So you’ve done it. You’ve started your own business. And things are going… well they’re going OK.  But now you’re ready to kick it up notch. How though? Well, one of the things you need to do is get yourself a killer marketing strategy. ‘Yes! A marketing strategy! Let’s do it!’ I hear you cry. But then the panic sets in. Where do I start? What do I say? What do I do with it? How much does it cost? If this sounds like you, then read on…


Essentially, it tells you what to say, how to say it and who to say it to.  The ultimate aim? To help you meet your goals – be that more sales, more customers, more subscribers… You get the drift.  Simply put, a marketing strategy is a framework which will turn your marketing efforts from a series of separate, individual activities into an effective, considered and consistent approach to your marketing efforts.


Knowing what it is you are trying to achieve is really important. Are you looking to hike your sales by 30%? Or maybe you want to get 1,000 new followers on Instagram? Whatever it is it is an integral part of your marketing strategy. Setting out your goals will allow you to tailor what you say, how you say it and who you say it to. We all know the SMART acronym – it’s an old favourite but it still holds true today. Make your objectives Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant and Timed.  


This is the ‘what to say’ bit and is all about figuring out what sets you apart from the rest of the pack and how you want to be perceived by your customers. These are commonly referred to as your key messages. Which are what exactly? Well, let’s first address what they are not. They are not a series of statements or a strapline that you must perpetuate, word for word, in every email, tweet, blog or Instagram post. Rather they are the essence of what you are trying to communicate. And it is that essence, that spirit, that ethos that you should be threading throughout your marketing efforts. Once you’ve defined your key messages, embed them in everything you do and ultimately they will influence how your customers feel about you.


Who are you talking to? You need a good understanding of this because no small business can afford to simply target everyone. With limited resources and budgets, it makes good sense to target only those that are most likely to buy whatever it is you are selling. There is no point spending your valuable marketing budget on trying to convince people that are never going to buy from you to well… buy from you. A good place to start is to look at their demographics, psychographics and their behavioural traits.  Ask yourself how old are they, are they married, do they have kids, do they have a degree, what do they do in their spare time, what kind of lifestyle do they lead? From here you can begin to build a nice little picture of your dream client.


Another aspect worth your consideration is how much money you have to invest in your marketing efforts. A realistic budget, no matter how modest, will go further and have more of an impact if you are spending it in the right places. Having a well thought out strategy in place to guide your marketing efforts is all well and good, but you need to be able to afford it. And you need to know that it is money well spent.


So you know what you want to say, who you want to say it to and how much you have to spend, but do you know where to find them? Based on what the profile of your ideal customer looks like, there are a vast array of options open to you. If they are younger you will most probably find them hanging out online, perhaps scrolling through their Facebook or Instagram feeds, or browsing websites that reflect their interests. An older crowd might be more likely to be reading newspapers or magazines so perhaps printed publications would be a better option. The opportunities are endless. But once you know who you are looking for, finding them becomes much easier.  


So you’ve done it, you’ve developed your very own marketing strategy. But alas, your work it not done. Make sure you review it and it’s effectiveness regularly. If things are going to plan, brilliant! But if you find that posting once a week on Instagram isn’t getting you anywhere near those 1,000 followers you covet, then it might be time for a rethink. Implement, review, and tweak as necessary.


Let’s take a local wedding photographer as an example.  Currently he simply emblazons everything he does with ‘High quality wedding photos!’ and mostly just pays for ads in the local free magazine. But after putting some thought into his marketing strategy, his efforts might look a little more like this…

His goals: to increase the number of bookings he has from two a month to three a month by the end of the year, and he wants 50% of his clients to purchase his most expensive package, also by the end of the year.

His key message: capture forever the memories of your special day

His ideal customer: newly engaged women in his area, that are between 25 – 40 years of age.

Where he will find her: given the age of his dream client, he will likely find her online so he is now reviewing options like Instagram, Facebook and banner ads on wedding related websites, perhaps some Google Adwords too. She is also buying the odd wedding magazine too but his marketing budget is relatively modest so he knows he can’t really afford a full page ad in Bride magazine.

His tactics: his blog might contain a post on the small details he likes to capture at weddings – close up of the rings, the flower in the bride’s hair, the groom’s shoes, details that without a talented photographer they may quickly forget. In his Instagram feed he might post some candid photos from a recent wedding, where the happy couple were unaware they were being photographed, a touching moment captured forever. His highly targeted Facebook ads might describe the joy of passing on an heirloom quality photo album to the happy couple’s future children, an album that incidentally is only available with his platinum package.

The review: three months after he put his plan into action, he takes stock. His bookings have increased as he is now targeting well and his messaging his working, but there has been no improvement in the number that are booking his most expensive package. After conducting a little market research he knows that he is quite expensive compared to a lot of other photographers in the area, so he tweaks his Facebook ads to target those in a higher income bracket.


Many small business owners find themselves executing one-off marketing activities, clinging to the hope that it will be enough to generate all those leads or double those sales figures. But the reality is that isolated, one-off campaigns are much less effective than a consistent, long term, highly targeted approach. A well thought out marketing strategy really does make the sum greater than its parts.

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