Ask any small business owner how important marketing is and they will likely agree that it’s one of the most important keys to a successful SME. But in the day-to-day reality of management it’s often one of the first things to be overlooked or have resource cut from, particularly when on a tight budget.
But whatever the status of your marketing initiative, there are a few essentials that you cannot afford to skimp on, so here are three Marketing Musts to ensure your SME has the best chance of success.
Your Website is your Window
Despite the old saying, books are statistically always judged by their covers within the first 8 seconds of seeing them. The same is true for your website, the single most important touchpoint for SME’s. You need to showcase your offer quickly, cleanly and memorably before the potential customer changes browser tabs and you’ve lost them.
There is of course no one size fits all solution for how best to do this, and different market categories have different norms and conventions that need to be conformed to or, in some cases, disrupted. Knowing the competitive landscape is important here, so take the time to research what the other guys are doing and ensure you stay ahead of the curve. Free analytics tools can show you engagement metrics with you pages and content, so you can really get a handle on what works and what doesn’t.
And with 27% of ecommerce sales coming from tablet and mobile, ensuring your site is optimised for these devices is essential.
When looking for inspiration for website design, do what all great advertisers do and steal! Awards bodies like http://www.webaward.org/ have a back catalogue of past winners so you can see how other small business have cut through with creativity.
Strengthen your SEO & PPC
Having a beautiful website of course, is useless if no one can find it. While you can use available marketing budget to boost your findability with PPC (and make sure you take advantage of free credits when you do), as a standard you should be ensuring your touchpoints are optimised to ensure they are discoverable by the major search engines.
For your website, there is a lot that goes into this, ranging from optimizing your social channels, to optimizing the content on your site so that your snippets (the little bit of blurb you see with search results) are the most clickable they can be. But as a general principle you want to ensure that your site is delivering against user needs and ensuring your page content delivers against the most common search queries, which can be achieved with search engine optimisation (SEO).
For local business that rely on footfall, there are other important discoverability touchpoints in Maps services and review sites like Yelp. Ensuring your listings on these sites are up to date, with the correct contact information, opening hours etc is crucial to capture people using local search. Something that seems simple but is disproportionately effective are photos – having lots of up to date, high quality pics of your business and product makes you look as good as you can do to potential visitors.
Streamline your Social
Every Facebook user knows that social is important, and marketers often sound like cracked records for going on about the various different social platforms and the need to be utilising them at every opportunity. However, for small businesses this approach really needs to be scaleable, as unlike big brands with content teams they likely won’t have the resources to be active on every social network.
It really important therefore to find the platforms that can really work hardest for you. Facebook is still a standard, but with Twitter’s numbers dwindling there is good reason to question if you need to supply real time information. Similarly, platforms like Snapchat offer a great way to connect with and engage an audience, but with over 50% of UK users being under 24, it could well not be right for your audience. For some businesses such as Food or Fashion, a visual presence will be essential so Instagram or Pinterest should be considered as a primary platform. And with the rise of livestreaming apps like periscope, consider how you could use this for some interesting content like a live q&a, product unveiling or grand opening.
With any network you might want to use, ensure your content is authentic to you and is right for the platform, and, with video, not too long (don’t forget - most users click away from a video within the first 6 seconds!).