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The Small Business Marketing Guide: For Scrappy Entrepreneurs

The Small Business Marketing Guide: For Scrappy Entrepreneurs

Table of Contents

    1. The New Entrepreneur
    2. Your Brand Why
    3. Brand Soulmates™
    4. Brand Identity
    5. Brand Positioning
    6. Online Marketing Channels
    7. Consistency and Focus
    8. Marketing On A Budget
    9. Goal Setting and Tracking
    10. Organizational and Small Business Tools
    11. Conclusion

Our Radiant Marketing Definition of ‘Scrappy’: Possessing a Determined Spirit (Fiesty)

The New Entrepreneur: There’s A New Entrepreneur in Town These Days and She’s Scrappy

And she’s scrappy. You have to be when you live in a world jaded by advertising and clever copy, new fads and quick fixes. But you’ve got an idea and you’ve got the gumption, so therefore you’re breaking your way into the market however you can. We get that.

As a small business marketing agency ourselves, we are constantly inspired, impressed, and rejuvenated by small businesses everywhere who are breaking a sweat to disrupt a busy marketplace. We find these new entrepreneurs so refreshing, in fact, that in 2011 we committed to helping them succeed. And today, we introduce to you our Small Business Marketing Guide for Scrappy Entrepreneurs – created with YOU in mind and packed with the insights and tips we’ve learned over the last seven years.

That’s right – the information in this guide is tailor-made to benefit your small business and get your marketing moving in the right direction for you. Our recommendations are based on the proven methods, strategies and tactics we’ve implemented for the many scrappy entrepreneurs that came before you! Now, let’s get down to business.

What you will learn in this guide:

    • Crafting your Brand Why
    • Defining, attracting and engaging your ideal audience of Brand Soulmates™
    • Leveraging the power of Storytelling
    • Building out your brand with Powerful Positioning using the right Channels
    • The importance of Consistency & Focus Successfully Marketing on a Budget
    • Goal Setting & Tracking
    • Small Business & Organizational Tools (including our favorites!)

Your Brand Why

The foundation of your small business story is built on what you value most. And those values are intertwined throughout everything you do as a business – whether you’re aware of it or not – because it’s deeply ingrained in who you are. It’s built on your beliefs and the world you envision after your business has had the impact you’ve set out to have. Passion, and the “why” behind that passion, is key to small business success.

So as you’re sitting down to establish your “why” behind your business, consider these questions:

    • What did you hope to accomplish when you started your small business?
    • What value do you hope your customers will get from your small business offerings?
    • What is the overall mission of your small business?
    • How will you change the world?!

Establishing the true and specific answer to each of these can help you to rediscover the reason why you started your small business and help you to keep clarity around your big business goals and purpose – giving you the fuel you need to overcome the daily struggle of business survival.

Target Audience

Finding your target audience is a topic that has been presented in many different ways, a thousand different times. However, we feel it goes deeper than just finding the right platform where your demographic might be. We believe you have to start at the very core of your small business.

To find your target audience, or your Brand Soulmates™ as we call them, you must return to your “why”. The reason “why” you started your business, the passion that drove you to do so (and continues to drive you) is that same reason and same passion which customers must align with in order to fall in love with your brand and small business.

When your brand stands for something specific, you make your values and beliefs known, consumers can connect at a deeper level with who you are as a brand – because it’s a representation of who THEY are as a person.

So how do we connect the “why” and your Brand Soulmate™ together to increase impact and sales? Let’s break it down.

Brand Soulmates™

While commonly referred to as ‘target audience’, ‘ideal audience’, ‘buyer persona’ or even ‘avatar’, we like to refer to your small business ‘match made in heaven’ audience as your Brand Soulmates™.

And we feel this is the most apt way to describe that perfect brand-consumer fit as well. Think about it. These are people who feel so perfectly aligned with your brand, and share the same interests and values as your brand, that they’re inspired to take action and purchase from your business.

You are free to be who you intended yourself to be as a brand, and don’t need to apologize for it. You feel these connections in your gut – it just feels right! If you’re a service based business, you can probably think of which of these clients fall into this category, and which don’t. If you’re a product based company these are often the customers who repeatedly purchase from you, send other customers your way and spread the word about your brand online.

In understanding the concept of Brand Soulmates™, you also acknowledge that this connection won’t be there for EVERYONE. And that’s ok! Rather than broadly marketing to many without result, you’ll be powerfully connecting with a certain segment of the market.

A segment that is most inclined to purchase and repurchase from you time and time again.

To get started, ask yourself these questions when establishing potential Brand Soulmates™:

    • What is my brand “why” (established in step one)?
    • What values are at the core of your business?
    • Does this individual also hold this same value/belief?
    • WHY is this a value or belief of theirs? Dig deeper.
    • What does my ideal customer value in a (fill in the blank) product or service?
    • How does this individual evaluate solutions like the one I offer?
    • What resources do they go to? Is my ideal customer male or female? Or both?
    • What’s the age range of my ideal customer?
    • What sort of spending power would my ideal customer have? Approximate yearly income?
    • Would my ideal customer have any special interests (as pertains to your brand)?

Once you’ve completed the answers to each of these questions, you’ll find that you’re well on your way to creating your first Brand Soulmate™ profile.

To complete these profiles, you’ll want to:

1. Compile all of the information you have available to you through your experience in this industry and business

2. Interview your internal team – product, sales, marketing and leadership – to get their perspectives on challenges, complaints, common questions, product updates, etc.

3. Review your analytics for any trends in activity, search terms, referral sources, etc to identify opportunities

4. Interview your Brand Soulmates™ within prospect, customer and past customer categories to hear from them how they describe their challenges, pain points, values, benefit/outcome of solving their challenge

(Pro Tip: pay attention to commonly used phrases and keywords to explain this.)

Your small business marketing is dependent upon the creation of these Brand Soulmates™ because they allow you to identify your prospects and customers’ pain points and challenges (and address them), know where you can find your audience, and understand how they will move through the buyer’s journey.

Download or request a list of our Brand Soulmate™ interview questions plus interview template here. 

Once you’ve put all of this information together, pick a name for your soulmate and create a profile to use internally and when working with any outside vendors, partners or agencies.

Storytelling

Did you know that you were going to become the Walt Disney of your own business when you started your small business marketing plan?

What we mean by this is that creating your brand, the messaging, the logo, the graphics, the imagery all serves to create your small business story. This story contributes to the experience customers will have when they interact with your brand. Ultimately this experience determines if the customer will become a fan of your brand, and in the end determine if they will buy from you.

Storytelling sets the foundation for every aspect of marketing your small business, so don’t neglect this essential task – believe us, establishing your “why” and tying that into your powerful story will make every future decision for your small business that much clearer and easier.

Brand Identity

Your ability to improve brand recognition and recall with your target audience is a huge determinant in the success of your small business. Famous brands got their start somewhere, and you can bet that their current success is still dependent upon customers being able to recognize their logo (and brand) from a mile away.

However, branding is more than just an amazing logo or graphic or font. It’s about:

    • Who you are as a small business
    • What makes you different
    • Your brand personality and language
    • Consistently sending this message across all mediums
    • And design that allows you to positively connect with your target audience

Branding is much more than just pretty graphics – it’s about how your customers feel when they see your small business’ brand. The best part about it? You can build your brand without breaking the bank. Let’s dive in.

CONTENT

One of the main ingredients to creating show-stopping, click-worthy content for your
brand is having a brand voice. According to Dima Midon in an article on Entrepreneur,
“Brand voice is the intentional, consistent communication of your business identity.”
We’re pretty sure that’s the most succinct explanation of branded content.

Essentially, you need to establish a brand voice that’s so unique to your small business,
that when laid side by side with competitors, without any logo or design indicator,
your content would stand out as “something different” and something your audience
could easily recognize.

Your branded content also needs to be completely aligned with your brand vision,
voice, and value. When completing the groundwork for your first pieces of content, ask
yourself:

Who is my Brand Soulmate?
What types of content could I create that would be addressing their key
challenges, pain points, needs, etc that I uncovered when developing my Brand
Soulmate™ profiles?

How does this content relate to my small business and small business goals?
What should my brand voice sound like (based on my brand why and my
audience)? Funny and casual? Cool and professional? A mix of both?

Once you’ve done this preliminary work, start creating a brand guide that includes
vocabulary, tone, and phrases that pertain to your business specifically. This will help
you to maintain brand voice consistency as you start building your collection of
branded content.

Design

Last, but not least, ensure your brand design aligns with the why, the message and the
content you’re creating. Your brand design should bring all of those elements to life in
a clean, memorable visual display. Ask yourself if your visual elements:

1. Appropriately portray the brand values and personality? (i.e. creative,
risk-taking, etc)

2. Make my audience feel how I want them to feel? (i.e. confident, relaxed,
pumped, etc)

3. Will be easy to recognize and remember?

4. Are consistent across all channels – both online and offline? (i.e. website, social
media, logo, business cards, signage, menus, etc)

Brand Positioning

Once you’ve established your brand why, identified your Brand Soulmates and created your brand identity & messaging, you’ll have a MUCH clearer understanding of how you’ll position yourself in a crowded marketplace.

Positioning is all about identifying your ideal customer (you did that already), identifying their pain points (you did that already, too), developing powerful content (refer to Branding), and finally, it’s about getting clear about what makes you different from the competition.

In addition to focusing on your brand values, highlighting HOW you provide your solutions can be a powerful unique differentiator.

People believe in and trust systems and processes. If you’re delivering your solution in a specific way, that utilizes unique tools, resources, steps or technology – use this to establish your positioning statement.

You can also use these 5 ways to position your small business brand in the marketplace:

  1. Specialize – put your focus on one product/service and focus on a specific problem. Your expertise could you set you apart from the competition.
  2. Provide a full suite of services – if you don’t want to specialize and hone in on one specific thing, you could offer an entire bundle of services in an industry that’s rather fragmented with specialists. It really depends on your small business and the industry that you’re in (and your established buyer persona).
  3. Be a rebel – not only is it more fun to be a rebel, but differentiating yourself using your unique brand story and background is a great way to make some noise if your product/service is similar to several others in the marketplace.
  4. Focus on customer experience – if you can put your energy into proving that your product/service makes something easier and more efficient, you will win the love of customers everywhere.
  5. Find a new tribe – more often than not, businesses strive to gain the attention of one particular demographic, which ultimately creates an intense amount of competition. We’ve talked about creating your Brand Soulmate™ but depending on your product/service, there may be additional opportunities to align with more soulmates. Maybe it’s time to seek out the pain points of a less noticed demographic and put yourself in front of them too. Identify any existing associations that may be limiting you and address them!

In the end, your positioning should do four things:

  1. Define your audience
  2. Clearly demonstrate the benefit
    of your offering
  3. Define the category
    you’re in
  4. Set you apart from the
    competition

Online Marketing Channels

Once you’ve established what sort of demographic would most align with your small business mission and values, and once you’ve decided upon the best position to take, it’s time to distribute. But you can’t just distribute your brand and message willy-nilly. It’s important to take into account the type of channels and how accessibility and demographics can play a role here, too. If done correctly, you should have established to some degree what platforms and channels your Brand Soulmates™ are using both recreationally and to help them make decisions when it comes to your solutions. For example, are they active on Facebook? Do they regularly check their email? Are they using Google to get answers to their questions?

While there are many channels you can choose for distribution of your small business marketing messages, we’ve focused on two of the most widely used: email marketing channels and social media marketing channels.

Email

Some may claim that email is dead, but we beg to differ! When done correctly, email marketing is an invaluable resource for all marketers, but especially small businesses on a budget. Email marketing can be an inexpensive way for small businesses to reach a large number of contacts and customers for pennies per message. You can easily reach customers on mobile, since, according to a study from Forrester Research, more than 42% of email marketing messages are opened on a mobile device. Lastly, customization of your email marketing messages is easy. Using an email marketing service allows you to customize email templates to align with your branding and resonate with your audience. Some of our top email marketing choices include: MailChimp, Constant Contact, ActiveCampaign, and HubSpot.

Social Media

We will cover this in a bit more detail later in the guide (reference Marketing on a Budget) but it’s always good to reiterate a particularly useful or important point. Consistency and repetition are key, people!

There are several social media platforms that you can utilize as your small business marketing channel, including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Depending upon your ideal audience, you can advertise and network on any of these sites and engage the attention of potential customers. Social media is also a great place to connect with social influencers who could help you to promote your brand and product/service. Depending upon how influential they are, and the terms of the contract you come up with, this is another inexpensive way to promote trust for your small business and get noticed.

Consistency and Focus

As mentioned previously, consistency in branding (brand voice, brand tone, etc) is super duper important. So important, in fact, that we just described it as “super duper”. It was necessary. Please don’t judge us.

Using your brand guide and your small business mission as your touchstone, you need to be able to create content that has a focus and is consistent enough to be recognizable as yours.

The focus in the back of your mind when creating brand content should always be “what is my business goal” and “what is the goal of this content”? You need to understand your small business marketing goals in order to create strategized content to help you reach them, but you also need to understand what you want your reader to take away from your content and what their next steps should be.

Don’t just create content for the sake of creating content. Create it with consistency and purpose. Two strategies to ensuring consistency and focus Establish content themes These could be pulled from the research you did in your Brand Soulmates™ development phase Create an editorial calendar to help you to stay organized, consistent, and focused on the overarching marketing goal of your content creation. Plus, once you’ve mapped out several months (or a year) in advance, the writing process will become much easier.

Marketing On a Budget

If you’ve started your own small business, it’s likely you don’t currently have a lot of excessive, available capital. It’s for this very reason that many small businesses focus on their top pain points (i.e. managing cash flow, hiring staff, dealing with customer service issues, etc) and let their marketing efforts fall by the wayside.

We get it – you have priorities and limited funds to make them happen. However, we’re here to tell you that you can still successfully implement a marketing plan for your small business – even on a budget.

Here’s how to make the most of the funds you have: Leverage these four tactics to help ensure prospects who align with your brand values, and are searching for the solution you offer, can find you and convert into happy, paying customers!

Publish Amazing, Engaging Content – Whether for business or pleasure, the world of the internet is powered by websites with incredible content that draws readers back to their sites again and again for more.

Creating valuable content – (think of your Brand Soulmate™ and what they want!) will not only make your small business seem valuable, but it will also increase your authority online.

Why is this important?

Increasing your authority on a subject also increases consumers’ trust in you. And, people do business with the people they trust. By putting yourself “out there”, giving your brand a personality, and taking the time to research and present important updates and opinions that are helpful to your customers, you’re earning their trust.

If you’re writing and creating the content yourself it’s only the cost of time – and what better way to spend your time than tackling these important marketing tactics for growth. No need to stretch that marketing budget.

Create a ‘Google My Business’ Account

If you have a physical location (and even if you’re virtual), and you want your small business to be found online by individuals searching the interwebs for your services, then having a Google My Business account is key. Once you have set up your free account (did I mention “free”?), claimed and verified your information, you will be visible on a local search, Google Maps, and Google+.

Collaborate and Co-Market

Building a business from scratch can take a ton of time, energy, and money. Online advertising alone can cost you a pretty penny when it’s all said and done. Rather than starting your business by throwing money into online advertising right out the gate or completely alone, reach this same audience (or better) by aligning with established businesses targeting your same demographic.

Guest Post on Relevant (and Popular) Sites

One way to leverage these relationships and get your business in front of these audiences is by guest posting on similar established and relevant sites. While this does take some time, posting to a website with an established audience can have a much more significant impact on brand reach than focusing all of your efforts on your own site.

Run Complementary Email Promotions

Are you connected to any other businesses targeting your same audience? Explore opportunities to run a promotion via email that benefits their audience and gets your brand in front of new people. Depending on the promotion, you could request email addresses or drive visitors to your website. For example, if you’re the new boutique on the block, partner up with a few stylists to send out an email broadcast letting their contacts know if they mention the stylist’s name or use a promo code online, they get 10% off their purchase.

When you’re just getting started, overcoming the initial hump of no exposure to consistent and growing exposure can be frustrating and fruitless. Partnering with other businesses accelerates this exposure, builds a stronger sense of trust right out the gate, and improves your online presence with inbound links and more.

Social Networks

Create business accounts and participate in all the major social networks your audience is on, which may include LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Not only will building a solid presence on these platforms help you to network with other businesses and consumers, increase your online presence and build trust, it will most likely provide you with direct access to your target audience.

Remember, try not to bite off more than you can chew. If your resources and time only allow for one platform then choose ONE platform and kick its ass! It’s better to maintain a strong, valuable presence on one platform than a mediocre, ‘meh’ presence on 3 or more. Plus, if your budget will allow for it, you have opportunities to advertise on these social networks to drive traffic to your site or increase engagement with followers at a fairly low cost. There are a variety of ways to market on little to no budget (these are just a few), so there’s no need to sacrifice great marketing due to limited funds. It’s essential that you implement some form of marketing for your small business in order to promote growth and success.

Goal Setting and Tracking

Now, before you dive right in and start deciding if things are working or not, you must set some goals. We can’t stress enough the importance of this step. We’re constantly talking to business owners who have invested time, money and resources into their marketing initiatives and growing their business but have little to no idea if things are working. Or, they say things aren’t working, but have NO gauge in place to base this assessment off of.

While it might not feel like you’re “doing anything”, one of the first rules for setting yourself up for small business marketing success is to set specific goals. And they must be specific. A well-defined marketing goal can make a huge difference in how you make future decisions as well as how you manage and track your key performance indicators (KPIs).

What Do We Mean By “Well-Defined”? Well-defined means setting a goal that has a trackable, quantifiable performance indicator. Some examples of well-defined marketing goals include: I want 1,000 new visitors to my site, 3 leads, and 2 new customers next month in order to achieve my revenue goal of $500/month. (See how specific it is?) I would like to generate 6 new customers over the next 3 months from our current client list using email marketing. I want to reach $200,000 in revenue by the end of the year.

These goals have quantifiable results in mind and will allow you to create a more targeted strategy in order to achieve them. After all, why set goals if you aren’t going to do everything you can to knock them out of the park?

Getting Started with Goals

If you have little to no historical data to go off of in setting your goals, still set them but plan for 90-day periods of time compared to a full year. This will give you shorter benchmarks to determine if your goals are realistic.

Make it Stick with the WHY

As a new entrepreneur just getting started in your business, it may be easy to set ambitious goals – and even easier to forget them or neglect them when times get tough. To increase your chances of breaking through barriers and staying motivated when times are tough, dig into the reasoning behind your goals. Are you setting this revenue goal so that your family can take a much-needed and well-deserved vacation next year? Is the customer goal so that you can hire another team member to free up some of your time to focus on business growth rather than customer service?

Understanding the ‘why’ behind the goal is sometimes more important than the goal itself. So to successfully set your goals, start thinking about what you truly want to accomplish and then work backwards from there to determine what you need to do in order to make that dream a reality.

Tracking, Tracking, Tracking… Did We Mention Tracking?

What are goals without tracking? Nothing! We cannot stress this enough – without tracking in place, your lovely goals and ambitions are essentially non-existent and not useful to the growth of your small business. While some goals may be easier to monitor in the end (i.e. did I hit $200K in revenue this year?), most of them need tracking in place to help you establish if you’re working towards them in a realistic way. How will you know if you are reaching your goals and KPIs if there’s no way for you to see what’s actually happening with your marketing efforts?

Owning a business is not for the faint of heart – and neither is successfully marketing
that business. It takes a feisty, spirited, and determined person to make it happen, but
we believe in you, and most importantly, we’re here to help.

We hope you found this small business marketing overview to be beneficial and
thought-provoking as you take steps to further your small business growth and
success. Now it’s time for you to get out there, make these moves, and start seeing
results. Go get ‘em, tiger!

Ready To Take It To The Next Level?

We strongly believe that the success of small businesses lies in effectively defining
and sharing their Brand Why, maintaining a deep and intimate understanding of
their Brand Soulmates and creating a consistent and focused marketing plan with
specific goals and tracking in place. For this reason, we created our four online courses
for entrepreneurs: Business Success Starter Course, Your Brand Story, Your Brand
Soulmates™ and Your Brand Identity