Marketing, for many, is the major driving force behind the growth of their small business. And it takes a special set of skills to execute a successful small business marketing strategy.
Marketing is a constantly changing landscape of technologies, trends, and ideas. Marketers need to be able to read and respond to market and consumer changes, take strategic action, and ensure they can steer their campaigns through the uncertainty.
Let’s take a look at some of the common traits you’ll find in effective marketers across the small business sector, and how you can cultivate these traits within yourself.
1. They Plan … Constantly
Re-posting trending memes and repackaging marketing buzzwords on the fly can work for a while, but when it comes to a long-term strategy, planning is at the top of every effective marketer’s agenda. In fact, they never stop planning the next campaign, scheduling social media posts or split-testing Facebook ads.
Every effective marketer has a solid marketing strategy. And every solid marketing strategy requires a detailed plan of action. The plan you put together will help guide your efforts in the right direction, keep you focused on your goals, and create small milestones along the way to achieving your higher-level objectives.
Planning also helps to instill trust between you and clients, upper management, or yourself in the case of business owner marketers.
2. They Stay Informed and Engaged
Great marketers have a knack of knowing what makes people tick, what will make them take notice and the how to make them fall in love with a product or service. Great marketers are also often early adopters of new technologies and marketing approaches.
If you want to get the most bang for your marketing buck, you need to understand where the trends are coming from, and where they are going. You don’t want to end up as the last person still paying for ads on MySpace.
Don’t be afraid to try something new, but approach new channels with caution and never blindly jump in. Before you experiment with a new marketing channel, consider the first trait we discussed, and plan. How does this channel fit into your marketing plan and overall strategy?
The best way to approach a new marketing channel that you are considering is by first establishing what your goal for that channel is. If you are going to experiment with a new email marketing platform, what is your goal? Is the goal to increase your brand awareness, conveying a specific marketing message, or to drive traffic to your website?
Once you’ve established your goal, decide how you will track it. Try and avoid tracking it in terms of direct revenue that it creates. Attributing direct revenue is rarely possible, especially with new technologies, and inevitably leads to frustration and confusion. Instead, base your tracking on your goals. If your goal is driving traffic to your website, your metric could be in the rate at which your emails generate clicks to your website, for example. Of course, you’ll need to trust the results that you get.
3. They Trust Data Over Feelings
Trusting feelings and gut instinct are important skills to have, especially for entrepreneurs, but when it comes to marketing, data holds a more complete picture and offers a clearer window into key marketing insights. Because of this, most successful marketers rely on analytics and metrics to drive their efforts.
All too often business owners and marketers rely on the “I’ll know if it’s working” approach. For some marketing techniques, this can be true. If you send out an invite to a seminar and no one shows up, it didn’t work.
Other marketing channels are much more complex and require time as well as an understanding of the goal before gains are seen or understood.
For example, if you decide to run ads on a new social platform, don’t decide to turn them off two weeks later because foot traffic hasn’t increased to your store. Instead, understand that this marketing approach usually aims at increasing the number of people who recognize your brand. Your metric could be how many times the ad was seen, or by how many people. So focus on that data to determine the successfulness of the campaign. If you need increased foot traffic, this is probably not the right marketing approach to achieve your goals.
By paying attention to marketing data, you get an unbiased view into what is working and what is not working. Data of particular interest should include ad impressions, how marketing efforts affect conversion rate, multi-channel funnel reports, and reports that show the source of website traffic.
4. They Question the Status Quo
In marketing, there is no reason to follow the herd, and in many ways, it makes sense to challenge the status quo. By breaking the mold and using unique or experimental strategies, marketers will often find a winning solution. From telling a better story to changing the game completely, anything goes in marketing. You just have to be brave enough to take a chance.
Take Apple for example. At the dawn of the computer age, they used the same basic technology to make computers that performed in very similar ways as the computers built be companies like IBM. Their genius came in the simple, yet ingenious, idea to marketing their computers to consumers instead of businesses. Within a few short years, everyone, including IBM, was marketing the “home computer.”
Make it a habit of taking a step back and looking at what the market is doing. Is there a way to differentiate your business or your client’s business from the crowd? You might be surprised at what you find. One key differentiator can make all the difference.
5. They Are Always Learning
Marketers need to keep up to date and ahead of the curve to stay successful in such a volatile industry. For many marketing professionals, this means a regular ritual of trawling new blogs, investing in training or simply keeping up with trending hashtags on Twitter.
More importantly, however, for anyone involved in marketing anything, this should mean watching the data and adjusting. Learn from your mistakes and get better. No marketing strategy is perfect from day one. Only by constantly making small adjustments and being open to what is working and what is not working will you be able to execute on any marketing strategy successfully.
Constant learning is important, but so is being adaptive to change. In a world where a Google algorithm update can change everything you thought you knew, it pays to be flexible.
It goes without saying that marketing is a critical business component that shows no signs of ever becoming redundant. In fact, marketing is, in its own right, a thriving industry.
To be successful, and to get the best results for yourself, your clients, or bosses, you need to cultivate a core set of skills and values. Above all, always be ready to, as they say in the Marine Corps, improvise, adapt, and overcome.