While the statistics vary from one small business expert to another, one fact remains: a lot of small businesses fail due to poor marketing strategy. Sometimes it’s because they’re not marketing at all, and other times it’s due to an uneven balance among different marketing tactics.

My philosophy when it comes to marketing, especially digital marketing, is that you need equal amounts of effort in three key areas. I call it the Three-Legged Stool Approach. Ready for it? Here are the areas that need your attention:

  1. Your website
  2. Your social media channels
  3. Your email campaigns

Just like a three-legged stool, if one of these is out of whack, the whole thing tumbles over. Let’s dive into each area to get you stabilized in your marketing.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Website Speaks to Your Target Customer

When I look at some small business websites, it’s unclear who their target market is. When I ask a client who their target is, here’s an answer that makes me absolutely cringe:

We cater to everyone!

I’m sorry, if everyone can use your product or service, no one will. The more zeroed in you are with your marketing message, the more customers you’ll find. Yes, it’s counterintuitive that the fewer people you target, the more money you make, but being a niche business is where the money is, and it’s been proven again and again.

So take another look at the copy on your website. Does it speak to that tiny faction of the population? Does it make them say, “Hey, she’s talking to me! She gets me!”

If not, start over with a detailed customer profile and then develop website copy that speaks to her or him. Make every person that visits your site feel like you’re talking directly to them. Use keywords that will help the right people find you from search engines. Then reread that copy and make sure it flows well and makes sense.

Step 2: Get a Consistent Plan for Your Social Media

If only we could set up our Twitter, Facebook, Google +, or LinkedIn profiles and forget about them. You need to use the right social media network to drive traffic to your website. You do not need to do them all; just do one really well. Pick the one social site where your best target customer spends most of their time online. It takes a lot of work to develop a presence, build your following, and then maintain that connection with potential customers. There’s no overnight success here.

You’ll get best results if you vary your social content:

  • Share your blog posts, as well as that of others, that is relevant to your audience
  • Ask questions to engage your followers in conversation
  • Participate in ongoing discussions to build relationships
  • Share tips and insights to establish your own thought leadership
  • Throw in something personal to show you’re not a tweet-bot!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to sit on Twitter all day, so I take advantage of tools like SproutSocial and HootSuite that let me schedule social updates across all my profiles. That way, I may actually be speaking at a conference, but as far as my followers know, I’m right there, providing value in my social stream.

Also, for social to work for you, you have to pay attention to results. Measure which of your updates are getting clicked on, and which led people back to your site. You can do this with social media dashboards and Google Analytics.

Step 3: Stay in Front of Your Customers Through Email

The final leg of your stool is email. We’ve come a long way since “customized email” meant you could put “Dear {Firstname}” at the start of your newsletter. Now we’ve got the tools to customize even further, delivering the kinds of content and product information each individual subscriber cares about.

So if you sell women’s clothes and you have a customer on your list who frequently buys Petite clothing, she certainly isn’t interested in getting your Tall Ladies’ newsletter. Even with this tiny piece of information, you can tailor what she receives, increasing the chance of her buying from you again.

Keep your email newsletters informative and not high-pressure sales. They should include articles, tips or videos that your subscribers can benefit from. If you have sales and promotions, send those out as separate emails a few times a month. Again, monitor your open rate so you know what’s working and can do more of it.

With the proper balance of what’s on your website, your social media profiles, and your email efforts, you can stay in front of customers when they’re ready to buy.

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