As a small business owner, you regularly face many challenges. Some challenges are quite unique to the small business and others are pretty much a universal struggle for all business owners. You are responsible for hiring the best talent and training them. You must work at increasing sales, meeting payroll, filing taxes, and handling the customer service issues – all with a smile.
You know you need to market yourself. But there always seems to be something more urgent or more attention-grabbing for you. Getting down to the marketing task will continue to stay just out of your reach, until one thing happens: You realize that sales are dependent on creating more visibility and demand for your product or services. Then there’s marketing!
So let’s quickly lay out the biggest marketing challenges for small businesses like yours – and the best solutions for them.
1. The Challenge
Lack of Resources (Budget/ People/ Time)
If you're like many small business owners, your Number One marketing challenge is resources – and we’re not just talking about money. Many small business owners don't have the budget to hire more employees. They are then forced to work more hours than what's healthy, and the marketing often gets pushed to the side without someone devoted solely to those activities. Time is money, and many business owners think a better use of their time is serving the customers currently helping to pay their bills.
Create a marketing plan
The good news is, this challenge can be overcome by a dynamic marketing plan or strategy. This blueprint of your company's marketing efforts needs to be based on your resource constraints, including your time constraints.
With no marketing plan, you're likely to waste both time and money. Without a plan, you have too many opportunities coming at you with no way to determine whether or not they make sense for your business. Just copying what other companies are doing may not be right for you.
You need to do the following in your marketing plan:
- Determine your marketing goals. Focus your goals on increasing your brand visibility and generating quality leads so your activities help you overcome those two challenges.
- Define your marketing strategy that will help achieve your goals. Strategies can include content marketing, social media, event marketing (both online and offline), networking, direct marketing, search engine marketing, email marketing, public relations and advertising.
- Outline what activities you will use within each strategy. Again, base these activities on what makes sense with your resource limitations and opportunities.
2. The Challenge: Lack of Marketing Knowledge
Not having any marketing knowledge and not knowing the fundamental rules of marketing communication can be a huge challenge in marketing your small business. You know you need to do X, Y and Z to take your company to the next level, but what exactly is the best way to go about it?
The fact that the Internet has completely changed even the way we look at the marketing landscape makes this knowledge gap an even greater challenge. How do you differentiate yourself and advertise your business’ unique qualities? How do you position yourself to be found online when people research products and services? Not knowing can mean the difference between a big payoff and a dwindling bottom line.
The Solution: Outsource tasks when necessary
With the constraints already identified, you just can’t do it all. Who could? Here’s where you’ll really be stretched if you are the type who likes to have your hands on everything about your business. Working smarter may mean using these two management strategies:
Is there someone else in your company who could do this job? Is there someone else who could do a better job with the task than you could? Delegate.
You could also consider delegating tasks that are outside your skillset to specialists outside of your company. The results should be more professional and can save you endless headaches.
- Need a website refresh? Choose someone who can deliver a well-designed responsive website that supports your marketing goals.
- Aren’t proficient writing your blog posts? Hiring a copywriter may be the answer.
- Need help creating a marketing video? Who better than a professional videographer who is certain to spend less time than you would getting it just right and with specialized touches that you could not do?
Marketing automation is the process of using software and technology to optimize, automate and measure repetitive online marketing tasks. Once you find yourself doing the same task, over and over again, you can almost be sure that there is a way to automate it. Automating many of your marketing tasks is certain to make your life easier. Automation takes the repetitive tasks off your desk and lets you spend more time on other activities – business or personal. Here are more tips on using digital automation tools.
3. The Challenge: Increasing visibility or generating quality leads
You need customers with a problem you can solve, and it’s for you to identify that unique selling point and communicate it clearly to your would-be customers. Many small businesses fail to clearly identify the need for their product or services and/or fail to specifically identify the market that needs their product or service. They then fail to tell their story in a way that gives value to the customer or differentiates them from the competition. Just another restaurant, another hardware store, another building company, another business solving a problem that’s already been solved.
You need to be remarkable to be visible and generate leads.
The Solution: Identify your target audience and market relevant messages to them
Aim to gain leads from a specific audience that needs that your product or service. Identifying that audience requires you to create buyer personas - or avatars of your desired customer base. This will help you create specific messaging to that audience, making your messaging relevent to those most likely to purchase from you.
- to understand your target audience and what problem they are trying to solve or need to fulfill.
- to understand what makes you different and why your target audience would want to do business with you.
- a compelling message to make your target audience take some action.
- to develop strategies to reach your target audience with your message.
- to be aware of new ways to reach your target audience.
- to be aware of what will appeal to your target audience.
If you don't want to hire someone to do this for you, at least consult with experts in marketing or read their blogs to get the latest updates on how to reach your ideal customer.
4. The Challenge: Choosing the right marketing platforms
Getting your message out there is not as simple as it may once have been. The playing field has broadened to include numerous social media platforms, video, live streaming, live chat and other communication methods. But traditioanl marketing techniques like direct email marketing and hosting local events are still two very effective communication tools, as well.
So how can you make sure you choose the most effective platforms and methods to showcase your service or product? Is there a way to know what clicks with your niche industry? Can this marketing platform be covered on the limited marketing budget you have? What technical skills will be required to launch and manage such a marketing campaign? All important questions to answer before you decide to spend your valuable time and resources on these efforts.
The Solution: Go where the fans are
In a nutshell: go where your audience is and where you can get the most engagement. If your target audience isn't on Twitter, but they're all over Facebook, then why are you spending you valuable time and resources tweeting to people who don't care about what you have to offer? Devote more time to Facebook. Have really photo-friendly products or offer creative services that show well? Instagram would be a great way to go. Not sure where to be? Scope out where your competitors are spending their time; that's the cheating way to figure it out.
5. The Challenge: Keeping up with trends and technology
You as a small business owner can be so busy there seems to be no time to keep current in your sector, much less to keep up with the latest trends in technology. It takes so much time just to keep on top of the work that blue-sky thinking can seem an unnecessary burden. Nevertheless, you need to keep up.
The Solution: Find time to keep up or hire someone to do it
The rate of change in marketing tools and technology is staggering. But the bottom line is: You need to keep up or get left behind. It may be you or someone in your company that needs to stay current, or it may be one of the best challenges to turn over to a professional. For example, if you're not on social media because you just can't figure it out, but 98% of your client base is there, that's an epic fail. If you find you're still doing the same marketing task over and over again, chances are, it's something you could use marketing automation for to save you time and hassle.
Decide what dollar value you will place on your time, including the ramping up time to get become informed and decide on the best way to use most current technologies to help grow your business.