The following is an adapted excerpt from the Small Business Case Study. You can learn more about how we market our business, including get a fillable worksheet for your very own marketing strategy template, in that Case Study.
Marketing is a REALLY important piece of any business. As Stew pointed out in episode 7 of the Candid Conversations podcast,
“The better product doesn’t always win… A great product that is marketed well will win.”
How very true that is!
Being strategic and smart about your marketing is essential to ensuring your business has legs to stand on and that your services and/or products actually make sales. So often in business, we get caught up in creating products or doing work for clients… and we don’t pay as much attention to marketing our businesses consistently.
What happens next? Well, if you don’t ensure that marketing is a priority in your business, you might find yourself hitting a wall. You will have difficulty growing your business. And if you neglect marketing altogether, you might start going backwards when it comes to business progress.
There’s no doubt about it that marketing is important.
But… where do you even begin? That’s the real question!
The first thing you need to do is to create a marketing strategy.
If you don’t have a marketing plan in place, you won’t be able to be strategic with your marketing efforts. So you’ll just wind up promoting yourself all over the place, without any actual direction… and it won’t be effective at all.
That’s why, before you even begin putting your marketing ideas into practice, you should create a marketing strategy for your business.
Earlier this month, we did just that. After months of fine-tuning our business plan, we decided we finally have a strong enough concept for our business that we were ready to more actively market it. You can learn more about how we got to that point in the Small Business Case Study.
Here’s what we included in our very own marketing strategy (you can steal this basic marketing strategy template for creating your own!):
1) Marketing as a priority.
In a few sentences, highlight why marketing is so important for you and your business. By having this at the beginning of your marketing strategy, you’ll be reminded of its importance every time you look at it!
You might want to use some of the points I mentioned above, or you might have an entirely different set of reasons for why marketing is crucial to prioritize in your business.
- Prioritizing strategic marketing will ensure my business grows, rather than just treads water or stagnates.
- Marketing in a strategic way will help me attract my ideal clients/customers.
- Being mindful of my marketing efforts will help me to save time, money, and energy.
- Focusing on being savvy with my marketing tactics now will enable me to spend significantly less time on it in the future.
2) Your elevator pitch.
Write ONE sentence that explains what you do. It should be a sentence that a) is easy to understand, and b) invokes curiosity for more information. Try to repeat it often on social media etc., and memorize it so you can use it at networking events.
At its most basic, your elevator pitch should explain exactly what it is that you offer with your business. Don’t overthink it! Your elevator pitch is probably a lot simpler than you think it needs to be.
3) Types of marketing to prioritize.
There are so many different types of marketing you could focus on! What type of marketing will YOU prioritize? Why will you prioritize those types? Outline that here in a few paragraphs.
Keep in mind that you should (as always!) be strategic about the types of marketing you choose to do. For example, time or financial constraints may affect what marketing tactics you choose. It’s also crucial to keep in mind who your ideal client or customer is when you’re deciding what type of marketing to prioritize.
4) Potential barriers to purchase.
Make as detailed of a list as you can outlining the top 3—5 barriers your audience faces in purchasing from you, and what you’ll do to overcome those barriers. We wrote a full four pages outlining this in our strategy! It’s important to get as detailed as possible about specifics.
Here, you’re going to identify problem areas as well as what you are currently doing to work around those issues, and what you will do in the future to continue helping your ideal client overcome the obstacles. It’s good to make notes here of anecdotal evidence and what you feel in your gut are the issues.
5) Market research.
The above potential barriers to purchase are probably based on conversations you’ve had and/or your own assumptions. In this section, outline what you’ll do to confirm whether or not your assumptions are correct.
There’s a lot of value in you first writing down your preconceived notions (essentially, your hypothesis!) so that you can then compare that with real-world evidence once you do market research.
Examples of market research could include analysis of survey data, in-depth focus groups with individuals or small groups made up of your ideal client/customer, and creating a comprehensive database of past clients/customers.
6) Marketing timeline.
Having an at-a-glance overview of your marketing ideas will help you to check out what’s realistic with your plans! We did this as a simple two-column table, listing the month of the year and one to two areas of our “primary focus” with marketing for each month.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy: in fact, the point of it is that it should be easy to look at quickly to determine what your upcoming weeks and months will look like.
7) Marketing efforts.
This is going to be the biggest section (ours is five pages and covers 14 different ideas). You’ll list here all the ideas you have for marketing your services/products, for example in-person networking, email marketing, Facebook ads, etc., and you’ll list some concrete tactics for how you’ll implement each one. You can even include more in-depth timelines in a table format.
I recommend listing these in order of priority—for example, our final six ideas haven’t even been fleshed out yet because they’re all tactics that we won’t even begin to think about implementing until we have the foundations in place. It might be another year or so before we get to those last strategies on the list, so we’re not worrying about them just yet.
Inside the Small Business Case Study, we document our marketing efforts on a monthly basis (and you can get a fillable worksheet version of this marketing strategy template in the Case Study, too!). You can get the inside scoop on real-life strategies that work (and don’t work) for our business.
Plus, we’re happy to answer any questions you have in that Case Study. Consider it your opportunity to get all your burning questions answered! We’ll endeavour to be as transparent as possible, so that you can use what we’ve learned and apply it to your own business.
“The Small Business Case Study is brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing these insights — you are always so generous with your time and resources.
I’m in the process of re-doing my website. In fact, I’ve been re-thinking my entire approach for my business. I’ve just not felt all that comfortable since launching last year – eek! But having worked through a lot of stuff lately, I’m feeling more confident about where I want to take my business. I just need to get on and get my site refreshed and get out there promoting it!
This case study is going to help enormously with that process!”
– Robyn, Red Robyn Communications