As a small business owner, you wear multiple hats, and some of them probably fit better than others. It’s not uncommon for small business owners to feel uncomfortable in their role as chief marketer. The growth of online marketing has added complexity, nuance, and power to small business marketing. While you may be familiar with certain ways to market your business online such as through content marketing, email and social media, you may be unsure of how they work together, or exactly how to integrate efforts to achieve maximum results. You’re not alone.
On a scale of one to five, with five being very effective and one being completely ineffective, 67 percent of business-to-business marketers and 63 percent of business-to-consumer marketers say they’re in the middle or lower end of that range, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). Many have plans and meet regularly to discuss their marketing, but they’re still not feeling as effective as they want to be. If the marketing professionals are this beleaguered, what hope is there for a small business owner whose expertise lies outside the realm of marketing?
Three ways to market your business explained
Your small business can execute an online marketing plan by focusing on a few elements and employing them in harmony: content marketing, email, and social media. To do this, let’s review the basics of each one.
CMI defines content marketing as “… a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” In layman’s terms, this translates to anything you create and publish for public consumption with the aim of drumming up business.
Content creation addresses the message and the best format to communicate that message:
- Blog post
Content distribution determines how the content is going to reach the target audience:
- RSS subscribers
- Social networks
- Email campaigns
- Community groups
Why does content marketing work?
Content marketing works because it gives the recipient something of value, such as information or entertainment, all while elevating your business’ visibility and credibility as the provider of the value. It allows you to reach as broad or narrow a range of targets as you desire. It creates associations between businesses and consumers and creates a positive and enriching connection.
Email marketing is an efficient way to communicate and stay connected to your clients or customers while also promoting your business. It’s a distribution channel for content. Common email campaigns consist of product or service announcements, a company newsletter, lead nurturing, and sales promotions.
Numerous studies have explored how email marketing works, why it works, how frequently businesses should send emails, what the content of emails should be, what you can put in an email that will lead the recipient to take the action, and much more.
Salesforce compiled a list of interesting statistics about email marketing, including:
- Promotional emails prompted 44 percent of people to make at least one purchase in a 12-month period.
- Seven out of 10 people will use a coupon or discount from an email.
- Sixty-four percent of people say they open an email because of the subject line.
- More than a quarter of consumers felt their favorite companies should invest more in emails.
- About 84 percent of all email traffic is spam.
Email marketing works, but only if it’s done wisely. Shotgun emails that go to the inboxes of people who have no interest in your company or product are worthless. They waste time and money and annoy disinterested consumers.
The keys to successful email campaigns are simple:
- Focus on growing and pruning your email subscriber list. Solicit emails through your website, blog, social media channels, or through in-store promotions. These consumers are already aware of your business and are more likely to be receptive to additional contact.
- Segment your list. Not every customer or prospect will be interested in every email you send, but some emails will be highly relevant to others. There are many ways to segment your mailing list. Using an email service provider like VerticalResponse, makes it easier to determine how to divide contacts based on age ranges, location, birthday, or any other information you collect from the subscriber. You can also segment based on email campaign activity – whether subscribers have opened or clicked on certain emails. Using this contact information and engagement metrics help you target your message better.
- Deliver quality content aimed at fulfilling the needs of the targeted list. For example, couples who just bought a home might welcome an email from their realtor that provides tips for new homeowners, or a list of resources like movers or handyman services. This type of content is useful and relevant. It strengthens the relationship between the realtor and the clients and is a perfect example of how content marketing and email work together.
- Communicate regularly but don’t inundate customers with email. How frequent is perfect? You’ll need to experiment to identify the optimum pace for your target audience. Try increasing email frequency to a small, targeted group and track the results. Do more people make purchases? Or unsubscribe? An email service provider can help you track results, including open and click-through rates.
Social Media Marketing
By now, only the most tech-resistant are unaware of this thing called “social media.” Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and a host of other social media sites are channels that connect millions of users to each other — and to businesses. In fact, nearly three-quarters of American adults use social networking websites, according to the Pew Research Center.
These social media networks are distribution channels for content. Social media users are looking to stay connected and therefore are open to engagement. They tend to be much more connected and interactive with each other and the businesses they patronize. Skillful use of social media can put your business message in front of a highly receptive audience.
To maximize your use of social media channels, follow these best practices:
- Learn which social media channels your customers prefer.
- Establish a presence on those platforms.
- Use social media to distribute content that resides on your blog, YouTube page, or other places.
- Follow what your customers are doing and saying on social media — before you put your own statements out there.
- Tailor the content you share on social media to your audience, just as you do with email marketing.
- Always provide quality content — information that is relevant and useful for your target audience.
- Use social media to grow your email subscriber list.
Making these three approaches work in harmony
You’ll realize the true power of each of these marketing efforts when you deploy them together. Consider this scenario as another example of how to integrate these three aspects:
- Create a blog post about a topic your audience would find interesting.
- Make the call to action at the end of the post an invitation to sign up for your company newsletter.
- Pubish the blog post, and also post it to your social media channels. Encourage fans and followers to share their thoughts in the comment section to stimulate engagement.
- Round up one or two weeks worth of blog posts, any videos you’ve created, or links to presentations and use this content in your newsletter.
- Distribute the newsletter to your email subscribers, and also share it on social media.
- Send any new email subscribers (generated from the blog post or elsewhere) a welcome email that provides additional content, and an incentive to connect on social media by promising exclusive promotions to followers.
This is only one path. There are many more to create and explore. Let us know what works for you!
Conclusion: Content marketing, email, and social marketing are each powerful tools for communicating with consumers and building your business. However, doing only one or two of these tactics isn’t going to get the job done. You need to do each well and ensure you’re using them in concert with each other.
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