The ultimate marketing checklist for small businesses
Posted: Mon 7th Jun 2021
The word ‘marketing’ is often misunderstood. It’s easy to reduce it to a synonym for ‘advertising’ or ‘promotion’.!
While marketing does include both of those elements, they’re far from the whole story. Marketing touches every part of your business, from branding and customer relationships to products and packaging. It’s about the dialogue you have with your customers in its many forms.
Essentially, all this is a way to encourage sales and boost revenue, making a successful marketing strategy essential for the longevity and viability of your small business.
With so much to consider, where do you even start? This checklist of marketing tools should make everything much clearer.
Before implementing anything, it’s worth setting goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring the success of your different marketing techniques, so you know what to pursue and when to move on.
1. Create a brand for your business
This is where you really lay the foundations for your future marketing endeavours. Your brand is a fundamental marketing tool in and of itself, but it will also feature in most – if not all – of your marketing activities.
Branding is another umbrella term that’s sometimes a victim of oversimplification. To really maximise its potential you need to nail several different elements:
Your brand values will feed into all of your branding and wider marketing activities – think about what you stand for and what you want customers to associate you with
Your logo should be a clear and unique visual representation of your brand. Remember that it will appear on everything from your website to packaging and merchandise
A colour scheme will help with visual consistency across all your online and physical channels, aiding brand recognition and creating the right first impression among your target audience
Your personality should resonate with your customers and appeal to the right audience, helping to define everything from your visual branding to the tone and language you communicate in
Creating a solid brand allows you to cultivate consistency across your business, resulting in clear messaging, targeted communications and customer loyalty – all vital elements of marketing.
Remember to implement it at every customer touchpoint too, from product packaging to verbal communications.
“If you can afford it, work with a professional designer to create your logo, choose a colour palette and create brand guidelines. Nothing looks more amateurish than a poor logo or inconsistency; it undermines all your other efforts to make sales and grow your business.”
Sue Campbell, founder of KIND2
Learn how to write a compelling brand story >
2. Reach prospective customers on social media
Social media is a great free tool for small businesses. It opens up new channels of communication and marketing, allowing you to reach prospective customers and create more opportunities for engagement – hopefully translating into more sales.
Social media is an easy way to keep customers up to date with news, whether that’s a change in opening hours or the launch of a new service. It can increase brand awareness, drive people to your website and, again, ultimately encourage customers to spend money.
There are many social media platforms out there, but some of the most popular for businesses include:
While social media can be a fun space to get creative and experiment with how you communicate with customers, try to remember why you’re there and stay on task.
In fact, it might be useful to write down what you hope to achieve for your business with social media. That way, you can track your progress and see what works. Be it increasing website traffic or expanding your network, it helps to have a goal.
3. Spend time on your website
Your website is the shop front of your business – even if you have one in bricks-and-mortar form as well.
A website can shape a customer’s first impression of your business. It’s essential to make sure it looks professional and consistent if you want to cultivate credibility, trust and brand awareness.
Your website needn’t necessarily be an e-commerce store, although that will be a big draw for some of your audience. If it’s going to be a little while before you manage that kind of capability, there are plenty of other ways your website will help you market your business.
Start writing a blog
A blog can be a great way to drive traffic to your site and increase brand awareness. It will also give you something original to post on your social media channels each week.
That said, for your blogging to be successful and benefit your business, you need to make sure it targets your audience.
Try to create some kind of value for customers. You could offer advice on how to approach buyers in your sector or walk people through your must-have business tools.
Of course, it’s always helpful to weave in relevant products or services you offer, but don’t go for the hard sell – no one wants to read that.
Improve your SEO
If you’re aiming to reach new customers through online searches, you’ll need to prioritise search engine optimisation (SEO). This will help your website to rank in the top results for relevant searches.
The rules of SEO are constantly evolving with Google and other search engines. Start-ups tend to take a DIY approach in the early days, but it’s worth getting a professional to do an audit of your site when you have the budget.
They will have an up-to-date knowledge of current rules and be able to give you some steer as to how you can increase your visibility.
“With a well-designed website, your small business is more accessible and contactable. Most of all, your business is functioning 24/7/365 – it’s working even when you’re sleeping! An investment in your online presence should be an essential part of your 2021 business plans to ensure survival and growth.”
Joanne Wood, founder of Joanne Wood Design
Three quick SEO tips to action right now >
4. Engage in email marketing
Email marketing platform Campaign Monitor reported an ROI of $42 for every dollar spent on email in its 2019 Year In Review. There’s a figure that’s tough to ignore, right?
Email newsletters remain hugely popular, so they’re worth considering as part of your marketing strategy. You can tailor your approach to suit your own small business and brand.
As with blogging and social media, email marketing is only effective if you take the time to target the right audience. You need to make sure that the content you’re firing out at people is of some use and value to them.
Emails are all too easy to delete without even opening. Even your best customers won’t think twice about sending them straight to trash if you’re not giving them enough incentive to read.
Use learnings from social media or speaking to customers to shape your email marketing strategy. What questions do you get asked a lot? What do people find inspiring about your business?
Try to maintain consistency in what you send (refer back to your branding notes here to make sure you’re aligned with your values and purpose) and when you send it.
You’ll be able to track open rates and click-through rates with whatever email platform you use, so perhaps test the waters a little at first, then once you find something that works, stick to it.
There are plenty of email marketing platforms out there, like Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor. Do your research and find one that suits you and your small business requirements.
Learn how to create an excellent email newsletter >
5. Go old school and send out flyers
Is such an old school marketing technique still relevant? It absolutely can be, as long as a little bit of thought goes into it.
The digital space is saturated with content. A lot of what you put out there can get washed away before anyone’s even laid eyes on it – there’s social media algorithms, Google search results and junk mail filters.
It’s much harder for a flyer to go unseen by the people you’re targeting. Think of how often you’ve found a flyer or business card in your coat pocket, and how long it stays there for. That translates into eyes on your brand.
For optimum impact, your flyer needs to look professional, be clear and have a worthwhile message, so think about what you want it to communicate.
It also needs to find its way into the hands of your target audience, so make a plan for getting it there. Perhaps it means handing out flyers in person in specific locations or posting them through the doors in particular neighbourhoods.
Want a way to track the impact of flyering and how it compares to the rest of your marketing strategy? Our tip is to include an offer code – that way, you’ll know how many sales you made as a result of your work.
“To create your flyers, I would recommend you use a graphic designer who has experience in marketing and wants to understand your business. And don’t cut costs too low on printing. A beautifully designed flyer can quickly be ruined by cheap-looking, poor-resolution print – if your business stands for quality, make sure your flyers do too.”
Joanne Wood, founder of Joanne Wood Design
6. Put a referral strategy in place
Referral marketing is all about optimising word of mouth. No matter how much you build trust into your advertising and communications, people will always trust other people over a brand.
Think about how many ways there are for your happy customers to potentially spread the word about your small business: reviews, recommendations, referrals and casual mentions in conversations.
You can encourage all of these by providing a great product or service at a competitive price and giving customers a smooth, personalised experience. If you really want to push your referral marketing opportunities though, being brilliant at what you do may not be quite enough.
First, make sure you’re encouraging customers to leave reviews online. This could be through your social media page, Google or another platform. Then, think about offering incentives, such as ‘refer a friend’ programmes involving discounts or deals, or prize draws for reviewers.
7. Take the paid advertising route
Paid advertising is a key part of any marketing strategy. In addition to the traditional channels of print media and TV, the internet offers plenty of paid opportunities for getting your business underneath people’s noses.
Paid social media advertising is one of the most direct routes to your customers, and allows for really specific targeting of audience niches. Every social media platform has advertising options, but before you jump in, spend some time deciding which one is right for you.
Where do your potential customers hang out online? Where do they spend their scrolling time? Look to your current channels and followers to try and determine which platform is going to be best to put your hard-earned cash behind.
There’s lots of overlap in terms of the way they work, but adverts will look distinct on each platform. They will also likely get eyes from different types of audiences.
Google Ads is another popular option for digital advertising. You can pick keywords that your target audience are likely to search for and pay Google to display your business in the results.
It’s a quicker, more direct route to getting your site to the top of those search engine results. Since it’s done though specific keywords, you’ll also know you’re getting a relevant audience.
8. Get a customer relationship management system
Customer relationship management (CRM) refers to all of the ways you initiate, conduct and build your interactions with customers. Basically, any way in which you document and nurture your business-to-consumer relationships.
Implementing a CRM system will allow you to record, store and organise valuable data and insights relating to your customers.
With a CRM, you’ll have important information at your fingertips when it comes to refining your marketing strategy. And, as a result, you’ll be able to craft stronger, more positive relationships with pre-existing, new and prospective customers.
Getting to know your customers is key to staying up to speed on what they want and operating in a way that suits them. It ultimately encourages more spend, more loyalty and more referrals. A CRM helps you to do this, as well as test out new marketing strategies or business processes.