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Let's face it. You may offer the best product or service on the market, but if no one’s heard of you, then how do you expect them to walk through your door?

You may think you need an inflated budget in order to truly get the word out or be successful. And yes, it does take money to make money, but there are still several simple ways that you can promote your business, drive traffic to your store, and ultimately increase sales with a reasonable budget and a thoughtfully executed marketing strategy.

MARKETING: What does that even mean?

Ask any stranger on the street what marketing is and you'll likely get 10 different answers. Marketing spans a variety of industries: digital media, reputation management, brand awareness, lead generation, graphic design, social strategy, and so much more. It's a broad term for a complex industry - but when it comes down to it, marketing just helps drive business forward.

In a small business it's difficult to have a team–let alone a person–devoted to marketing. But that doesn't mean you can't be your own marketing pro! There are numerous ways to help move your company forward by driving more traffic to your location, developing brand awareness and increasing sales.

Here are some simple steps to get you started on a robust marketing strategy:

Step 1: Identify Your Target Market

First things first: think about your current customer base. Who are they? Who comes in most often? Why do they buy from you? Which ones bring in the most business?

Having an understanding of your current customers will help you better understand your ideal customer's needs and wants so you know how you can be a solution for them.

When thinking about your potential customer base, consider these demographics: age, location, gender, income level, education level, marital/family status, occupation, and ethnic background.

Step 2: Develop Your Marketing Mix

Your marketing strategy doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to be expensive. But it's important to set a budget.

The Small Business Administration recommends 7-12% of sales to be reinvested back into marketing initiatives. A variety of factors can affect what your budget is: your location, competition, how long you've been in business, what your online reputation or presence is, and what growth goals you have.

When thinking through what tactics you think would fit best for your business, consider the 4 P's of Marketing:

The 4 P's of Marketing

  • PRODUCT. How does your product or service solve a customer need? What are its benefits? Why should customers choose you over the competition?
  • PLACE. Is your physical location a destination? Do you have high traffic? Are you remotely located? Can products be purchased online or in-store?
  • PRICE. Are you a low cost leader aiming for volume, or a high-quality value aiming for more brand loyalty? Are you trying to attract brand loyal customers or just any customer?
  • PROMOTION. Which mediums own your target market? Do you need sales/specials in order to excite your customers? What are your on-property strategies? Off-property? 

Understanding the answers to these common questions around the 4 P's of Marketing will help you craft your messaging in a way that will entice and engage your target customers.

Step 3: Implement and Execute a Plan

Having a well thought out and documented plan will help solidify your process, ensure everyone's on the same page, and hold you accountable for accomplishing each task. In order to implement and execute a plan, you need to:

  • Determine when – timeline to launch
  • Determine who – task owners, responsibilities
  • Determine where – advertising mediums
  • Determine what – which medium gets which creative

Determining what specific tactics to launch is always a moving target, but perhaps start with these simple solutions:

  • Social Media

Free to launch and very inexpensive to run ads, social media is a great way to instantly communicate with your customers. Have an incentive for people to follow you, make sure you post regularly, and offer exclusive specials for your social media followers. Learn more tips on paid digital advertising here.

  • Signage

Signage is the silent salesperson we rely on to entice and grab customer attention. Billboards, yard signs, outdoor signage and feather flags can all help bring people inside your store. Do a Google search to find a website that offers custom signage and ships straight to your door! 

  • Local Advertising

Drop off flyers to nearby businesses, mail out a postcard, sponsor local events, or buy an ad in your local newspaper or radio station.

  • Online Reputation Management

Online sites like Yelp or Google feature customer reviews – ensure you respond and monitor all positive and negative activity. The first step is to set up a Google Business account (which is free). Encourage people to leave reviews at check-out, too.

For more tips, download our free guide, The Ultimate Marketing Guide to Grow Your Store.

Step 4: Measure the ROI (Return on Investment)

Not all marketing activity can be measured exactly; if you put up a billboard, you won’t know the exact number of people who saw it. But it’s important to track what you can measure so that you can always improve your strategies and understand the effect your campaigns have on your business.

Social media has great visual insights to show how your marketing money is working for you.

  • Impressions – people reached or exposed to your brand
  • Actions – calls, map directions, clicks, webpage page views, etc.
  • Sales – daily purchases, sales of a particular product, etc.

If you run special sales or promotions, make sure to track coupon redemptions and/or promo codes to determine how you're reaching your customers and the conversion rate.

Step 5: Make Adjustments (if Necessary)

After you’ve measured to see what works and what doesn't, make adjustments! Measuring Return on Investment (ROI) is a constant cycle of improvement. The ability to adapt is more important than ever!

There are many tools available to track the effectiveness of campaigns. Don't be afraid to do some research to learn what's best for your program.

Campaign results change because consumer needs and wants are constantly changing. What they respond to one day, doesn't mean they'll respond to it another day. 

Just remember, be patient! Your strategy needs some time to work in order to evaluate how it's really doing. Let it run, take some time to oversee it, review results and adjust when necessary.