Starting a small business is exciting. But, this new endeavor can be stressful, requiring a lot of time, patience, and money. If you are starting a small business, marketing and advertising may be the last things on your mind. However, they are an important part of growing your business, if done effectively and strategically, no matter your company size.

One of the first things you should do when strategizing your marketing and advertising efforts, is set business goals. Everything you do should tie into the goals you create. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time-Based) goal setting is an effective process that you can use.

Once you establish your goals, here are five steps you should take to develop your marketing and advertising strategy.

1. Build your brand

Before rushing and putting your company name out there, you must first think about your brand. Building a brand is not just about your logo or what you do. It’s about why you do it. As you establish your brand, think about what makes you unique. Create a short list of companies you consider to be competitors and think about what makes you different from them. Make sure you can describe what you do in one sentence, because if you can’t explain it, imagine how new customers feel.

For more information on what makes a brand great, check out our recent articles on strategy and branding.

2. Research your target audience

Decide who it is that needs your product/service by asking yourself “what problem can my product/service solve for a potential customer?” If you aren’t taking customer’s WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) into consideration, you will miss your target completely.

Small businesses should focus on targeting a niche market. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to want to reach everyone everywhere for maximum profit. But, that’s not always the best approach. Instead, focus your marketing efforts (and dollars) on a smaller group of target customers that are most likely to buy your product/service.

Writing down the characteristics specific to your potential customers will help you with your strategy. You may consider:

  • Location: Are they in a certain city or state?
  • Age
  • Generation: Are they a Baby Boomer, Millennial, etc.?
  • Gender
  • Household income: Who can afford your product/service?
  • Interests/hobbies: What do they enjoy?

After you decide how to introduce your brand and who you want to introduce it to, it’s time to build your potential customer base.

3. Network and connect with your community

For small business owners, networking is vital. Most people don’t especially enjoy what is considered typical networking. It can sometimes come off as ingenuine, or if you are an introvert, it can be stressful. So instead, look for networking opportunities that fit your personality style.

One way to network is to join Facebook Groups for entrepreneurs. When doing so, be sure to only join a few groups where you can interact and develop strong connections with other entrepreneurs. You may be tempted to self-promote your company, but try to stay away from this. Online entrepreneur groups should be used for networking and building a support group, not to constantly post about your company in the discussion.

You can also attend networking events that don’t require you to go up to a stranger and start talking, which is what can scare many away from attending. Speed networking events are perfect because you are setup to talk to someone, which takes away the awkward element of approaching a random person. Networking dinners where attendees are sitting around a table make for a more natural conversation setting, and many organizations offer dinners at a small cost. These can easily be found through various Facebook groups.

Another way to get involved in the community is to join a local association for small businesses. One benefit is that they offer local trainings and workshops. Here are a few local Arizona associations:

When you attend a networking event, remember to stock up with business cards to hand out to people, so you can reconnect after the event. You would be surprised how many times business owners do not carry materials with them.

Not only will networking with other business owners provide you with potential mentors who can help you grow, but they may need the product/service that you offer as well.

4. Set a social media strategy

Before getting on social media, set a goal for what you want to accomplish on the channel and how that goal ties into your overall business objectives. Are you looking to get more traffic to your website? Visibility? Or, do you want to grow your e-commerce?

Building a brand with social media can yield big returns. Consider the following,

  • 2.56 billion global mobile social media users, equaling 34% penetration; globally with 1 million new active mobile social users added every day.
  • 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.

It all starts with creating a strategy, because that will define what you do next. Many resources, like this one, provide research that is helpful in figuring out your approach. Once you have your strategy, determine which social media platform your target audience is on the most. Don’t feel like you need to be on all of them. Each one has different audiences and purposes.

Then, slowly build connections with your followers. Once you start building your customer base, remember to continue engaging with them. They will be your biggest cheerleaders, and word-of-mouth is incredibly helpful for new small businesses. Focus your time on engaging in conversations, liking and responding to comments, and responding to reviews (negative or positive). You will build your credibility by responding to negative reviews because customers want to see that you care and will work on fixing mistakes/issues.

Make sure you stay consistent with your postings and the topics you post about, rather than being all over the board. Your messaging should be consistent with your brand and make sense to your target audience. Use attractive imagery and avoid stock photos as much as possible. Customers like to see user-generated content, or real photos taken by the business they are following.

If it overwhelms you to think about posting regularly to social media, create a content calendar. You can start with using an Excel spreadsheet to put your ideas down and then move into scheduling your posts in advance when you have a little extra free time. Even doing them a week at a time will help. Websites like Hootsuite or SOCi are very useful for scheduling posts in advance.

Once you get going, it is very easy to get lost in the shuffle, so we have some tips. We share how to gain more engagement in our article, 5 Reasons Why Your Social Media Posts Could be Getting Lost In The Shuffle.

5. Develop a website

Building a website is quite a process. And although social media is a great outlet to promote your business, having a website is an effective way to achieve your business goals.

An important item to consider when developing a website is your URL. It should be short, easy to remember, clean, professional, and include your business name.

Once you get your website up and running, you’ll want to drive traffic to it. Make sure to include it on your social media platforms and any marketing materials you create.

Overwhelmed yet?

It’s okay. Building brand awareness and acquiring new customers takes time and patience, and it definitely does not happen overnight. Start by sitting down and putting together a plan. Think about what you want to accomplish in 30-60-90 days and write it down. There are many different types of planning resources you can use, from a hand-held planner, or online project management tools like Asana.

In conclusion

We understand that running a new business is hard work. By following these tips, you’ll be able to relieve some of the stress you feel as you grow your business. And remember, everything you do should tie into your goals and objectives. If you keep those top-of-mind, the rest will fall into place a lot easier.