It pains me when I turn on the radio and I hear a local small business buy-up radio ad space. The reason why it pains me isn’t because I hate radio, it’s because I know how much traditional advertising costs. Also, as a small business owner, I know how hard it it to track return-on-investment with traditional tactics like radio advertising, direct mailing, or billboard ads.
Don’t even get us started about sign flippers; we wrote a whole separate post on why we know that’s a bad tactic for any business, which is an understatement.
What also makes us sick to our stomach is knowing how many small business owners invest in non-measurable marketing tactics - both traditional and digital - hoping “something” would work. As small business owners, we understand how critical it is every dollar invested makes a significant impact. The thought of many small business owners making investments “hoping” something will work, likely because they don’t know better - or even worse, were conned by a good salesman - makes me sick.
It’s because of our distaste for the above we’ve made it our mission to make marketing less intimidating and stressful for every small business out there. When small business isn’t strong, our economy isn’t strong. Our ultimate vision is to advance local communities and economies through quality small businesses. In order to achieve this, small businesses need better marketing.
Slowly but surely, the good news is we’re starting to see smaller businesses of all types dabble in the digital marketing world. We’ve spoken to many companies that have been burned by bad marketing agencies, yet they still understand and believe in the value of online marketing. This is good, but more than anything, this is progress and evidence digital marketing is here to stay. Here at GoEdison, we’re starting to transform how we think as small business owners. With today’s technology and the Internet, we’re understanding we can target a new audience that never would’ve known our business existed 20 years ago.
If you want to get technical, you can find the actual definition of marketing here. It gives us a very general term talking about promotions, advertising and selling. Essentially, blah, blah, blah.
We as business owners have to be more creative. We have to come up with our own definition of marketing. We have to define what marketing means to us, not them. And by “them,” I mean anyone who’s not directly invested in your business.
All too often, we see companies try to play within the confines of “marketing.” Marketing shouldn’t be defined. Marketing should be whatever helps get your business traction. Marketing can be multiple things to multiple businesses.
Although similar marketing strategies and tactics, traditional or digital, are effective for multiple companies in all different kind of industries, you still have to “think outside” the box with your marketing strategy.
As business owners, we fall victim to trying to keep-up with our competition. Yes, having a pulse on our competitors is important, but mimicking and obsessing over every move they make isn’t. When we start comparing ourselves to our competition or partners, especially in terms of marketing, we fail completely; it’s in that exact moment you lose your marketing identity.
First thing’s first, before you implement any new type of small business marketing tactics internally, you as a team must define what marketing means to you. This isn’t about setting goals, KPI’s, and metrics; this is about defining your vision and meaning. Defining your vision and meaning has to be conveyed through your marketing.
Let’s Face the Facts
A recent study taken by Capterra revealed a cringing number: 76% of small business owners face extreme marketing challenges. The fact business owners struggle with their marketing isn’t necessarily surprising, but the fact that 76% of small businesses view this as an extreme challenge is shocking. Even more so, this statistic shows a major problem in the small business realm.
When 76% of small businesses face major challenges with their marketing, you can expect these businesses won’t make marketing a priority. If marketing isn’t a priority, then growth isn’t achieved at the rate it could (and should) be achieved.
When growth is stagnant with our current day small businesses (especially our brick and mortar stores) our economy takes a hit. Here’s the dilemma we all face: 51% of small business owners are all over the age of 50 years old, and only 16% are under the age of 35. This means small business in America is getting older and itching closer to retirement.
What happens if we lose 51% of our small businesses in the next 10 years? Right off the bat, two concerns come to mind right away: 1) We have to hope the new generation of entrepreneurs and small business owners are ready to fill in the economic gap left from these businesses disappearing, and 2) The current state of small business as we know it will change forever. These observations sound extreme, but - as small business advocates and experts - we understand our playground is always changing.
So, it’s time we face the facts. For the first time in over two decades we are venturing into a new era of small business. This new era demands more emphasis be dedicated to why we have to redefine marketing for small business. Marketing can no longer be an afterthought; it must be at the very top of the priority list because every small business owner’s priority should be scalable growth.
Scaling Your Marketing Efforts
We’ve claimed 2016 as the year to start being bold with your small business marketing efforts, hence our slogan: Be Bold. We hope to inspire boldness in the small business marketing realm when it comes to today’s new era of marketing. As much as we want small businesses to be more bold with their marketing, we also have to be honest; the truth is it’s a lot easier said than done.
If we want to start achieving quality results with our marketing, it starts with taking the first steps; it takes committing to an actual marketing strategy, being consistent, and adjusting our strategy once we have a clear baseline of marketing data to pull from. It’s time to start scaling our marketing efforts, no matter how big or how small. It’s time to commit to a plan.
The reason why we need to start scaling our marketing efforts is simple. Our goal is to achieve consistent and steady growth - whether the goal is in terms of leads, sales, followers, or whatever your ultimate growth goal is. Growth is our why. Growth is the lifeline to any small business.
The how isn’t always as simple. Listed below is a simple roadmap to implementing the first steps toward scaling your marketing efforts.
First, you need to create your goals and objectives. Keep all your goals actionable, trackable, and achievable. Be very clear with your objectives. Ultimately, these will be your goals and conversions. Goals and objectives are where your business will directly feel the growth you’re trying to achieve with your marketing efforts.
This is where we get to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. The action items are your car; it’s what takes you from point A to B within your roadmap. Here is where you want to choose your marketing channels, allocate advertising budget, and - more importantly - put a timeline in place. All strategies are useless if you’re unwilling to follow a timeline in which you have your action items all set in place. Marketing truly only works when you are proactive as opposed to reactive.
Having metrics and KPI goals in place is they key to measuring your success. You’d be surprised how many companies invest heavily in marketing and don’t have these key indicators and metrics in place. You can’t manage something you can’t measure, and as you know, it’s critical to manage our budgets, business, and overall growth as business owners.
Having metrics in place allows us to hold our marketing efforts accountable. Metrics show us what is and what isn’t working. Understanding your key traction channels by tracking these metrics will actually allow you to be more effective in terms of executing your “action item” list.
The Era of Small Business Marketing
Let’s sum all of the above information up. There is a giant need in the small business world for quality marketing. There are thousands of small businesses struggling with maintaining revenue, keeping their doors open, or trying to adjust to the new digital era of marketing. We must redefine the way we conduct our marketing efforts.
You can read blog after blog talking about how you should invest your dollars and execute strategies, digital or traditional, but that’s not good enough. As small business owners, whether we want to admit it or not, we have to do more. We have to take an integrated and strategic approach and test multiple avenues.
As small business owners, we were born to color outside the lines and bend the rules. Don’t follow a marketing textbook. Understand, no matter what industry you’re in, you have to define marketing on your terms and what that means to your business.