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You gotta be on social media. Email has the best ROI. Nothing beats old-fashioned print collateral. With so many opinions about the best marketing strategies, how can you know what’s right for your business?

It all depends on who you are and what goals you want to accomplish. To help you prioritize your marketing efforts this year, we’re sharing our recommendations according to business type. Read on to discover the best marketing strategies for YOU. And don’t miss the infographic at the end.

Priorities by business type

If you’re a startup…

As you’re a startup, you’re in a unique position marketing-wise. This is the time to focus on the foundation by establishing your brand. In addition to commissioning a great logo and visual identity, think through the heart of your business: What is your mission? What makes you different than others? What values or brand personality traits define you?

Once your brand is solidified, focus on the strategies that align with your business type or limitations described below.

Marketing priority for startups:

  • Branding

If you provide a service…

Professional services often have a regional target audience, so your marketing emphasis should focus on being accessible and findable for your local market. Word of mouth may drive new customers your way, but those referrals need to be supported by solid marketing. After hearing a friend sing your praises, most potential clients will look you up online. So make sure your website is modern, user-friendly, and mobile-optimized. Encourage faithful patrons to leave reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, or Angi and respond with professionalism to those who leave negative reviews. (This can be referred to as “reputation management.”)

Print marketing is a great strategy for a local audience. Every door direct mailers (EDDM) may be an affordable way to get your name out there. Paid ads in popular local publications, flyers, and even large-scale pieces like billboards or benches may be appropriate for you. If you drive to meet your clientele (real estate agents, plumbers, IT services, etc.) consider adding a magnet to the side of your vehicle or investing in a full car wrap to increase brand awareness.

Marketing priorities for services:

  • Website
  • Reputation management
  • Print marketing

If you sell a digital product…

A huge amount of small business deal exclusively in digital content. Maybe you’re selling an online course, a digital download, or software as a service (SAAS). Whatever the product, you need to focus your marketing on the digital world because that is where customers who are comfortable with intangible products spend their time. Make sure your website is excellent. You wouldn’t trust a digital company with an out-of-date website, so don’t be that company. You might care more about special functionalities than a brick-and-mortar retailer, but user experience must remain the top concern.

Once your website is top tier, make sure people can find it by investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This can include everything from well-written web copy to paid digital ads. Be discerning and DON’T sacrifice a quality experience for your web users in your attempt to please Google! Social media may also be a smart place for you to build your presence. Consider which platforms appeal to your target audience. It’s better to be regularly active on one or two channels than to be spread too thin across dozens.

Marketing priorities for digital products:

  • Website
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social media

If you’re an online retailer…

Online retailers have a broader potential audience than local stores, geographically speaking. Naturally, it’s less likely that regional marketing strategies like print collateral or events will produce a good return. Instead, focus your efforts on the digital world, but not just the internet. Yes, you want a stellar, mobile-friendly website that is easy to find through search engines. If you’re not already pursuing those pieces, start there. But you should also consider the world of email marketing.

When well-executed, email marketing boasts a higher ROI than other channels because you can connect with your customer directly. Once clients enter into the mini transaction of giving your their email address, they’re more likely to complete future financial transactions. You can communicate about promotions, share behind the scenes info, and keep your brand top of mind. This year, ask your web developer to set up an email integration with your website and brainstorm a good lead capture strategy.

Marketing priorities for online retailers:

  • Website
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Email marketing

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business…

Restaurants, in-person retailers, and other physical businesses need to focus marketing on bringing customers into their space. The first obstacle is making sure customers can find your space. Unless you’re in a wonderfully high-traffic area, make sure you’re set up on Google Places and other map services and that you’re cultivating good reviews.

Having a physical location gives you opportunities the digital folks don’t have, such as hosting an event. This classic PR strategy might be a good fit if you want to attract new customers or show that you’re invested in your community. Though “old school,” print marketing strategies like mailers, flyers, and ads in local publications may be a better fit for you than investing a great deal of time on digital efforts like social media.

Marketing priorities for physical businesses:

  • Google Places
  • Public relations and events
  • Print marketing

If you’re a non-profit or ministry…

Donor-based organizations and ministries will benefit from a solid marketing plan as well. You may not be selling a product or service, but you still want to connect with your audience. Even more than a solid website, which we always recommend, you may want to prioritize more direct ways to interact with people. This might include hosting an in-person or virtual event where you can speak to and interact with those who care about your cause.

On the digital side, start with an excellent website. These days, your website substantiates you and shows you are legitimate, which is especially important for organizations requesting donations. You should also look into building your email list or increasing your presence on social media. The choice between the two depends on your goals. Are you looking to take people to a deeper/higher level regarding your message or do you want to reach new people this year? Email works better for the former, and social media for the latter.

Marketing priorities for non-profits:

  • Public relations and events
  • Website
  • Email or social media

 

Priorities by circumstance

If you have limited labor…

Maybe you’re a one-man show, or perhaps you’re short-staffed this year or your labor force is mostly volunteers. In this situation, you want to maximize your marketing impact without stretching your people—or yourself—too thin. One solution is to hire a contractor to handle your marketing efforts. You can hand off everything including making a marketing strategy for the year, or you can manage the big picture and contract help for individual tasks.

Paid advertising allows you to reach more people with fewer man hours. Look into pay-per-click ads, such as Google Ads or promoted/sponsored posts on social media, if your audience is mostly digital. Consider traditional advertising like radio, TV, or print if your target is geographically bound.

Solutions when you’re short on labor:

  • Hire contractors
  • Paid advertising

If you have a limited budget…

Every business has a finite marketing budget, but what should you do if you’re particularly short on funds this year? You can stir up buzz and drive consumers your way through social media without spending much at all. The downside is the time factor. Developing a robust social media presence takes weekly or even daily interaction. If you have more time than money available, this might be the right choice.

A combination of blogging and email marketing can be very effective without a big investment. Assuming you have a website, blogging attracts digital attention while positioning you as an expert/leader in your industry. Those same blogs can become content for your email marketing, which allows you to connect with potential customers directly and drive traffic to your website or physical location.

Solutions when you’re short on funds:

  • Social media
  • Blogging
  • Email marketing

If you have limited time…

The best marketing strategies build over time, like a snowball. But, what if you need a quick turnaround on your marketing efforts? In that situation, an event might be what you need. The fastest way to make a strong impression on your audience is in person. Nothing replaces a tangible brand experience where people can meet you, try your product, or test out your services.

If you don’t have the funds or support for an event, send an email or mail a letter with a strong call to action. A direct ask might be necessary when you need an uptick in revenue ASAP. We don’t recommend pulling this trigger often. Hard sell approaches like this are sort of like proposing—they work best if there’s been a good amount of dating (brand connection) before you pop the question.

Solutions when you’re short on time:

  • Events
  • Email or print campaign

Additional considerations

Nothing, and we mean NOTHING, will sink your marketing efforts faster than a poor quality product or service. All of your efforts will be wasted if you can’t deliver on your brand promises and provide something excellent to your customers. Above all else, make sure you’re prioritizing quality. No amount of marketing will make up for it.

Always keep your goals in mind. The tactics needed to increase sales vary from those meant to increase awareness. Retaining current customers requires a different approach than bringing in new people. What are your goals this year? Which strategies will help you achieve them?

Marketing is an investment, and like anytime you invest there are risks. Higher risk strategies (e.g. paying for a Super Bowl ad) could produce a huge yield in a short amount of time or could bankrupt your company. Lower risk efforts (e.g. sending a monthly email) will take longer to yield results, but you won’t lose as much along the way.

Go figure, effective marketing depends on your market. What works to gain attention in a small town won’t necessarily work in a big city and vice versa. Same for audience demographics. Millennials will respond differently than retired adults. What works in the US may not translate overseas. Remember that you serve real people.

Marketing priorities infographic

Top 3 Marketing Priorities by Organization Type Infographic by Kettle Fire Creative

Do these marketing strategies fit your business and situation? What are your priorities for the new year? Share with us in the comments.

Best Marketing Strategies: What to Prioritize for YOUR Business by Kettle Fire Creative

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