The Key to Effective Small Business Marketing
By Chad Lane, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer
We’ve all seen the marketing world turned on its head in the last couple of decades. We have entirely new media that didn’t even exist five, ten or fifteen years ago like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.
And it seems like there’s always a new marketing guru appearing on the scene. Each new guru will throw around a new buzzword to grab your interest and convince you that only they know the secrets of marketing in today’s climate.
It can be a confusing time to market a small business. Which expert should you listen to? Should you switch your strategy every time there’s a new guru with a new theory, new medium or new buzzword?
The good news is that the answer is no. You don’t need to be dazzled by someone’s shiny new tools; a shovel made of gold is not going to dig dirt any faster.
The same fundamental marketing principles that built our business icons are just as applicable to small businesses doing marketing in our current business environment.
There’s always new technology around that can be used to create or distribute messages but the fundamentals remain the same. Paying attention to these fundamentals is how we help our small business clients launch successful and profitable marketing campaigns. For example: testing.
Testing the Waters
Testing is one of the most basic concepts in marketing. You can test any marketing medium, from email marketing to online ads to web pages. Your goal is to see which version of an ad, marketing email, webpage, etc., brings the results you’re looking for. Those results could include leads, online purchases, website visitors, “likes,” etc. You can test your message, special offers, colors, images, designs and combinations thereof.
For instance, you wouldn’t want to set up an online advertising campaign with the first ad you like and think will work. If you throw your money behind this ad without testing it first, it could fail miserably. You need to run tests to find which version of this ad (or a different ad entirely) will make you money before you invest in your campaign. Fortunately, digital advertising is fast and simple to modify which makes it fairly easy to run this kind of a test.
In pretty much any kind of marketing, there’s a way to send two test messages to smaller portions of your potential customers. In email marketing, you can take 1000 names off a 10,000 name list and send one email to 500 and a slightly different email to the other 500. You can vary the subject line, offer, color, or other elements.
Your email program should allow you to see which email had more opens, responses, clicks-throughs or purchases. This kind of test is called an A/B test. One email is “A” and the other is “B.”
You can test posts on LinkedIn and see which ones generate the most interest from your target audience. You can also view competitive posts and see which ones are the most popular. There are many ways to gather information on which topics are gaining traction and which aren’t. Collecting and utilizing this information can save you plenty of money and work.
Ads on Google, Facebook, Instagram or any per-per-click system enable you to do extensive testing before unleashing an entire campaign. Here again, it’s an interactive process—run one version of an ad to your target market and a modified version to another portion of the same group.
For example, you can create two identical ads to test. But in one of the ads, you try a different headline or a different price. You activate one digital ad to your target audience for a certain number of hours and then close it down. You then activate the other ad for the same length of time at the same time of day to the same audience. Whichever ad gets the best return is the winner.
Digital advertising is set up to enable you to run this kind of test fairly easily. It might seem complicated at first which is why many people hire agencies to run these tests for them.
It’s smart to run a series of tests, not just one A/B test. This way, you can refine the marketing message, offer, colors, headlines, etc., at each phase of the test. At the end of this series of tests, you know which one will perform. That’s the one that will bring you a healthy return on investment when it’s rolled out fully.
Why This Works for Small Businesses
A large company may have such a large marketing budget that they can waste thousands or tens of thousands and not miss it. If they want to run online ads just to make their name better known, fine. But a small business is different. They can’t afford to waste any of their marketing dollars. An investment must bring a return for them to take the risk.
In each limited test, a business is only communicating to a small number of people. They can control their marketing budget down to the penny. Then, when they have the results of these tests and know which message/offer/layout is the winner, they can safely and profitably launch their campaign.
We’d be happy to explain how these basics can help you get more out of each marketing dollar. Just complete this form and we’ll get back to you within one business day.