The small business sector has become increasingly competitive, saturated and digitally driven of late, with companies in virtually every industry and region vying for the admiration, engagement and loyalty of customers. Because of the economic recovery, as well as various other trends, digital branding has become a far more challenging aspect of the marketing equation, with companies being forced to completely transform their approaches to campaign creation and general management.
The types of mediums necessary to embrace are relatively consistent across the board, with social media, email, content and direct mail marketing strategies all maintaining relevance and some becoming even more profitable as time goes on. Best practices for each are listed throughout the annals of the Internet, but this is where matters begin to get a bit trickier from a strategic standpoint.
"Best practices are not models that work for everyone."
On one hand, best practices tend to be strong guiding points and foundational materials for businesses to consider when they are setting out on a new marketing venture, especially when firms are making their first forays into a given medium. However, too many leaders are looking at these best practices as models that can work for their unique demands and objectives, not aligning the concepts with their own strategic and creative endeavors.
To separate their brands from others in the industry, small-business owners must always ensure that they are putting a different spin on the broad and specific aspects of campaigns, regardless of which mediums are involved.
So, in an effort to help guide you through the process of more thoroughly strategizing in the marketing department and bringing your brand to the next level of visibility and attention among prospects, here are seven tips to help you improve your advertising policies and procedures.
Maybe this one would be better toward the end, but we decided to make it No. 1 because of its importance. When you handle social media, direct mail, email, content, video and other marketing programs in a disparate fashion, the chances of you having a unified and consistent brand voice will be virtually impossible, unless of course a miracle manifests into reality. Do not wait on a miracle in your small business.
Converge your marketing campaigns to ensure that they are guided by the same objectives and management policies, working to integrate the various channels whenever and wherever possible.
2. Do not skip social
Social media has yet to really generate high returns on investment in the marketing category, but this does not mean that firms can balk at the prospect of participating on these websites. Rather, social media marketing should be viewed as a requirement regardless of whether the firm can achieve significant ROI.
Right now, social media channels are among the most powerful environments through which companies can connect and communicate with prospects and existing customers, so consider using them for these types of purposes. Eventually, once the websites get a better handle on their own marketing capabilities, the channels will be more competitively advantageous from a pure advertising perspective.
3. Color with confidence
When you create your marketing strategy in such a way that almost too closely reflects industry-recognized best practices, chances are it will be grey, indistinguishable and generally unsuccessful. As such, make your marketing programs a bit more colorful through the approach of leveraging best practices as the guiding framework of information, but adding your own spin to adequately reflect your target market's preferences.
You want your campaigns to be colorful and engaging enough to separate your business from others in your market, so ensure that you are injecting enough creativity and unique techniques into the general branding strategy to do so.
4. Direct mail revisited
A few years back, direct mail marketing seemed to be losing relevance quickly and fading out amid the rise in digital platforms and strategies. This decline did not sustain for long, though, as more recent research has pointed to a resurgence in direct mail strategy deployments and success rates by way of conversions and engagement.
Now, direct mail is not equally suited to all businesses, with certain industries being better aligned with the types of customers who enjoy this medium more so than others. Conduct research and see if direct mail could potentially help to separate your brand messaging from that of others.
5. Analytics for days
The big data revolution has been televised, which is why you should already have an analytics strategy in place for various components of your operational management demands. However, the primary purpose of these solutions when they first began to hit the market was to improve brand-related research and analysis, so as to better understand what makes customers and the business itself tick.
If you have not already started to use analytics for measurement, performance improvement and other purposes within your marketing strategy, begin doing so today. Without these tools in place, it will be increasingly difficult to understand what needs to be done to boost revenues, profits, conversions, visibility, loyalty and more.
6. Involve all staff members
Some of the more advantageous insights available to small-business marketers come from within the organization itself, just departments and employees who are not typically engaged in advertising initiatives. So, get them on board with strategic creation and testing.
"Get all staff members involved in marketing strategies."
After all, your product developers, customer service representatives, operations staff and others will know what drives the business and its clients better than virtually anyone else. Having group sessions in which representatives from various areas of the business discuss the marketing campaigns can also help to ensure that the brand voice is true to the culture and missions of staff.
7. Never stop improving
Let's say you have reached an optimal level of marketing performance. Why would you have any intention of changing your approach? Well, because everything is always changing, especially market landscapes and customer preferences.
The optimal strategy today will likely be somewhat irrelevant within the next few years, so measure, analyze and refine persistently to avoid falling out of the graces of your target prospects and existing clientele.