Top 8 Things to Know to Market Your Business Today
Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in the finance, travel and tourism, resort, athletic footwear and apparel, and snowboarding industries. As a result, I’ve learned quite a lot about branding and marketing at for-profit and non-profit organizations of every level from global brands to regional brands all the way down to niche brands.
And what I’ve learned is this: While marketing may at first seem very different for each of these types of industries, in reality, the similarities far outweigh the differences. The goal of every organization’s marketing strategy might be different for every one of them, but in general, HOW to market and WHY to market are often very similar from industry to industry. Whether you own a clothing store on Main Street in Brattleboro, manage a global tour business virtually from Stowe, or run the marketing for a start-up craft brewery out of your neighbor’s garage in Burlington, these steps will help give you the confidence to market your business successfully.
Know your Purpose
Potentially the most important aspect of running a successful marketing campaign (or business at all) is to clearly define and understand why you do this work. In his book Start with Why, author and speaker Simon Sinek discusses in great detail the importance of understanding why we do what we do. In marketing, this concept is fundamental to success. You simply cannot “fake it till you make it” anymore. Your consumers are way too savvy for that. Your purpose will help inform your brand, your voice, and pretty much every marketing decision you may need to make down the road. Don’t overlook this step.
Know your Goals
While it is easy to simply start a social media account and begin pushing out content and messages about your product or service, you will very quickly realize that without goals, your efforts are nearly worthless. How will you know if things are working the way you want them to work? How will you know if you need to increase your budget or change your message? You won’t. You may be seeing results, but are they the results you are looking for? Maybe so, maybe not. Without at least a few defined goals, your marketing is simply floating out there untethered. Start small, with three to five manageable objectives because it’s always a good feeling to check things off the list!
Know your Budget
Most marketers and business owners I know don’t love dealing with budgets. But this is what can make or break your marketing right from the start. You must have a budget. Even if it’s $0. Ideally, you will want to put something into your marketing efforts. And it does not have to be a huge amount. Even a budget of $10/month using pay-per-click ads or paid social media can really make a difference. Every business is different. Decide what budget works for you and can be sustained over the course of a year, then test it out. Be willing to make changes—add more here, do less there—as you go on a monthly basis depending on business flow, time of year, consumer spending patterns, day of the week, etc. It’s a lot to think about but worth the time and effort every time.
Know your Tools/Resources
OK, you have decided on a budget. Now, where and how are you going to use it? There are a million ways to spend your marketing dollars, but if you want complete control over how to use that money, there are a lot of really good marketing tools and resources out there which can transform your marketing overnight—things like Google Ads and Facebook Boosting. Put in some research hours to find the tools that will help you reach your goals.
If you have no actual budget, focus ALL your efforts on free solutions like organic social media, SEO, blogging, free email services, free websites, free design software, marketing interns looking for experience, etc.
Assuming you do have a budget, get working on paid social media, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and display advertising. With just a few dollars a month, you can develop a brand and drive traffic to your website or your storefront and begin to separate yourself from your competition.
Here in Vermont, we also have a really great community of marketing professionals. Reach out and attend a local marketing conference—you’ll meet people with the same questions you have, and will leave with pages and pages of notes and ideas. I cannot recommend this highly enough for those new to marketing.
Know your Competition
Every business has competition. Your competition is who your customers could spend their time and money with instead of you. What makes them successful (or not)? Where do they advertise? What is their brand voice? What are their values and their differentiators? What does their website look like? What is the quality of their product compared to yours? Dig in and get to know the competition. It will help you further refine your messaging, your product, your brand voice, and your audience.
Know your Audience
Who is your customer? Simple as that. Are you a business who serves literally everyone in your community or are your customers more tightly defined? If you are selling wedding gowns, your audience is fairly well defined, whereas if you are a typical Vermont country store, your customers could be everyone passing through the area (or even outside the area, if you offer shipping). Know who these people are and create various personas (fictional and general descriptions of your target audiences) for a few different types of key customers that you have. These personas will help focus your advertising and marketing efforts by targeting certain audience types with the right message at the right time, rather than simply sending out a broad message to everyone, all the time.
Know your Brand
You have decided to advertise and market your business! You have sponsored posts planned for Instagram, you will soon have display ads on websites all around the world, and traffic is starting to trickle in to your website. What is your brand all about? What is your voice? Are you serious? Are you funny? Are you inspiring? Maybe you’re just…you. Go back to that purpose we discussed earlier and define your values; define your purpose. What are your differentiators? What does your ideal customer think of you? Use all of this to develop your brand voice and then be consistent. Your social media ads should look and feel like your website, which should look and feel like your videos, or your photos, or whatever you do. Your brand is who you are; it is what makes you different, and this is what your customers will remember and come back to.
Know your Next Move
I was a soccer player and a musician in high school and college. Something that I learned from both of those experiences, which I still use today in my marketing life, is the art of anticipation. Know where the ball is going to go a few plays before it happens so you can get your body there in time. When improvising with other musicians, anticipate how the rhythms and melodies are going to change. Listen for the hints of change from the other players. This is true in marketing. You have to work in today’s world with consumers on their phones right now looking for answers to their questions, but you also have to keep an eye on how you will revise your strategies to keep up with the changes that are certainly coming: changes in technology, changes in laws, changes in consumer behavior and more. Anticipate these changes by keeping up with marketing trends, monitoring the performance of your marketing efforts, and adapting as necessary.
In upcoming posts, I’ll do a deeper dive into some of these core topics to really help get your marketing confidence dialed in and dialed up. In the meantime, use the comment box below to share your thoughts and let me know if there are other marketing topics you’d like to hear about next. I’m always on the lookout for great ideas.
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About Patrick O'Donnell
As VSECU’s digital strategist, Patrick O’Donnell is responsible for the development, optimization, execution, and analysis of the organization's digital marketing campaigns, activities, and tactics. Patrick is an avid reader, writer, and runner and spends as much time as possible outside in all of Vermont’s seasons, exploring with his family.