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Level Up Your Local Small Business Marketing Strategy in 5 Simple Steps (Recommendation Engine)


Running a small business is challenging by itself. Figuring out how to market that business on top of everything else you are doing can be rough! Should you do digital marketing, print marketing, TV, radio, billboards, or email? How about SEO and Pay Per Click? How do I build my brand and generate leads? Will my website convert? How much should I put into organic social media versus paid social media advertising or boosting? And then what are you going to do next month? Dadadadada…

It is a complete mess. Many business owners I talk to say they hate it so they just, buy ads here and there, hire an SEO person who charges them monthly for techno babble stuff that they hope works, and have one of their employees post to social media every week. Does this sound familiar?

In this article, I am going to take the mystery out of the whole process and give you the tools to make a plan and execute it simply and effectively. This simple 5-step strategic marketing plan will make your life easier and more efficient.

First I want to share with you one of my favorite new things that we have now at Connection Media Group. What if you could use technology to find out what type of advertising your competitors and similar businesses to yours are using nationwide? Not only what they are buying but also what they continue to buy in renewals. Then it could analyze the costs of those types of ads and recommend where you could focus your ad spend most efficiently—would that type of information be useful to you?

This technology exists. Right here at Connection Pub. In the last year, we’ve grown from a local magazine company to a full-service digital marketing company that helps businesses in Ogden, Layton, Brigham City, UT, and surrounding areas fulfill the multiple layers of marketing that are essential for getting noticed in today’s busy, noisy world. We also had an advertising technology company build us the exact program I was just talking about and it is called the Recommendation Engine. It is a powerful tool that we can use to understand where best to recommend our customers spend their marketing budget.

We also have creative teams that will help you create messaging and imagery that will get your target audience’s attention. The whole point of marketing is to get and keep attention. Bring in more clients and money.

This simple 5-step strategic marketing plan will give you the edge and make your life much easier. Do this once per year and you will be extremely happy with the results.

  1. Identify your WHO and WHY: You may feel like I am beating a drum over and over with this one, but it truly is the first, most important step in any effective marketing strategy. It’s also a step most people ignore. They often don’t spend enough time understanding who they are talking to when they advertise and how to reach them. If you know your WHO already, great; you’re a step ahead. If you haven’t discovered your target audience yet, we have made the attached worksheet to help you identify your who. Download it for free and fill it out. I promise it will help.

Here is the other drum I constantly beat. WHY do your customers love doing business with you? Why do they pick you over your competition? Why do they tell friends about you? Why do they follow you on social media? Why do they read your newsletter? Identify WHY they love what you do.

Your customer is the hero of your story, and they alone can tell you why they love you. Ask them. Once you get a clear picture of their WHY you can use that knowledge to tell the rest of your WHOs in your target audience why they should also do business with you. Download the free WHY worksheet here.

  1. Research Keywords and Competition: If you were to break down on the way to work today, what would you google? Car Mechanic, Auto Repair, Car broke down, Garage, or something else? Your customers and especially your potential customers are googling something to try and find you. Do you know what that, or those somethings are? You might not use the same words as the general public. In case you were wondering, the most common search term for a car problem is Auto Repair. Use online tools to find your keywords and know what your customers are searching for or ask for help in identifying your keywords. Google has some free tools at a minimum and there are some paid tools with some powerful insights. The great thing is, you can also add this information to your website to rank better organically.

The second part of your research is looking at your competitors and watching what they not only do well but also where they fall short. Observe and either improve or simply replicate. I remember when I was a kid, Kmart was a huge brand. There were stores everywhere. When Walmart rose to prominence, and Target was hot on their heels, I remember going back into a Kmart after a long period. I said to my wife, do you think they have been in a Walmart or Target? The Kmart store was brand new and it just had a different vibe to it. It lacked energy and spirit. It felt empty and cavernous. The opposite of the new breed of stores in Walmart and Target. It wasn’t long after that visit that Kmart announced its bankruptcy. I think if they had just tried to duplicate their version of the feeling and energy of their competitors, they would have been able to thrive instead of ending up broken and bankrupt. Study your competition and learn from them. Don’t be intimidated by them, be inspired by them.

  1. Choose your Channels and Set a Budget. Choosing the right channels in today’s marketplace is one of the most challenging parts of marketing. As a small business marketing consultant for startups, small local businesses, and entrepreneurs for over 25 years, I have experienced many business owners becoming confused and frustrated trying to figure out the puzzle of where they should spend their advertising budget. Just yesterday, I met a general manager of a local used car and motorcycle dealership. As we visited, he kind of blurted out …” I don’t know anything about any of this sh*$!” He said out of frustration because he didn’t know what would be best and of course, he didn’t want to lose money on marketing. I told him not to worry, and then said, “The way you are with motorcycles, knowing everything about them, all the brands, all of the parts and pieces, and how they work; that is how I am with marketing.” He smiled and said, ok cool. I could see some of the fear leave his eyes as he connected with what I was saying. I think it gave him comfort knowing that he was hiring an expert, just like I would feel comfortable in hiring him to work on my motorcycle. After this meeting, and even though I confidently told GM that I was an expert, I was reminded of a humbling experience I have been having lately. I have studied sales and marketing and how to be effective my entire career. However, ever since we employed the Recommendation Engine I mentioned earlier, I have been humbled by how often the initial recommendations from my brain, have been wrong, or at least I don’t pick things in the right order. The Recommendation Engine doesn’t take feelings into account. It is data-driven, which I believe is much better for developing your small business marketing strategies. This Engine we have will help you determine where best to spend your money but you will still need to determine effective content. Marketing needs that human touch to determine what your messaging should be. Today, you cannot pick one channel and only use that one outlet to market your business. It takes multiple layers to effectively capture your target audience’s attention. For now, set a budget for how much you will spend. I recommend thinking this through, but if you want to have slow steady growth, your budget should be somewhere between 7-8%. If you want growth, you should be somewhere between 15-20% of your overall revenue. Each business is unique so figure this out for yourself according to your margins and goals. Let us know if you would like help here, we will put your company into the recommendation engine for free and let you know what it puts out. We would also be happy to help you with your advertising purchases. This is in fact how we make money at Connection Pub., we sell advertising across many channels. Coordinated, targeted, layered and effective advertising.

  2. Develop a Marketing/ Content Calendar. Once you know where you are going to focus your efforts and your budget, now it is time to figure out what to say or focus on in your advertising. While these plans sometimes need to be individualized across different platforms, they should be coordinated and each give the same messaging and look similar. They should make sense together and they should all lead people to experience your brand multiple times, striking curiosity and appeal.

When I first started studying marketing, I learned that it took an average of 7 impressions before a customer would decide to do business with you or even remember details about your company. This is why long-term advertising is essential. You should never think, I will just advertise for a few months and see what happens, if you do this, you are just washing money down the drain. Today the research is showing that it takes 30-40 impressions to get the same level of awareness you used to be able to get in just 7. This is because the world is noisier and busier. There are so many distractions that pull at each of us daily that it is harder to get noticed. This is another reason why we use multiple layers and we make content marketing plans that rock at Connection Pub. You need to think of your advertising as content. It is not just ads. Storytelling is the best approach because everyone loves a great story. That means that the best way to create a great marketing strategy is to create content that people want to look at and want to consume. No one wants to consume boring advertising. Let us know if you want help with this. I am passionate about getting the right messaging because I want you to succeed and to be our customer for life. I use this on my own businesses and it works.

  1. The last step is to analyze and adjust. Your small business does not have the budget of Coca-Cola or Apple or even your largest local competitor, you just simply don’t have it. And honestly, even if you are independently wealthy and have the budget, it wouldn’t work because you probably don’t understand how to use the money effectively. So starting where you are, with what you have, step-by-step, make decisions, test and evaluate, execute and improve and you will begin to thrive with your marketing. Marketing Analytics tell stories of how your marketing is doing, it can show you when your marketing plan is working, it can show you when you’re catching on to marketing trends, and when you’re missing the mark. It can tell you which messages you use that strike a chord and which ones don’t.

I understand how this can all seem overwhelming but remember this. You can’t get better unless you START somewhere. I have had a few motorcycles in my life and when they would break down, I had no idea what was wrong. I knew it was out of my league. The gentleman I spoke with yesterday at the motorcycle dealership is the exact opposite. He would know exactly what is wrong and how to fix it. We each have our interests and expertise and yours may or may not be marketing.

That is ok. If you are a business owner, I would prefer to see you make the best widget or provide the best service possible! That may mean you need to have someone else help you with marketing. This doesn’t mean you should hire someone and just forget about it.

You should gain a basic understanding so that you can ask the right questions about what you are doing and if you are getting a return on investment for your marketing dollars and have your team handle the rest. This simple 5-step system for making a Strategic Marketing Plan is the best way for a small business to start and succeed in its marketing. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or shoot me an email. Also please share this with someone you think would benefit from this plan.

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