What comes to mind when you think of marketing? Social media and blogging? Flyers and magazines? The elusive SEO?
While these are all types of marketing, they don't quite explain the purpose. Here's Hubspot's definition:
"Marketing is the process of getting people interested in your company's product/service. This happens through market research, analysis, and understanding your ideal customer's interests."
Put simply, the basic intent of marketing is to:
- Increase your revenue
- Decrease the cost of acquiring new customers
To be successful, your marketing must also:
- Provide value
- Create exceptional customer experiences
If you're new to marketing, then this article will give you practical tips and resources to help grow your business, plus a free checklist to help you track your progress.
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Best practices for SMB marketing
If you run an SMB (small or medium-sized business), there are some key areas to focus on when it comes to kickstarting your small business marketing:
- Setting up a Google Business Profile
- Building or enhancing your website
- Sharing value-driven content
- Getting social with Facebook and social media ads
- Keeping it local with letterbox drops
- Asking customers how they found you
Let's explore each area in more detail.
Setting up your Google Business Profile
Google is the most-visited website in the world. Showing up on Google is therefore essential for increasing your visibility.
Why you need a Google Business Profile (previously Google My Business):
- It's a free listing that helps potential customers find you via Google Maps and Search
- You can share key business information, such as location, opening hours and company updates
- You can build trust by encouraging customers to leave reviews
Getting set up:
- Sign in using your Google account and complete your profile
- Add photos and videos to boost clicks
- Share your review form with customers to build trust
- Reply to reviews (both positive and negative) - businesses that respond are considered nearly twice as trustworthy than those who don't
- Add some keywords to your description (we'll cover this below)
- Fill in all aspects of your profile to boost relevancy
Building or enhancing your website
If your business doesn't yet have a website, then now is definitely the time to make it a priority. Here's why you need one:
- You can host relevant business information (such as classes and booking details) to help improve visitor conversion rates
- It's one of the few places online where you aren't competing for attention
- It acts as a 24/7 sales tool, taking pressure off you and your staff
- You can showcase customer reviews - according to a recent survey, 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family or friends
The good news is that many website providers offer free plans and templates to help you get started without needing prior website experience, a dedicated budget or an IT expert.
Whether your website is new or existing, here are some tips to improve the customer experience:
- Tailor content (text and images) to your audience by carrying out customer research - use HubSpot's buyer persona template as a guide
- Improve your SEO by including keywords your customers search for - use free tools like Google Trends and Keyword Planner to help
- Increase credibility by buying a domain name
- Improve user-friendliness by making it clean and easy to navigate
- Prompt customers to take action by adding relevant buttons and links
Top tip: Do you have a customer portal? Some school management software providers provide a link that you can embed into your website - this enables people to book into a class, even if they are new.
Sharing value-driven content
One of the best ways to provide value to both your current and potential customers is by using your industry expertise to educate them on the benefits of your business. This can be in the form of educational blog posts, customer or employee testimonials, how-to videos (skills-based) or footage from an event you hosted or attended. You can then share this content across your website, social media pages, YouTube channel, email platform and industry publications to extend your reach.
Top tip: Always include a call to action (CTA) button or website link so that readers can find out more about your business.
Using blogs for a swim school as an example, here are some title ideas to get you started (you can adapt the example to suit your industry):
- 8 reasons why you should learn to swim
- 5 of the most asked questions about baby swim classes
- A step-by-step guide on how to do a butterfly kick
- 3 tips for children who are scared of water
- How to stay safe when swimming in the sea
- 10 benefits of having regular swimming lessons
Getting social with Facebook and social media ads
Social media covers a wide variety of channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. Unless you have a dedicated team, it would be unrealistic to leverage every platform - instead, get really great at one or two. Before you invest time and effort, do some research by asking customers where they are most active so you can reach the right people.
As Facebook has 2.89 billion monthly users with 75% visiting a local business page at least once a week, it makes sense to include it as one of your social channels. With a Facebook business page, you can:
- Share your location and opening hours for people to view easily
- Humanise your business/brand
- Direct people to your website for more information
- Post regular content and updates to spark engagement and interact with your followers to show you care about your customers
If you're unsure what to post, use the 80-20 rule as a starting point - 80% should inform, educate or entertain while the remaining 20% can directly promote your business.
Once you've got your page up and running, you can then start promoting your business using targeted Facebook Ads. According to marketing expert Neil Patel, the platform is "almost unparalleled" when it comes to detailed targeting. "It knows so much about its users, and this information helps advertisers reach the right people with the right message." There are plenty of online resources to help guide you if you're new to the ads platform.
Here are 4 tips for advertising on Facebook:
- Use free templates in applications like Canva to design your ad
- Clearly define your audience to make your ad as targeted as possible
- Look at what your competitors are promoting to compare strategies
- Add the Facebook pixel to your website to retarget people who have visited in the past (remembering to keep on top of permission tracking)
Keeping it local with letterbox drops
Direct mail is still highly effective, especially for businesses that want to target their local community. It's a great solution for budget-conscious businesses as it can be a low-cost strategy if you deliver yourself and design your flyer using a free tool like Canva. When planning your flyer, consider including an offer (such as first lesson free or limited-time deal) to motivate people to find out more and help you track the success rate.
Top tip: If you service a large area, class software like Udio offers a postcode heatmap report which highlights areas of low customer density so you can better target your letter drops.
Asking customers how they found you
Monitor the success of your marketing efforts by asking new customers who sign up how they heard about you. That way, you can invest money in areas where you are seeing a higher return.
To save you from doing this manually, some school management systems like Udio offer this reporting functionality in their base package.
The best way to market your business
Companies and brands of all sizes achieve the best marketing return on investment by:
- Identifying and understanding their target audience
- Choosing marketing platforms that best resonate with their audience
- Appropriately investing in those platforms
- Interacting with people and offering solutions to their problems
You don't need to hire a marketing specialist to get your business noticed; instead, start small with these marketing tips and tricks, regularly evaluating each to see what's working.
For example, a swim school that runs classes for children want to increase their memberships. Their strategy might be to:
- Target their primary audience (parents, guardians and grandparents) within a 10-kilometre radius
- Include places like schools, community centres and libraries as secondary audiences
- Opt for low-cost marketing to begin with due to a low budget, such as social media ads and flyers
- Invest in other areas as budget increases, such as website upgrades or search engine campaigns
Struggling to dedicate time to marketing? Try increasing efficiency across other areas of your business to free up your time:
- Move from spreadsheets to a class booking system
- Build a smarter schedule by replacing manual activities with automated ones
- Introduce an online portal so customers can manage their own bookings
Book your free consult call with Udio to see where you can improve productivity across your business.