Over the past year, the marketing landscape has changed — what worked last year may not be as effective in 2018.
When it comes to marketing in 2018, which activities should you focus on? I’ve created this article to show you the most effective small business marketing trends of 2018 and how to put them into action.
Below are five things you must do the right way — and that usually means no shortcuts.
#1. Advertise to gain permission
First, let me clear the air. Advertising the right way is very important for lead generation, but the key to effective use of advertising lies in your approach.
Advertising is an essential part of growth for a small business and in many cases best used this way: to move people from awareness of your brand to trusting your brand by incorporating a small call to action that benefits them such as downloading a checklist, ordering a guide, receiving an saving offer, or scheduling a demo.
The goal of your advertising should be to gain permission of the prospect by capturing contact information (email, phone, mailing address, etc.) and start a educational relationship, not sell your product or service.
#2. Formalize the referral process
If you’re not focused on formalizing your referral process, in a way that gives you a distinct competitive advantage in the marketplace, your business won’t grow in the world as we know it today.
Generating referrals can happen intentionally, if you put a process in place to make them happen. In order to hardness the true power of formalizing a referral process you need to focus on creating referral motivation. This motivation is about giving rather than taking. You must find a way to create an environment where enthusiasm can be shared and where the primary reason someone makes a referral is because they believe another person will experience the same benefits they are enjoying.
Generating referrals today can be easy, viral, organized, automatic and profitable. Here are some ideas:
- create a strategic partner team and introduce them to your customers
- sponsor a non-profit or community event and incorporate your customers
- create educational and sample opportunities (articles, workshops, demos, brochures, direct mail, emails, or gift certificates)
- feature your success stories in your marketing materials
- hold customer appreciation events
#3. Get real reviews, recommendations and testimonials of your business
Reviews, recommendations and testimonials have always been a effective way to offer third party proof that your company does what it says it does and that your customers are happy and willing to talk about it.
Because of that, and prospects now including these things into their information gathering routine, the growth of your business will lean on getting more proactive about stimulating real written reviews, recommendations and testimonials from happy customers.
So, it should come as no surprise that the wrong way to go about this would be to pay for reviews, recommendations and testimonials. On top of being dishonest, paying for these reviews may actually get your business some bad media attention and banned from review sites. Do the hard work of wowing customers and make reviews an authentic arm of your growth.
#4. Find your core marketing channel(s)
From working with business owners, the root cause of stalled growth for many businesses, is the shiny new object syndrome that these new and evolving marketing channels create.
Today’s business owner has more than a handful of channels to choose from and most feel the pressure to use all of them.
- Public Relations
- Content Marketing
- Offline/Online Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
Trying to implement and execute on every new marketing channel leads to frustration and wasted resources — particularly when many of these marketing channels are a long-term play for achieving the immediate needs of most small businesses.
A far better approach is to set a goal of finding your primary marketing channel and go to work on mastering that channel. Here’s the reason why:
Branching out into new marketing channels is a good way to grow. . . but it’s not the best way to grow.
One of my favorite ways to determine the primary marketing channel is to think through your top customers from the past 6 months. Simply making a list of your top 10 customers, then asking “how did they find me?” can cut through the confusion quickly!
5. Develop consistent communication
Every company that I’ve helped grow and seen grow has amazing, consistent communication. In fact, I was just in a meeting with one of my clients where a decision was being made whether to keep or fire an accounting firm for lack of communication, except when tax season is upon us.
Let’s face it, there isn’t a business out there that couldn’t improve on their communication. Chances are you’ve neglected to send out that quarterly newsletter, jump on a lead received, not followed up consistently on requests by existing customers, or sent what you promised to send after an appointment with a prospect.
Your competition probably isn’t any different from you, which is exactly why you need to use this to your advantage and do it the right way. See below:
- Do you follow-up?
- Do you ask?
Not follow-up to sell something, but just to know. Just to find out. Just to double-check. Just to ask. Just to make things right if they were amiss or make things remarkable if they were just merely good.
This tactic alone can transform your business when applied obsessively. Money is a testament to your having served another human or organization well.