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Novel ideas, unique products, unparalleled experiences and valuable skills are just a few of the linchpins for starting a new business. While you may be the town’s most original craft brewer, best color stylist or innovative app developer, having a killer product or service is only one side of the coin. To make your venture truly successful, you must market the business to attract and retain customers.

While business owners excel in their niche, marketing isn’t every entrepreneur’s forte. When they think about marketing their business, lots of questions bubble to the surface, like:

What tactics should we use? What is my company’s brand? How do we want others to perceive our business? Who is the company targeting? How is the company going to reach our audience? How are we going to get the word out and continue to attract new customers? Should we keep marketing in-house or hire an agency? How will we measure success?

While we can’t answer all these questions for you without a deeper understanding of your business, here are eight steps to get you headed in the right direction as you begin thinking about your marketing.

1. Define your brand

First things first, every business needs to have a distinct brand that differentiates it from competitors. Invest time in defining your brand so that you can leverage your winning attributes. For example, what are your key differentiators? How do you improve your customers’ lives? What value do you add? How do you want others to view your brand? Are you fun and easy going or highly professional and practical? Knowing who you are will be critical in building your brand’s persona and presence.

If you’re looking for ways to get started, consider your story. Every brand needs a story —what’s yours? Creating a story will help you determine how others will view your brand. Make your story memorable but keep it real!

For some examples, check out this article from HubSpot that lays out a framework for developing a brand story.

2. Set goals

Before jumping in and throwing money in different directions, consider your overall business objectives and determine how your marketing strategy is going to directly achieve them. For instance, what is the objective of the marketing? Is it awareness, sales, conversion or something else? Based on the objective, where is the best place to focus the company’s marketing resources?

Don’t forget to quantify your company’s goals so that there’s a system to measure success. For example, what rate of return are you aiming for? If the company decides to use social media channels such as Facebook for advertising, consider testing different audiences and platforms to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

It’s easy to lose focus on your social media marketing once your business takes off, so we recommend setting goals up front. Try setting realistic goals as well as aspirational ones, knowing that goals can be flexible. Check in periodically so that you can adjust as needed.

3. Establish your brand online

Why wait for others to define your brand? Take the lead and set the tone so that your audiences know what to expect from your company and what you stand for. A large part of this is your website. You need a strong website that works with you, not against you, to convert customers. First impressions are as relevant as ever, so make sure your first points of contact show your company in the best light!

For tips on designing successful lead generation pages as part of your website, check out our blog.

Strong reviews also go a long way in building trust. Ask your customers to leave reviews on Google, Yelp and other relevant pages to boost your credibility. After all, how many times have you opted for the product on Amazon because it had higher ratings?

4. Get on social

We rely heavily on social media for information. This includes getting insight on a brand and creating a perception based on their digital presence. It’s important that your marketing strategy includes a social media plan that’s aligned with your brand’s identity. We find it’s best to set a calendar and schedule posts ahead of time. That way, you’re not scrambling when business picks up.

Check out these practical tips for optimizing your social media presence on Instagram.

5. Start networking

There are a lot of ways to reach customers online, but the value that comes from a personal touch isn’t completely lost. Be a spokesperson for your company, get out in the community, attend conferences and tell everyone who will listen about your business. You’d be surprised how much a little old-fashioned networking can accomplish! You may not reach as many people as you can online, but the goal here is quality of touchpoints over quantity.

If you’re looking for places to start, try your local Chamber of Commerce and other professional organizations and directories. The more involved and engaged your company is in the community, the more visible you will become.

6. Give people a reason

The best way to convert a new lead is with an irresistible offer. Give someone an offer they simply cannot walk away from. If someone in your target audience doesn’t feel compelled by the offer, then the offer’s not good enough. As with many things in life, the proof is in the pudding. So, all appearances and promises aside, your clients must try your service or product before they can truly understand its value.

Consider Costco. They are known for their free samples and guess why – because it works! In the past year at Costco, Interactions’ beer samples at many national retailers boosted sales on average by 71 percent, and its samples of frozen pizza increased sales by 600 percent (The Atlantic). For Marsh Supermarkets the results are even more compelling — samples of signature items boosted sales in some cases by as much as 2,000 percent (Supermarket News).

Of course, not all small businesses can afford to dish out free samples but challenge your company to find a way to attract customers through other giveaway deals, promos or incentives that will help customers overcome the barrier to entry.

7. Explore in-house options versus hired professionals

Many new and small businesses tend to keep their marketing in-house to keep costs low. However, this may not be in their best interest as investing in professional help can have a significant ROI. It’s important to recognize that while you’re an expert in your business, advertising agencies are experts in theirs too.

Ask yourself “How much marketing experience does my bench have?” If the answer is little to none, then consider hiring a professional. There’s a host of options to explore for any budget, ranging from interns and freelancers to established agencies (such as Rivers!). Interviewing may require time on your part, but typically discovery calls are free and worthwhile. Be upfront about your goals, objectives, timeline, and budget to find the right fit for your company.

Just remember that while there are a variety of tools available to you, it takes time, effort, and resources to learn and implement them. Consider your options and at the very least, explore freelancers or agency partnerships to take your business to the next level.

8. Stay in front of your customers

It goes without saying, but brands have to stay relevant. A common mistake new companies make is focusing on new leads rather than the ones they already have. It’s been said that “people need to hear or see your message at least seven times before taking any action.” (Forbes) Whether you’re keeping your marketing in-house or using an agency, make sure to use tools like Google AdWords and SEO to promote your brand. The more visible your brand is, the more awareness you generate.

Check out our tips on improving your SEO.

So, there you go! Eight steps to get you moving in the right direction as you consider your marketing strategy. Still have questions? Give us a call!

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