If you’re like most small businesses, marketing might seem like a bit of a crapshoot. You hurl yourself into social media, maybe send out a few postcards or put an ad in the paper and hope for the best. Truth be told, for businesses that are new to marketing, the spaghetti on the wall approach isn’t a bad thing, so long as you measure and monitor as you go and refine your approach based on what activity is generating leads.
You might have heard from your accountant or financial planner that it’s always a good idea to diversify your assets. Believe it or not, the same thing goes for marketing. Once you have honed in on your target market, you can start to figure out the best places to market your services to them. But just like in finance, it’s never a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket.
If you’re on Instagram, you might remember the near hysteria that occurred a few weeks ago when information began circulating that the platform was going to change its algorithm to deliver “engaged” posts first, instead of its current chronological format. This change created panic amongst businesses who rely on Instagram, and feeds began filling up with requests for followers to “turn on notifications” so brands wouldn’t be left in the gutter. Of course, none of that was the case, and within 24 hours, the dust settled and our photo-op obsessed existence went back to whatever we consider normal nowadays.
For any brand that went into panic mode, this potential change should have been a wake-up call. Instagram, Facebook and any of the social media goliaths have the opportunity to change the way they do things in the blink of an eye, and they aren’t likely to ask permission. So if you were one of the business owners who felt their heart drop into their stomach at the thought of an algorithm change, here’s my advice. Diversify your marketing with a mix of channels that will help you stand out from the crowd and give you the ability to market a message through multiple touch points, not just a single picture or post. It’s that simple.
In marketing, there are five general categories to explore. Let’s go through them.
- Social Media – Small businesses love using social media because its wide-reaching, free (or cheap) and it doesn’t take much time or effort. Don’t get me wrong; I love social media as much as the next person, but here’s the thing. Because everyone uses it, it can be hard to get noticed and stand out from the crowd. So, by all means, use it, but don’t rely on it as a sole means to market.
- Digital Marketing – In addition to social media, there are lots of things we can do online to promote our businesses. Email newsletters, online advertising, ad words, your own website, blogs, vlogs, and self-publishing sites such as Medium give you plenty of opportunities to raise awareness for your brand. Using some of these tools in conjunction with social media is a great way to reach a larger audience.
- Traditional Marketing – Remember when you used to get 20 pieces of snail mail and five emails in a day? Good times. With everyone rushing to build a digital and mobile brand, it’s worth remembering how powerful a traditional marketing approach can be. Whether it’s a postcard mailer, business cards on the bulletin boards of the local coffee shops, or even an ad on the local radio or newspaper, a bit of old-school outreach can be extremely effective, so long as they hit the right audience for your product.
- PR – The say public relations is the oldest profession in the world, and it’s no wonder why. For generations, people have used the power and reach of the media to get their brand in front of potential customers. From seeing your product featured in a major magazine to enlisting an influencer to spread the good word, PR is a powerful mechanism for building a brand. It’s not the easiest way to get attention, but because it’s widely recognized to be a non-paid endorsement, a nod from a well-regarded person or publication can easily be a major boost for your business.
- Events – Many start-ups are so consumed by digital marketing that they forget the power of being seen as a living, breathing brand. Event marketing is a great way to allow people to see, hear and touch your product or service, especially if you’re target market is concentrated to a local area. If you’re a new yoga studio, setting up a free class at the local park is a great way to attract new customers. If you’re an accountant, attending networking events might be the ticket to drawing up new business. People don’t fall in love with profile pictures and posts; they fall in love with living, breathing human beings. So make sure your face and name are out where your customers are.
So now you know the five areas of marketing. From this list, pick at least one channel from each category to help you build your marketing plan. As an example, let’s say you own a florist that delivers daily, pre-arranged bouquets at a very affordable price. You might use Instagram to showcase your bouquet of the day and email newsletters to make sure potential customers see it when they arrive to work in the morning. Then you might decide you want to put up flyers in the local coffee shops, and hand out discount cards at the local farmers market. Finally, you might decide to offer a flower-arranging workshop once per month at your studio, and you’ll use Facebook events to notify your target market about the event. Then you might invite the local paper along to participate in the workshop and take photos for a potential feature story. These activities might represent your first month’s marketing activities and from here you can measure and monitor which channels provided the best results. Then, you can decide which to repeat, which to tweak and which to discard altogether.
Remember, there is no use putting together a marketing mix if you have no way to measure your results. The key to getting the best bang for your buck is ensuring you ask the question “how did you hear about us?” with every new interaction. Otherwise, you’ll find it tough to decipher one channel’s results from the next. Good luck!
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