A daunting task for you as a small business owner or marketer is to decide how and where to allocate your limited marketing dollars.
As you develop your marketing plan for this year, collect feedback from your customers and sales team to understand which channels are most relevant to them.
- Do most of your leads come from your website?
- Do your customers use YouTube or Facebook?
- Does your sales team use LinkedIn to help connect with prospects?
- Did your last Email campaign have high customer response?
This type of insight will help you to develop the right mix of traditional marketing channels and digital platforms to best reach your customers and/or prospects. Do not feel compelled to have a business presence on all digital or social media platforms. It is better to selectively choose a few platforms and execute those well. But, in order to execute an effective online channel strategy, it is crucial that your firm develops compelling brand content.
Branded Content drives an effective online channel plan
Building a unique and persuasive brand story ensures that your marketing messages has more impact with your audience across your channels. This branded content should have a consistent look and feel across channels, but be delivered in a style and tone that is relevant for each unique channel. Well designed content shows that you understand your customers’ needs and/or challenges, by providing value or interest. For instance, B2B customers often value content that is educational or demonstrates your expertise or leadership in your industry.
Ensuring consistency and purpose to the proprietary messages and images you distribute on your website, blogs, SEO, and online platforms is the foundation of a good online channel strategy.
So now that you have strong content, which channels deliver the most impactful and cost effective marketing for SMEs?
Website, Email, Social Media, and Online Ads are vital
- Website–your website is probably your most important marketing channel, although we may not think of it as such. This is likely the first “channel” your prospects or customers visit when they’re interested in learning more about your business, and if they can’t find answers to their questions quickly, you will miss a chance to convert that customer to a lead. Your site should clearly represent what your company stands for and how your products/services benefit your customers.
- Email–is still one of the top methods to reach current and new customers, so that should be a core component of any small-mid size business marketing plan. There are now many low-cost options for any business to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage your leads and customer communications.
- Social Media–for most SMEs the top platforms which may deliver value are Facebook, Instagram, and/or LinkedIn. Facebook is a useful tool if you have a residential or consumer business; it is an online channel that can be used to amplify referrals or the “word of mouth” effect. Instagram is powerful if your business has a highly visual product. While Instagram is more typically for consumers, many businesses that serves commercial or industrial customers are starting to use this medium to display their finished services or showcase their products. LinkedIn is a strong tool for networking within your business community. Your company should have an active corporate page and follow relevant industry groups and/or topics.
- Online Advertising or “Pay Per Click” Ads can dramatically increase your reach and exposure, especially with the many options now available. The two most prevalent forces in the PPC world are Google Ads and Facebook/Instagram Ads. Google search ads will help you connect with users who are searching for products or services like yours. While Facebook/Instagram display ads allows introduce your services to customers who may not be looking or even know you exist.
What are some of the channels to watch for in 2019?
- Video can be one of the most effective ways to engage an audience with your product or brand. Four times as many people prefer to watch a video when making a purchase decision. Even for business that produce industrial or commercial products, video is powerful tool to help your buyer in their purchase process. Google reportedly found that 70% of B2B buyers watch videos while moving through the sales funnel.
- Chatbots can have a major impact on a small business’ customer service. In fact, 35% of people use chatbots for the purpose of resolving a complaint or problem. Chatbots can help to reduce delays and offer fast, accurate and cheaper customer service options for a small business.
- Voice Search is becoming more pervasive with the consumer adoption of devices such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple Home. A survey by Bright Local found that 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local businesses in the last year. Voice AI has developed rapidly over the past few years to resolve hundreds of client queries with minimal human intervention and pre-programmed scripts.
By understanding which online channels help to drive the most reach and engagement with your customers, you can allocate your marketing budget more effectively. More importantly, investing in an online channel strategy that is backed by well designed and executed brand content can help you gain mindshare with your customers.