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From social media, to email newsletter marketing, to blogging and direct outreach – there are handfuls upon handfuls of tactics, tools and trends out there to market your business. It’s overwhelming, and personally took me months of unread emails, blogging hours, and tactics that seemed more forced than fruitful to me to understand what ultimately made my audience “tick”. And making that strategic connection is what drives sales. And to build a successful business & connect effectively with your target customer through your marketing, it’s important to zero in on which strategies make the most sense for your brand, and how you can best execute them.

You might think, “If I employ multiple marketing efforts, then I’m increasing my chances of reaching my audience and producing sales, right?” Trying every marketing trick in the book and seeing what sticks might be reaching a wider audience, but it’s not necessarily reaching the right audience. You also run the risk of spreading yourself too thin in terms of your marketing plan, and thus watering down the quality of your marketing efforts. So you’re actually doing more work, with less return, versus less, more focused work that yields better results.

Your marketing strategy should be about building trust, credibility and visibility for your brand, by reaching the right audience, understanding the existing needs and interests within that segment, and clearly communicating the value of what you have to offer. Some of the most commonly utilized strategies include social media, blogging and writing, newsletter marketing, cross-promotion with other businesses, direct outreach, networking face-to-face or online, generating referrals, word of mouth, speaking & conducting workshops, and paid advertising. But not every strategy is appropriate for every business, and it does take some trial and error to nail down the ones that will yield the best results from your time and investment.

My Advice: Start with 2-3 strategies that you can implement and monitor, and that you feel best fit your audience and play upon your strengths. So where do you start?

Know Where Your Audience Hangs Out
If you’re an accessories designer targeting a younger generation of web-savvy 20-somethings, you know that they’re constantly online, with often 24/7 access to their email, and are heavily engaged in social media. This group is not as likely to be buying local newspapers and checking the classified ads. Sure, it might yield a couple random customers here and there, but it’s likely not going to compensate your time and efforts spent. Instead, understand the psychographics of your audience, the influencers behind their behaviors that can help you get a sense of what types of content they’re interested in, how messages reach them, how they interpret information, and what kinds of websites, publications and platforms they’re reading and engaging with. In short – where are they hanging out and getting their information from?

Identify Your Strengths
The key is to go with the strategies that are most in line with your strengths – if you’re a strong writer, writing and sharing relevant blog content is a great way to drive traffic to your website. If you’re a people-person with a vibrant personality, get out there and spread the word about your business at relevant industry and social events, or look into leading a workshop. Marketing isn’t always enjoyable, but if you utilize skills and talents that already come easy to you, you’ll have a much easier time, and you’ll also be able to identify areas for potential growth and learning. Intrigued about doing in-person workshops, but get nervous in front of groups? Try taking a public speaking class, or assisting a friend with running one of their workshops or events to get a feel for the process.

Set Up a Quantifiable Tracking System
Personally, I’m an Excel nerd, and most of my business can be found converted into spreadsheet format. The only way to understand how your marketing strategies are performing is to have a reliable system in which you are tracking the results. And while the actual data that you’re tracking will vary from medium to medium, the most important piece is to track growth, engagement and sales conversions. If you’re on Twitter, are your follower numbers growing, or are you finding people dropping off – this is indicative of how well your content is being received. Are people responding and commenting on your blog posts, or signing up to your newsletter on a weekly basis? And finally, when a customer purchases a product or service from you, are you tracking where they found you, so you can compare the different places from which your revenue is coming?

Always Have a Call to Action
The goal of marketing is ultimately to qualify potential customers and lead them into yours sales cycle. In some cases, it’s about generating visibility and reputation building for your brand. Social media is a good example of this, as it’s typically not a strong venue for promotionally-driven messages. But sharing interesting content, resources and tools, and making connections with other people is a great way to publicize your brand and let people know you exist and encourage them to continue following and engaging with you. But no matter what your marketing strategies, there should be a clear call to action attached. In other words, once you make a connection, whether it’s over social media, email, in-person or by phone, what do you want your audience to do from there?

I do a lot of blogging on small business topics, and when I share those blog posts with my audience, the call to action is to get them to come to my website where they can either sign up for my mailing list, learn more about what I do, or purchase my services. If you send out an email newsletter, perhaps the call to action is to visit your shop and utilize the discount coupon you provided them. If you invest in Google or similar paid advertising, the goal is also to drive people to your website. If you meet someone at a networking event and exchange information, ask them if they’re open to you adding them to your mailing list.

Marketing is hardly black and white, and many people will tell you that it is a bit of a trial and error process in the beginning, as you test out different tools to see what resonates best with your audience, and jibes well with your brand. It’s important, however, to be focused in your efforts, to do research and be diligent about tracking results, so you’re in a habit of constantly evaluating and shifting your business and your strategy towards better results. And just because one strategy doesn’t seem appropriate in the beginning, don’t close off the idea of implementing or adding new strategies as your business grows and take shapes. It’s a great opportunities to bring something fresh to the table for your audience, and stretch your own skills and capabilities in the process.

{Featured image via H2 Hoops}