Super-Charged Marketing for Small Business: Interview with an Expert
Small teams are often overwhelmed trying to keep their marketing focused and working in synergy. For a little expert advice on the subject, we turned to veteran marketing professional and speaker, Shelly Kramer, CEO of V3 Broadsuite and President of Broadsuite Media Group. Shelly’s focus is on creating marketing strategies for smaller organizations, and helping businesses leverage the power of the Web for growth and profitability. She shared with us so many valuable insights that we had to split the interview into two segments. Don’t forget to also check out Part 2.
For this interview, we focused on what smaller teams, small businesses, and “solopreneurs” need to know, and pay attention to, when it comes to integrated marketing.
Amy Tobin: For small businesses and individuals just starting out, what are the key steps to creating an overall marketing strategy?
Shelly Kramer: Strategy is about understanding your target audience and knowing what their pain points are. Once you understand those pain points, it’s about coming up with the right messaging and the right channels through which you can reach those customers. If you own a shoe store, your customers’ pain points are shoes; they need them, you have them. So you find ways to let them know that whatever the occasion (their “pain”), whether they need sneakers, hiking boots, soccer cleats, shoes for their growing toddler, or dress shoes, you’ve got them covered. That’s no different when you’re a B2B business owner.
Your customers have things they struggle with every day, and problems they need solved. When you have a product or service that addresses those needs, developing messaging that shows you understand and demonstrates how what you sell can help, should be your goal. Once your messaging is developed, figuring out where your customers are and how you will reach them to get that message across, is key.
Amy Tobin: If a small to midsize business is considering hiring an agency or consultant, what are the important criteria? What’s involved in finding a vendor that is actually qualified?
Shelly Kramer: There are many qualified agencies and equally as many terrific marketing consultants. Finding one that’s a fit for your business shouldn’t be a problem. The first step is figuring out what kind of a budget you can allocate to marketing. My first disclaimer is to think of that budget allocation this way: You get what you pay for. So if you decide to go on the cheap for your marketing, you can expect it to deliver commensurate results.
Budget is extremely important, and figuring out what to spend on marketing isn’t always easy. The U.S. Small Business Administration has some guidelines. If your sales are less than $5 million per year and your net profit margin (what’s left after all expenses) is between 10% and 12%, the recommendation is that you spend between 7% and 8% of gross revenue on marketing and advertising. There are other factors to consider, of course. For instance, while startups generally spend less, four in five new businesses fail. I’ll bet that has something to do with not understanding the importance of marketing. Just because you build it does not mean they will find you, and buy from you. That takes work. It also takes a marketing budget. So if you want your business to succeed, set aside a budget to ensure that it happens.
Your marketing budget also depends on the competitiveness of the business you’re in, your overall goals, and your timeline. If you’re a startup interested in being acquired, spending more on marketing only makes sense. In most instances, the faster you can get to customer acquisition and profitability, the more attractive your company is as an acquisition. If you’re in an industry or vertical that’s highly competitive, and one or two competitors are grabbing a large market share that you’d like a piece of, you’ll need smart marketing to make it happen.
You can start by getting serious about your budget allocation. Set aside enough marketing dollars to ensure that you reach your goals. Once you’ve got the funding, do your homework. Ask for recommendations from other successful business owners in your network regarding marketing agencies or consultants with whom they have worked. Narrow down your options to a handful and have a conversation with each one. Ask for references,and make time to call and speak with the references they provide.
You can start by Googling them to see what, if any, business reviews they have and what other search results come up. Make sure you look at their business Web sites and read the content published on their corporate blogs. Check out the LinkedIn or other social media profiles of key players. Pay special attention to what they are doing to market themselves. Do they give advice that they don’t follow themselves? Do they appear to have a reputation as a credible consultant or business?
Once you’ve identified a few people or agencies you’re interested in working with, ask around again and see what people say about their experiences with them. Most of all, trust your gut. A marketing agency or consultant should work with you as one of your most trusted vendor partners, so when you feel good about someone, when you feel the synergy might be right, that’s probably a good indicator of who you should hire.
Amy Tobin: What do you see small businesses fail at, from a marketing perspective?
Shelly Kramer: The key mistake I see small businesses making (at the risk of beating a dead horse), is that they don’t understand that marketing isn’t an option; it’s an essential. You can’t expect to build something and have customers magically appear. The Internet has changed everything about how business is done, how customers find businesses to fill their needs, and what customers’ expectations are.
You are only as good as the feelings you create about your company, and the relationship you create with your customers; everything else can be gotten with one click from Amazon. That’s why marketing before the sale, providing great customer service at every turn, and marketing after the sale, continuing to build on your relationship with your customers, are the keys to ultimate success. Most small businesses don’t think like this, and it allows them to quickly become a commodity. This is where a blog filled with relevant content, for example, or an email newsletter, customer loyalty program, and referral program help you stay connected.
For more great insights on marketing strategy, watch the recording of our webinar with Shelly Kramer, as she shares valuable tips on how to supercharge your marketing in 2017 and beyond. Watch here.
Shelly Kramer is a 20+ year marketing veteran and CEO of V3 Broadsuite, a marketing consultancy, and the President of Broadsuite Media Group. She’s a brand strategist focused on B2B digital transformation, and delivering integrated marketing solutions for clients. She’s an expert at all things related to Big Data, omnichannel marketing, content strategy and execution, connecting social media to business initiatives, and helping clients leverage the web for growth and profitability.