When you’re running a small business there are lots of barriers that impede mounting a successful marketing campaign. You probably lack the expertise to effectively identify the market for your products or services. You may struggle to afford traditional methods of advertising which rely on economies of scale. You may simply have no idea how to get yourself noticed in a world dominated by big players with vastly more resources at their disposal. All of these problems can be overcome, however, if you take the right approach to online marketing – and while there no’s guarantee of success, you’ll no longer feel that your money and effort is simply being lost in the void.
Marketing vs. advertising
What springs to mind for you when you hear the phrase ‘online marketing’? For most people, it’s advertising – but advertising is really just one part of a properly run marketing campaign. Getting the rest right is vital if you want to make back what you spend on it, let alone start making gains.
Successful marketing begins with drawing up a plan: working out how each action you take will help you to make contact with potential customers, persuade them to purchase and then retain their loyalty. To do that you need a thorough understanding of who those customers are, which means you need to do your research. Don’t worry if you can’t afford to commission research of your own – there’s plenty out there already on most sectors, and a lot of it is free to access, so it’s your job simply to find it and work out how it applies to you. Business support groups can also give you tips on how to approach this.
Narrow your focus, broaden your reach
Once you’ve identified your target customers, you need to find a way of reaching them. You’ll be able to design much more effective advertising if you aim at smaller sections of the public with niche interests in products and services like yours, which means you may need more than one set of adverts to reach different sections of your target market. You can place advertising where it will reach your targets by using niche social media platforms or use forums like YouTube and Twitter with careful tagging. Facebook allows you to pay to target your advertising and this can be incredibly precise, but you will have to be careful to calculate how much it’s worth to you, as each layer of targeting costs more.
Turn contacts into sales
Making people aware of your business is great, but what comes next? If it’s going to amount to anything, you need to convert that awareness into sales. Wolverine Solutions Group specializes in this kind of conversion and in helping businesses to develop online sales funnels that get customers exactly where they want them with the right kind of pitch. If you’re doing it yourself, you’ll need to think through how you can use your advertising to direct customers to your sales outlet (e.g. your website or eBay shop) and deliver a message there that will persuade them to change interest into spending.
Build brand recognition and brand loyalty
At the heart of every successful marketing campaign is brand-building. This is what stays with you, providing value even after the immediate campaign is over. You’ll need to develop a brand that you can put front and center of all your advertising and everything else you do. This means a strong logo, signature colors, a brand ‘voice’ (the style in which you address prospective customers) and a set of brand values you consistently adhere to (everything from, for instance, being environmentally friendly to believing that the customer is always right). Think of this as if you were creating a person for the customer to befriend.
Access instant feedback
One of the great advantages of online marketing is that it gives you the chance to receive immediate feedback from your target customers, whether or not they have bought from you. Don’t be alarmed if some of this is negative – you can usually learn a lot more from complaints than you can from praise, and you should be looking to constantly adapt and refine what you do. If you don’t feel you’re getting enough feedback, try running short surveys with entry into prize draws as motivation for completing them.
Keep costs manageable
When it comes to the simple matter of how much bang you get for your buck, online marketing blows everything else away. That’s not to say that there are no advantages to doing it the old fashioned way, and in a few cases that’s the best way to reach your target market, but with people spending more and more time online, those advantages are dwindling. Furthermore, it’s possible to approach online marketing in a much more precisely staged way, building it up layer by layer with some room to wait if money is tight.
Coherent, successful online marketing takes effort like everything else in business but if you’re prepared to put plenty in, you can get a great deal back out.