well as the long term too. As a business grows, your marketing needs and available resources will change, complications will occur and industry trends will come and go.
Even if you have an extensive budget set for your marketing, it’s probably not the best idea to spend it all on the most expensive campaigns right away. If possible, create a versatile budget plan which allows for expansion or adaptation of different aspects of your marketing strategy. Raising the spend on platforms over time is generally a safer approach and means you can test, tweak and analyse results. Soon you’ll have a clearer picture of which campaigns are giving you the best ROI; making adjustments or culling underperforming platforms as necessary.
Many digital marketing strategies are free at the outset, but still required significant time and effort to fully establish and take advantage of. Later down the track you may decide to engage clients further with paid advertisements or expand the capabilities of your software.
Another point to consider when creating your marketing budget is the strengths or talents of your team—do you have an employee gifted at creating art, or taking photos? Or perhaps you are an expert in a particular field and can contribute to industry forums? Use these to create new channels for marketing without having to outsource the work or spend resources on new platforms.
It’s important to balance your expectations with your budget. Unless you invest heavily in online advertising or promotion you may not see a spike in sales immediately. That doesn’t mean your business won’t be growing in reputation and recognition.
3. Who are your customers, and how do they find you?
Ken Braun in Forbes discusses the common misconception that you need to be everywhere. In reality, “you only need to be in the places your customers are.” It’s a simple premise that many businesses don’t stop to consider. If the content of your marketing campaign has poor customer engagement on a particular platform, lose it. Divert those resources to an area with high activity and watch your ROI improve.
Each of these platforms is likely to reach a certain type of customer, in a certain state of mind. Your aim then is to decide on which one, or several, strategies reaches a specific audience. The result, when done well, is higher quality traffic that generates more leads and sales.
The logical first step is to identify your ideal customer. Marketing professionals often create dummy personas in order to aid targeting of advertising campaigns. You can use this technique to establish who your clients are, what they are looking for in a product or service, and what forms of media or advertising they engage with on a regular basis. If, for example, your services are most often used by teenagers, then an interactive social media campaign is going to be more effective than print or television advertising. Keep in mind there are always exceptions, and as your campaign progresses you might find your most active audience is completely different to expectations.
If you’re unsure of where your customers primarily look for businesses in your industry, think about your existing calls to action. Do you get phone enquiries? Emails? Direct messages through social media? Use this information to guide your campaign strategy to discover, understand and target clients who are most ready to make a purchase, sign up, share a piece of content or any other action you desire.
4. Who is your competition, and what marketing strategies do they use?
Often the quickest way to know where to target your marketing efforts is to analyse your competitors. Look at businesses not only in the same area, but of similar size. After all, a multinational corporation’s marketing strategy isn’t going to be suitable for a small or medium enterprise. Identify the areas in which they do well, and target the areas where they are doing poorly.
You could try to compete with them directly—produce a newer, better website; bid against them on key search words; purchase more local advertising—but this isn’t a guaranteed result, and will likely burn through your budget in a few months. Instead, use marketing platforms the competition aren’t using. Think outside the box and you’ll not only find an effective strategy, but also distinguish your business as one to watch in the industry.
Are customers not able to find you at all? This a particular concern for new businesses entering into an industry dominated by well-known national or international brands. The focus of your marketing should then be to deliver an eye-catching message, or unique content, that raises brand awareness. As Business.com puts it, “you have to educate your potential customers on the problem, and then offer your solution.”
Your goal then should be to offer something to your target audience that the competition doesn’t. Content marketing one of the most powerful tools available in this regard. Often quite low-cost—sometimes even free—content strategies, such as search engine optimisation, blog creation and forum engagement, take time to produce results, but can put you ahead of the competition.
5. How do you want to represent your brand?
As we discussed above, the marketing you use says a lot about your business. It’s the first impression you give to a potential client, and almost always determines whether you get the sale conversion or not.
What do your customers want to see in your brand? While an children’s entertainer might come across as relaxed and fun, an engineering firm needs to project reliability. These businesses aren’t going to choose a marketing platform which is known a particular tone contrary to their brand personality. In other words, your engineer isn’t going to be creating funny videos on Snapchat and the entertainer doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile.
While you should consider what is appropriate for your industry, don’t be afraid to break away from what the competition are doing. By taking a unique approach to your marketing, such as injecting humour into a very dry industry landscape, you can set your business apart and generate great brand recognition in the target demographic. The most important thing is that you are representing the true nature of your brand and not misleading your audience.