Marketing can sound like an expensive luxury when you’re in the process of setting up your business, but without a strong communications plan how will your customers know what you do and where to find you?
Creating a consistent, varied and impactful marketing strategy – which includes a mixture of passive activity and strong calls to action, both online and offline – should form the backbone of your marketing plan.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started:
Identify your target audience
You probably already have an idea of who your ideal customer is. Now you need to consider the most effective ways of communicating with them. Meeting professionals at networking events may offer client and referral opportunities, while advertising or event sponsorship could resonate with customers more directly.
If you’re targeting a specific age or gender, consider which marketing tools you might use to get your message in front of them regularly.
From traditional news releases and features or adverts in printed media to your company brochure, website and social media channels, different audiences will access your messages on different platforms – and that can take time to establish.
On social media alone, young women are more likely to regularly see products on Pinterest and Instagram, while men are more likely to see sponsored product posts on Facebook.
Develop your brand
Your brand and branding will help customers identify you among the noise of your industry, so make it engaging so that it will appeal to your audience.
Branding includes the logo, colours, typography and messaging which identifies your business.
See also: Small business logos we really love
Your business type will have a bearing on the tone of voice you use in your messaging, both on and offline. Professionals working B2B frequently cultivate an authoritative and informative tone, while B2C businesses will come across as friendly and approachable.
However, there is an emerging trend where businesses challenge what is expected and take on a B2P strategy, which offers a careful balance of professional messaging with a personal twist.
Remember, people buy from people, so giving customers a glimpse of the team behind the brand will help them build a picture of who they’re investing in and working with.
Put your best foot forward
Marketing specialists agree that you should get on the front foot when it comes to launching a new business, service or product.
Don’t wait until it’s ready to go to market before you begin your teaser communications, research your target audience and build a following.
Get your website set up and a holding page in place, so people who get there early can see what you’re about. You could even set up an early bird offer and provide a special discount code to those who visit the site before the official launch.
Establish your social media channels and decide on your brand voice, so that customers get a feel for who you are from the get-go.
Keep your growing audience intrigued by posting subtle updates and behind-the-scenes photos, introducing the team or asking questions to engage with your followers.
Offer some goodies or a discount code to those who sign up early to your newsletter.
Capture their attention
A basic principle of marketing is that it can take up to seven ‘touch points’ for a potential customer to tune into your call to action and become a customer.
If you’re meeting new people at networking sessions or business events, hand out your business card and let people know what you’re about.
Think about the sort of people you prefer to work with. Are they friendly, approachable and passionate about what they do, or do they come across as cold, difficult and unenthusiastic?
The tools of the trade
Your website will form the backbone of your online communications and should act as an e-business card for people who find you online before they meet you in person. Even a holding page with links to your social media accounts will give customers a place to visit to find out more about you.
A news release announcing your new business or service, once circulated to the press, should be added to your website either as a news story or crafted into a blog post. Not only will this provide your customers with fresh content, it will also support SEO (search engine optimisation).
Meanwhile, your printed marketing collateral needs to be professional and versatile. Business cards, leaflets and glossy brochures need to showcase you as the company to call, instead of your competitors, so spend time getting it right.
Opinion pieces written for local business magazines or supplements, should be shared on your social media pages, particularly LinkedIn.
On the subject of social media, which platforms are right for you? If you’ve done your market research, you should have an idea where your target customers hang out. Establish a page or account and start sharing and engaging with your audience and brand ambassadors.
Using a range of communication tools and channels will help spread the word and start the ball rolling on those seven touch points with new clients.
Once you’re more established you might want to consider sponsorship and advertising opportunities as well as larger branded items such as banners and vehicle wraps, if you’re going to be attending events or travelling a lot.
Evaluate and invest
You’re bound to learn lots in your first year, which will help you create more streamlined marketing plans in the future.
Evaluate everything from your website and social media analytics to the reach of your print and broadcast coverage. Then monitor where customers are finding out about you and invest time and money in what works for your business.
In the meantime, start researching, engaging and sharing with your audience.