Yes, I know, it’s a really obvious question to ask. But I was prompted to take to my keyboard after I met with one of my associates yesterday. We found ourselves discussing the fact that if you do the same things all the time you get the same results, and just how easy it is for us as small businesses to slip into this damaging trap and not feel able to get out of it. Or maybe secretly you feel more secure doing what you have always done and don’t realise you should even be trying to get out?!

It’s very easy to get attached to those techniques you feel most comfortable with or to select those that you can actually afford to use. Just because they are cheap doesn’t mean they are right for your business and sometimes the marketing tools used aren’t even cheap – I hear of many small business owners still taking expensive one-off adverts in glossy magazines for example!

I appreciate that it can be incredibly difficult to take a step back from your business and review your marketing tactics with a critical and objective eye. But it’s worth the effort and it needs to be done, because if your marketing isn’t generating the sales or leads your business needs, then it’s quite possible that you’re not using the right techniques. They might be good techniques for another business, but if they’re not working for you, then it’s time to take stock and plan a new marketing approach.

So how do you know if you’re using the right marketing techniques or not?

Some people adopt a ‘spray and pray’ approach; they do some random marketing and hope for the best, get a few responses out of it if they’re really lucky and then repeat it or perhaps move on to the next marketing technique that takes their fancy, particularly social media. Tempting I know!

Your marketing won’t always hit the mark first time but continual misses are not good for your long-term survival. So to make sure your marketing strategy really hits the spot, you need to measure everything that you do. Identifying and targeting your audience is, of course, the first step and then you need to consider the message you want to send out and what action you want them to take (never underestimate the importance of a call to action!). Test it out on a smaller audience first and then analyse the response you get. If it’s overwhelmingly positive, then you can refine and repeat to improve your results further.

But if the response is poor and you get no enquiries or sales from it, you need to think again and make some refinements. Ask yourself if it’s the message or the method you’re using. You may need to test a few more times before you hit on the right mix. The point is, you will get there and you will find the right marketing techniques to suit your business – all those misses will be teaching you something important about how you should and shouldn’t market yourself, so don’t see them as failure.

To be a successful small business you need to become brilliant at marketing what you do, not just brilliant at what you do! You need to find the right marketing approach to achieve this.

Finding the right tools to help you

Whatever techniques work for you, there are always useful tools that will help you measure the success of your marketing.

For instance, if you’re using social media tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are brilliant for identifying the tweets that have generated the most website traffic.

Using Goals in Google Analytics allows you to track the path Twitter visitors take, and whether they have completed any of your website goals, such as subscribing to your newsletter or which blog posts have been most successful in driving website traffic based on the keywords you have identified.

Tweetreach shows just how extensively Twitter has amplified your messages.

Social Mention can alert you to where your business is being talked about online.

Start using these kind of tools and you will build up a good picture of how your audience reacts to your marketing messages – remember, knowledge is power.

And don’t forget the simplest tracking method you can employ. Asking every new sales lead or enquiry, how they heard of or found your website or business.

Putting the theory into practice…

Here’s how it’s worked for one of my clients. Natasha Wiggins has run NW Make-Up for more than seven years. Specialising in hair and make-up for weddings, Natasha had done sufficiently well to build up a team of artists working across the South East, but she realised that to take her business to the next level she needed help with her marketing.

Now, Natasha is truly brilliant at getting out there and meeting great contacts. She’s a real people person, she’s great at networking and she gets involved in wedding fairs and meeting other wedding-related business introducers such as venues, photographers and bridal shops, but that’s just one way of connecting with her audience and she knew it wasn’t getting her the return she clearly wanted. Which is where I came in. I took a good long look at Natasha’s marketing strategy and could see where, without a huge amount of effort, she could make some significant improvements.

Upgrading her website onto a WordPress platform and refining the keywords used and her onsite search engine optimisation was the first building block we completed.

Next we moved onto the power of blogging as we agreed that it had a key part to play. Every month, Natasha and I plan and write blog posts around the topics and keywords we have identified as important drivers of website traffic and leads for the business. I then use the Google Analytics report to review how the blog posts have performed, which ones have created the most interest and which have driven the most quality traffic to Natasha’s website. With this knowledge I can feed back to Natasha and we can jointly plan the next month’s batch of articles to further build on what her audience wants.

This simple process of plan, develop, communicate, review and evolve is really effective. In the 12 months Natasha and I have been working together in this way, we have generated a 500% return on her marketing investment Natasha has made to date, and the amount of wedding bookings has more than doubled!

Is your marketing generating enough sales or leads for your small business? If not, why not get in touch for a free initial, no obligation consultation.

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