Many of my initial marketing conversations with small businesses start with a very specific focus and quickly expand into a broader marketing (or lack thereof) scope.

Here’s an example:

Small Business Owner (SMB): “I’m interested in learning more about how you can help with social.”

Me: “Great! Happy to chat. May I ask why you’re focused on social?”

SMB: “I know everyone uses Facebook and I need to get more customers.”

Me: “What other marketing are you currently engaged in?”

SMB: “Nothing, that’s why I need to get more likes.”

Me: where to start smb marketing meme

I get it. You’re busy running a small business and not an expert in marketing, let alone social media marketing.

So, where should you start? Figure out what you’re doing, not doing, not sure of and if any of it is working for you.

Step 1: Set SMART Small Business Goals

Without a goal for your small business, how do you know where you’re trying to go and how close you are to getting there? The answer: you don’t.

SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely/time-bound.

An example of a goal that is not smart: I want to grow my business.

An example of a SMART goal: I want to grow my business by 20% in 2022.

See the difference? The SMART goal has a specific metric (20%) that you can measure. It’s also attainable and realistic and bound by a measure of time (2022).

Without a SMART business goal for your small business, you’ll have no basis to prioritize your marketing tactics or understanding of how well they are helping you reach your goal.

Step 2: Understanding Your Small Business’s Current Marketing Efforts

Take the list I’ve provided below and score yourself with a plus, check or minus. Use a plus if you’re doing it AND tracking it. A check if you’re doing it but have no idea how it is performing. A minus if you aren’t doing it, don’t have it, or don’t know wtf it is.

  • Brand
    • Do you have a differentiator/Value Prop/Message/Stance
    • Does your business have a name?
    • Do you have a logo?
    • Do you have a website domain?
    • do you have an email account on that domain?
  • CRM
    • Do you have one?
    • Do you use it?
    • Does it track marketing/advertising sources?
  • Website
    • Does it exist?
    • Does it work on mobile/all screen sizes?
    • Is it fast?
    • Can you make simple changes/edits?
    • Can people contact you?
    • Is it secure?
  • Search Engine Optimization
    • Do you have a content strategy?
    • Are you/is someone doing on-page optimization (titles, descriptions, headings, internal linking)?
    • Are you engaging in link building?
    • Are you building citations?
    • Are you thinking about your users/prospects?
  • Paid Advertising
    • Do you pay for ads in Google Ads?
    • Bing Ads?
    • Other websites or industry specific directories?
    • Facebook/Instagram?
    • Twitter?
    • Yelp?
  • Local SEO
    • Do you have NAPu consistency/Are you managing business directories?
    • Do you ask for Reviews (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.)?
    • Have you spent time optimizing your Google My Business listing?
  • Social Media Marketing
    • Facebook?
    • Twitter?
    • LinkedIn?
    • Pinterest?
    • Snapchat?
    • TikTok?
  • Email Marketing
    • Newsletters?
    • Drip campaigns?
    • Birthday emails?
    • Recurring service reminders?
  • Mailers (snail-mail)
  • Billboards
  • Radio
  • PR/Community
  • Referrals/Networking
  • OTT

Step 3: Prioritization of Marketing Tactics

There are many ways in which to prioritize things. For this exercise, the priority of your marketing tactics should be a function of the level of investment required and the amount of value returned and an assessment of if it will help you achieve your SMART small business goals.

To understand the value returned, you need to prioritize the tracking infrastructure to quantify it. Marketing by feelings widely practiced approached, however, not one that I endorse. This is VITAL. A CRM is a key component of helping you understand what marketing/Advertising tactics are working and which are not.

Take our Social conversation from above. To effectively execute on social, someone must invest a lot of time and effort in identifying, building and foster an audience. The return on that time and effort will take a long time to realize.

If you need more customers/clients now, investing in a long term, arduous marketing channel is the wrong priority.

Said differently, every small business is unique. Unique goals, unique target audiences, unique situations, and so on. This must play a factor in your prioritization.

Get help. Talk to an expert (insert shameless plug of our services here). OR educate yourself on the above tactics and read up on widely available information on the web that can help you.

David Mihm at Tidings has created a Local Marketing Stack that I am personally a very big fan of. This is a great resource for the DIY-ers out there.

Step 4: Create and Execute a Marketing Plan

Now it’s time to put the marketing plan together. Take your SMART small business goal and the list of prioritized marketing tactics and start planning the what, who, when, how and why. The why should be obvious, but important nevertheless.

There are plenty of Marketing Plan templates out there to grab off the web, and I encourage you to find one that works for you. Some focus on specific marketing tactics, while others encompasses other equally important aspects of your business, like sales (If you haven’t already noticed, the line between sales and marketing is getting increasingly blurry).

The who within your marketing plan is crucial. This could be the difference between a complete wasted effort and progress towards success. The execution phase is the most frustrating point to see this process fail. It’s also the most common point in which everything comes to a halt.

Put the right person(s) on the job. Outsourcing may be a smart move. In any case, hold yourself accountable to executing anything on you keep on your plate, or quickly move it off.

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