3 important marketing actions you can take this year

One of the most important things you can do for your business is to have a strong marketing plan, complete with goals, good content and ways to grow your audience. With the following tips, you’ll be set to have a great year of sales, backed by a solid plan.

1. Set the right goals

The importance of goal-setting gets tossed around a lot, but when you’re a busy business owner, it can become easy to lose sight of your goals. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals for the year, then work backward by month, week and day to break your goals down into smaller daily tasks that are easy to track and achieve.

To help guide your goal-setting session(s), make a list of things you don’t know but wish you did. Then, create a plan to learn them over the next year. Not sure how social media works? Take an online course. Unsure how to use accounting software to project future profits? Ask other business owners or check an online community like Small Business Forum for ideas.

Make lists to organize priorities

This isn’t necessarily a commitment to delegate, but you should create a list of everything you could hand off to others. Can you hire a virtual accountant rather than do your own books? Do you need to be doing all the design work? Can you hire a salesperson to work on commission?

After you list everything you could delegate, find out what each would cost. Then, identify those that are worth paying for in order to have time to focus on growing your business.

If you offer different product and service suites, take note of whether one produces significantly more revenue than others. Then, consider dropping the others and focusing exclusively on that area.

Add something new to stretch yourself

Never tried a loyalty program? Consider: Reward customers for their loyalty with discounts, special VIP sales and free events. Make your customers feel like part of your brand and they’ll talk about you with their friends and family.

Try a new marketing tool or campaign to work even faster. Could Basecamp or Google Analytics help you prioritize tasks and measure successes? As you market your business, see which yield the best results. Chances are you’ll find a new tactic that churns a solid return on investment.

Dedicate time each week to review your goals and make sure you’re on-track to meet them. Plan the next week’s goals and adjust as-needed.

2. Focus on strong content

Newsletters, email blasts, blogs, social media posts, booklets and other content help you stay connected to your audience, establish credibility and authority within your industry, and ultimately help you increase sales and grow your business. Plus, you can use your Google Analytics account to measure things like views, time on page and much more. This process of creating content and measuring the results will help you create better and better content.

Choose your channels wisely

Content isn’t just limited to the ideas above, it’s a part of your continued branding efforts. Consider your words carefully as you create things like business cards and flyers. Keep your voice consistent across your digital and print presences.

When it comes to digital, resist the temptation to have a profile on every single social media site, and instead focus on the most important ones for your customers. One or two great social media pages are better than five mediocre ones. Find out where your customers congregate, and reach them in their natural digital environment. For example, research tells us that 18- to 24-year-olds spend the most time on Snapchat and Instagram; if you’re marketing a product to young adults, those are the platforms worth focusing on.

If you’ve placed an emphasis on digital marketing in recent years, don’t be afraid to also spend some time on print marketing. Direct-mail postcards, banners and other print marketing tools are as powerful as ever, especially because some of your competitors might have abandoned these tried-and-true strategies and created an opportunity for you to reach targeted audiences where they are not.

Save time by recruiting help

If you don’t have the time or feel unprepared to write the content for these channels yourself, consider outsourcing to copywriters or recruiting brand ambassadors to create content on your behalf. While both cost money, it can be more cost effective to identify existing customers and employees who already love your company. Ask if they’d be willing to help spread the word for a small incentive: some freebies or lifelong discounts, for example, or a bonus check.

Identify inefficiencies and waste

Audit your content to identify places for improvement. Write down all the pieces of content you own online, such as buying guides, blogs, social media posts and testimonials. Also take note of your current and future print marketing plans. As you keep track of these, note what the purpose of the content is, who it’s for and if it’s useful to your overall business goals. Refresh what could be used, ditch what doesn’t provide value for customers and brainstorm new content ideas for the future of your business.

3. Expand your reach

Clear goals and strong content will take your marketing plan far, but you also need to grow your net to catch more customers. Ask yourself the hard question: Are you happy with the rate of growth you’re experiencing? If it’s a no, consider these ideas:

Meet people like you

Identify groups that will increase networking opportunities and help you meet new potential customers. Your Chamber of Commerce, visitor’s bureau, Rotary International, Kiwanis, BNI, Lion’s Club or other organizations can lead to significant business over the year.

You can partner with non-competing businesses that share your audience and develop packages you can all sell at an overall discount. For example, a day spa might partner with a restaurant for a lunch and massage deal. Both the spa and restaurant offer a 10 percent discount, and both sell the package to increase each other’s business. You can also partner with nonprofit causes to donate a portion of your proceeds; since the non-profit will be promoting your sale your increase your reach and earn new customers.

Ask for feedback

Ask your customers how you can improve your products and services, customer service department and other areas of your business. They’ll be happy to tell you, and if you ask enough of them you’ll likely identify areas you can improve that will help you retain and attract customers.

Chances are your employees have identified ways you can improve your business, but they might not feel comfortable telling you. Let your employees know you value them and their opinions by asking them how you can improve the experience for both them and customers. Happy employees will be more invested in your success.

Your suppliers can likely offer advice — if you just ask. One good example would be a restaurant seeking new menu ideas. Many restaurant suppliers know what recipes will be successful based on ingredient sales volume.

With your goals understood, your content planned out and your reach expanding, you’re ready to power through the rest of the year.

Not a marketer? Not a problem.

This downloadable guide covers marketing in 8 easy-to-understand sections — each filled with professional tips and advice you can put into practice right away.

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