One of the key steps in starting out as an entrepreneur is the formulation of your business plan. This invaluable tool is your forecast of how your business should be progressing, your guide for taking the right actions for profitability, and ensures you haven’t forgotten anything important during the planning process.
It’s so important that you won’t get a business loan or other form of investment without one, and it has to be a good one at that! A major component of your business plan will be your marketing strategy because unless you get your message out to the right people, you’ll never make any sales.
However, for many fledgling entrepreneurs, the budgets will be tight, and money will need to be spent wisely. Is it possible to operate an effective marketing campaign with a small budget, and if so, how do you know where to invest your cash?
There’s Plenty of Advice Out There
There’s no shortage of advice in books and on the internet – and quite likely from friends and family too, all telling you the right way to run a successful business. The trouble is half the time (probably more) one piece of advice will contradict another, so you feel you are no better off.
For instance, some marketers will swear by email campaigns and recommend investing the bulk of your time and budget into pursuing this avenue.
Others will say email marketing is running out of steam, and you’re better off concentrating on social media campaigns.
As if that isn’t confusing enough, you’re quite likely to discover someone else reporting on the latest, sure-fire method of communication.
If you have a substantial budget, you can afford to try various strategies to see which works best; but if your funds are limited, you can’t afford to spend too much on what could be money down the drain.
Getting Your Research Right
Your first task is to find the evidence for any claims made, to see what the numbers tell you. Look for authoritative, reputable sources of information that can provide you with reliable figures for important facts such as open rates allied with subsequent conversion rates, variance by sector, and return on investment ratios.
This way you can gather the statistics that will show you which methods have been proven to be most effective in your sector or niche, and tailor your strategy accordingly based on facts rather than opinions. For example, you would be able to compare the investment required for a specific tactic, e.g., an AdWords campaign, with the cost of an aggressive search engine optimization strategy.
You may learn that while one may cost more, the statistics show you are likely to make more profit from resulting sales than by using the cheaper method, or vice versa.
Getting Your Campaign Strategy Right
The vital follow-up to this initial task is to make sure you learn as much as possible about why certain methods are effective. Knowing the figures is a sound basis for deciding which strategies to go for, but unless you understand how to use the methods you’ve selected effectively, you won’t be any better off.
Therefore, you need to look at what kinds of campaigns have been most effective in your niche and study the composition, design, and content of relevant materials.
That way you will be able to design and compose your own materials far more effectively, thus optimizing your opportunity to make contact with the right people. You could, for example, discover that statistically, the open rates for SMS messaging campaigns are above ninety percent, compared to the open rate for marketing emails of around twenty-five percent.
Once you’ve used this information to put your focus on text messaging, you need to find out how to write messages that will convert your open rates to action on the part of your customer, and thus to sales.
In the SMS example, for instance, among other things you would need to learn about why it’s best to keep messages under 160 characters, the importance of using an SMS short code, and how to use vouchers and special offers to provide value to customers and give them what they want.
Your Customer Avatar
The avatar concept has become something of a trend, but that doesn’t invalidate the theory behind it.
The basic premise is that you narrow down the characteristics of the person who is most likely to be interested in buying from you to create your avatar.
That could include age, marital status, social class, level of education, type of job they do, qualifications, interests, family, where they live – both geographical location and type of accommodation – and any other relevant facts. You then use this ideal customer model to inform where and how you target your advertising.
The reason this is so important is that it enables you to only spend money on marketing in the places where you are most likely to reach the people who are genuine potential customers. For example, that could mean spending more in a highly focused niche publication because your potential customer pool is so much larger.
Many small businesses lean towards free or very low-cost options when it comes to marketing, such as social media accounts.
There are some highly effective free options available, and a social media presence is certainly one of them. Other options include becoming a writer or contributor on a related website or publication that is likely to be read by your potential customers, offering information and advice that is useful to the home site’s readers but also raises your profile in the process.
The only caveat to this approach is that you shouldn’t discount paid-for advertising as an option, as you may get a considerably higher return on your investment if you get your advertising campaign right.
To get the best results from your marketing, you need to be confident that you have equipped yourself with the knowledge to enable you to spend judiciously.
Even a relatively small budget can be effective if you get your strategy right.