When discussing marketing strategies these days, most people usually refer to online marketing instead of offline marketing, which typically includes print ads and the like.

While your marketing strategy for both types must align, it’s undeniable that compared to offline marketing, online marketing tactics are measurable in real-time, convenient for execution, global in reach, and when done right, absolutely cost-effective. For a small business without resources for print ads or billboards, digital marketing is more accessible and affordable.

Creating a marketing strategy for a small business takes some doing, especially if it needs to be done from scratch. However, it’s well worth the time, money, and effort to make one because it will not only save you time and effort in the end but also has the potential to bring in high returns on investment or return on investment (ROI). For instance, email marketing brings back $36 for every $1 spent.

Key Takeaways:

  • A marketing strategy is part of a marketing plan, but it can stand on its own for small business owners.
  • An effective marketing strategy needs to be data-driven
  • The main goal of a marketing strategy is to convert the target audience to customers
  • A unique selling proposition (USP) is the cornerstone of any marketing strategy
  • The plethora of marketing tools and software makes it easy for any small business owner to create and execute a marketing strategy

What Is a Marketing Strategy?

The ultimate goal of a marketing strategy is to convert a target audience into customers. An effective strategy will allow you to differentiate your business from competitors and reach a broader market.

An online marketing strategy is part of a marketing plan that involves a strategic approach to content creation, social media, SEO, email, and paid advertising based on data. Most small business owners have a piecemeal approach, which doesn’t work well even with the best marketing software.

A strategy will create a roadmap for each one of these tasks so that it dovetails in the end. Marketing software, such as HubSpot, can automate many processes, but you still need a marketing plan to maximize results:

Hubspot Dashboard
Source: HubSpot

An effective marketing plan should include:

  • Goals
  • SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis
  • Competitor analysis
  • Buyer personas
  • Marketing strategy
  • Key performance indicators

In other words, a marketing strategy comes in quite late in the day because it’s data-driven. When creating one, it would help to gather data and insights from your online store, customer relationship management (CRM) software, website analytics, or social media.

Why Create a Marketing Strategy?

Before diving into the “how,” perhaps it would be a good idea to ask why a marketing strategy is necessary. First, a marketing strategy will help you achieve goals identified for your content such as what part of the sales funnel you should target and how to use CRM software in the best way to reach your goals.

Hubspot Profile Page
Source: HubSpot

A marketing strategy will also define the steps you need to take to increase your conversions or sales. Finally, a well-defined strategy keeps your marketing and sales efforts aligned to reach specific goals:

GA Dashboard
Source: Google Analytics

How Do You Create a Small Business Marketing Strategy?

Creating a small business marketing strategy isn’t as hard as you think. It mainly involves understanding your product, your market, and the best channels to promote your business. It would help if you also had a marketing plan, so if you have an e-commerce business, check out this marketing plan tutorial.

In the meantime, here are the steps for creating a small business marketing strategy.

1. Create a Unique Selling Proposition

If you’re a small business owner, the chances are you know your product or service inside out. However, you might not be seeing it from the perspective of your customers.

Try to put yourself in their shoes and identify the pain points your product or service might address. You can use polls or comment sections in your blog or social media to determine what customers like and dislike about what you’re selling and use that to inform your strategy.

When you have a thorough understanding of your product or service from the customers’ point of view, create a unique selling proposition or USP. The USP is something you and you alone can provide your customers, and differentiate you from your competitors.

Creating a USP may take more time than you think, especially in a highly competitive market. You might want to brainstorm with your employees, friends, or family members because you might not be seeing the forest for the trees. Ask them for ideas for your USP; you might be surprised at the results.

2. Check Out the Competition

If you’re struggling to develop a USP, it’s often helpful to look at what your closest competitors are doing, especially those brands dominating the market. Find out their USPs and look for something they might have missed.

Most marketing professionals will invoke the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion when creating a marketing strategy. Focus on those four things when you’re checking out your competitors to see if you can outperform them in some way.

Get creative. Think outside the box when it comes to your product, price, place, and promotion tactics. You could be the first to tap a niche market, promote an off-label product or service, or the first to offer features the others are missing. That can be your opening into the market and the basis for your USP.

3. Set Your Target Market

An essential part of your marketing strategy is determining the type of people most likely to benefit from your products or services. Having a broad market is ideal, of course, because you can sell to a lot more people. However, many small businesses waste resources trying to market to everyone when they could be more effective by focusing on a smaller group.

Unless you have a product or service with mass appeal and deliverable to a wide range of locations, focus on identifying what your ideal customers have in common. For example, targeting dog owners within a certain radius makes sense if you have a dog-walking business. You should, therefore, post a paid ad within your community.

4. Evaluate Your Capacities

A marketing strategy is only as effective as your capacity to execute it. It would be great to take out a TV ad or launch an awareness campaign for your service if you had the budget or time for them. When creating your marketing strategy, ensure you have the short- and long-term resources required to carry it through.

Resources aren’t restricted to money and time, however. You also must evaluate if you have the human resources or skills to execute a strategy or whether you need to outsource it to a third party.

For example, if your strategy involves creating an interactive website with all the bells and whistles, you’ll have your work cut out for you if neither you nor your employees know anything about creating a website from a template. While you can hire someone to build that for you, you also need someone to maintain it. Since these extras will mount up, you need to add them in while calculating costs.

5. Consider Where You Sell

Chances are you’re selling your products and services online, but then again, you might just have an online presence for your brick-and-mortar store. It’s important to distinguish between the two because they require different approaches to marketing.

For example, buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS) is becoming increasingly popular among shoppers, so you can offer that as a marketing strategy if you have a physical store. However, if you operate purely online, you want to focus on free delivery benefits instead.

6. Choose Your Channels

One of the most crucial elements of your online marketing strategy is choosing where to promote your business. You need to know where your target market hangs out online and make a splash there. However, most people regularly use different channels, so you may have to do omnichannel marketing to get their attention.

Omnichannel marketing uses different mediums to significant effect. Nearly 87% of retailers attribute their marketing success to their omnichannel marketing strategy. However, if you want to test the waters first, choose one channel first and see how it goes.

7. Assess Success Regularly

Measuring the success of marketing strategies has become much easier with marketing software that allows you to track and analyze campaigns. However, you need to do your part and generate reports regularly to determine where your marketing strategy is taking you.

Since most marketing campaigns take time to show results, a quarterly check should be enough to tell you whether it’s a go or a no. In either case, you have a clear picture of what’s happening with your marketing efforts.

What Is an Example of a Small Business Marketing Strategy?

The easiest and lowest-risk marketing strategy for small businesses is email marketing. According to Statista, 4.3 billion people will be using email by 2023, so your target market is probably going to be within reach and receptive to your email messages.

Aside from a great ROI, email is a great way to connect with your existing customers on a personal level and encourage them to keep buying. Finally, email marketing software makes it easy for even the most clueless small business owners to start an email marketing campaign.

What To  Do Next

Small business owners cannot use the excuse that they have no time to create a marketing strategy. There are numerous e-commerce platforms with built-in marketing tools that can automate almost all aspects of a marketing strategy. All you need to do is sit down and start thinking about what you want to accomplish. Competition is fierce, and the stakes are high, so you need to get cracking with your marketing strategy as a business owner.