Often times, when running a small business, there's no budget to hire a marketing department, a PR team, an operations team, etc. It all falls onto your lap as a small business owner. How do you make sure you're being the most productive with your time and creating strategies that work to grow your company?
In order to maintain your competitive edge, you cannot ignore the power of digital marketing. Once you build your team and get your system in place, you'll see the benefits almost immediately. Here's a good plan to follow to grow your company using a digital marketing strategy:
Step 1: Set goals and objectives. Creating a plan that translates into profit requires identifying your marketing goals first, and defining your audience. Determine a unit of measurability. Do you want to increase your followers "X" amount? Do you want to increase your profit by "X" amount? Putting a number to these helps you track them. Specify details and deadlines for when you wish to achieve these goals. For example, increase unique monthly visitors to our website by 20 percent by January 2017.
Step 2: Set your tone. You'll be building a team that will help you to promote your brand. This team will need direction. As you grow and add to your team or outsource, it's important that you set clear brand guidelines in order to keep everyone marching to the same beat.
Is your brand fun and sassy? Traditional? Simple? Modern? Having this in place early on will not only help build a strong brand, but will ensure that your marketing dollars are being spent efficiently. The tone you set should be in line with the demographic you're trying to reach since you want your target audience to relate and engage with your brand.
Step 3: Determine budget. Crunching numbers isn't always fun, but it’s a necessity in order to know how much you can afford to allocate for your marketing budget. Once you determine your expected income, plan to allocate 15 percent to 25 percent to marketing. Do some industry research here. There are some businesses that operate below 10 percent margins — you need to know where this is for your business.
Of this 15 percent to 25 percent, you'll need to decide what percentage will be allocated to print/traditional marketing vs. digital marketing. That percentage will now be allocated to start building “your team” and could include a designer, imagery (either a photographer or stock images), a copywriter, social influencers, SEO, a PR practitioner and a social media strategist.
Before you panic, there can be some overlap here. Depending on your budget, you might find a photographer that's also a designer, a social media strategist that also specializes in SEO or copywriting, etc.
Step 4: Outsource. I firmly believe in focusing your time and talents on your strengths and outsourcing the rest. Why spin your wheels trying to do or learn something that you don't understand when you can focus on the things that you excel at and hire help for the rest? It's all about using your time effectively to get you the biggest return on investment. If you can’t hire someone for the role yet, outsource it so that your time, energy and efforts are focused on your strengths.
Step 5: Identify key players. Depending on your budget, you may or may not be able to afford a complete “team” to help with your digital marketing strategy all at once. That's fine. Consider prioritizing and adding to your team as you go. The key here is to outsource or delegate to people who really excel in their industry.
Here are five important key players:
- Images and design: Because this sets the tone for your marketing, this would be where we start. If your budget is super tight, stock images and pre-designed templates can be a good starting point. As you grow, invest in a styled shoot for your company by a photographer and a designer that understand your brand vision.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): A SEO expert will help drive traffic to your website through many different online avenues. Making sure your website has the correct keywords and tags will help increase search rankings. Having someone on your team that understands SEO and HTML coding is important.
- Influencers: Influencers are an organic way to spread the word about your product, and are becoming more and more important in marketing campaigns. By paying for a sponsored post or providing sample product for giveaways and reviews, influencers will show and tell their followers (through their blogs and social networks) about your product or service and highlight some of the features. This helps get your product into the hands of consumers that may not have been reachable through traditional marketing efforts.
- PR team: Hiring a PR team or a PR advisor can help you develop strategic communications campaigns and garner positive media coverage for your company. This could range from write-ups in print and online articles to interviews on radio or TV. Even reviews on blogs and Instagram are helpful. All this coverage across multiple platforms ultimately enhances your company’s credibility. PR practitioners are skilled at writing, editing and pitching unique story angles to both traditional print media as well as social influencers. Positive media exposure leads to increased brand awareness and business.
- Social media strategist: This is someone who can help you with content for your social media sites (e.g., posts and ads), and will know how to best position your brand to be seen by your target market on different social media platforms.
You don’t have to have it all together when you start or during growth phases of your business. Creating a digital marketing plan is key to matching your company's vision. Clearly communicate to anyone you outsource or delegate to what your messaging is, what your goals are and, ultimately, who you're targeting so that they can jump right into your digital marketing campaign with you and help you rock your business.
Kristy Dickerson is co-founder and CEO of STARTplanner.
Kristy Dickerson is a keynote speaker on productivity, co-founder and CEO of StartPlanner.com, lifestyle photographer and mom of three boys. She offers tips on business, balance, organization, photography and health to inspire, direct and lead others to success and happiness.