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Getting the right marketing strategy

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Getting the right marketing strategy

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Different businesses require different types of market strategy, ranging from traditional advertising to an inventive use of online tools

Small business owners are more often than not specialists in their own industry. If your expertise lies in inventing new gadgets, baking innovative edible goods or providing an outstanding consultancy service, you may not have the time to put hours of research into what would be the best marketing strategies for you.

Different types of company will require different focuses when it comes to marketing - from traditional advertising to innovative use of online resources.

Creating a brand personality

Lick Frozen Yoghurt is a great example of a brand which is approachable and fun - using the free resources available to them to base their marketing around their distinctive personality. Their online photowall features pictures of customers with their Lick cartons, and each month they pick one winning picture for their 'wall of fame'.

Thomas Lavis, co-founder of Lick, explains the value of these types of campaigns: "If customers are familiar with Lick or feel a connection to it, they'll pick us over other brands. But it's not all about consumers – brands also have to make themselves look impressive to buyers and journalists. Make your brand stand out and you'll be more likely to get the meeting or whatever you're trying to achieve," he says.

Although this can be a great way to make your brand stand out, it's never a good idea to try and follow a fleeting trend. "Find something your brand does aside from what it's supposed to do in order to give it a personality, but make sure it's something you know a lot about and feel a genuine passion for," says Lavis.

Traditional advertising

Online advertising offers a number of great benefits, such as a lower investment, specific targeting and being able to really clearly track your click-through success. However, more traditional offline methods also have benefits.

Chris Winstanley is the head of marketing at MBA & Company, an online platform which connects business consultants with specific projects. They realised that email marketing, although cost- and time-effective, was an oversaturated space, and their target audience weren't responding, so they've started sending out hand-posted letters to people they want to tell about the business.

"The content replicates what's online. Our model doesn't really allow for discounts so we focus on educating people about what we do and demonstrating the value of our service. We're planning on doing even more offline marketing in the future, advertising in trade magazines," explained Winstanley.

"It's a misconception that it's harder to track success offline. For example, we can use slightly different URLs in different publications and change the 0800 numbers we use depending on where they're published, which makes it easy to understand the effect of the ads," he said.

Content marketing

A buzzword in the online community, small businesses will undoubtedly have heard of content marketing, and statistics from the Content Marketing Institute say that nine out of 10 organisations use it in some way. However, Connor Kinnear, co-founder of content generation tool Passle, thinks SMEs should be more selective about how - and even whether or not - they should use content marketing.

"The good thing about blogging, for example, is that it's free to do and can allow you to show your expertise in the field," says Kinnear. "But it's not easy and it's a big commitment. You need someone who is competent at writing and committed to keeping the blog up-to-date."

Including a blog on your website is a great option if you want to reach a wider audience, as content will be a lot more widely read than standard product/service descriptions, and it'll give you links to share via social media which don't appear too sales orientated.

In addition, regularly updating your website with fresh content is a way of boosting your SEO (search engine optimisation) so that you're more likely to appear in searches for certain keywords. However, if you run a business where maintaining a blog wouldn't be easily incorporated into day-to-day activities you might be better off allocating your resources elsewhere.

Kinnear gives a good example: "My father-in-law is a dentist in Dublin, and although a blog could work for him in SEO terms, the reality is it might be more effort and cost than it's worth. He'd probably be better off investing in Google AdWords, for example, which requires less effort."

Social media and SEO

There's no business which shouldn't have a social media strategy - whether that's building a community, targeting key influencers, responding to queries or simply having a presence to refer to. Although it can be an extremely valuable tool, the one piece of advice which is always repeated is that social media should not be used to sell, but rather to communicate.

LawBite is a new business which provides simple, cost-effective legal advice to other small businesses. They use Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn as platforms to share their successes and connect with their audience. Another benefit of social media is that is can be beneficial to SEO.

"Alongside social media we also invest in SEO as we have a search-heavy strategy," said Alan Moore, LawBite's head of strategic marketing. "We use Google AdWords and pay-per-click and we're looking to do a video soon. Putting a video on a networked platform like YouTube allows you to tell a complex story to a wide audience."

Moore says: "Whatever your strategy is, it's crucial to think about your approach and make sure you're doing things properly. There's a lot of smoke and mirrors, but most things are really pretty simple."

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