Back in the 80s, Simple Minds performed the melancholy and memorable song “Don’t You (Forget About Me).” And I apologize in advance if you can’t shake off that tune today due to mentioning that song.
Anyway, the title of the song is appropriate for your primary small business marketing goal – you don’t want your prospects to forget about you.
During the era when that song came out, your choice of marketing instruments was simple: print, radio and television. With three marketing channels, it was easier to conduct an integrated, coherent message to potential customers.
Today, the choice of marketing channels can be mindboggling. And putting together a cohesive and harmonious message across all these channels seems as complex as conducting a symphony with dozens of musical instruments.
We now have websites and email plus a plethora of social media channels—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare, Yelp, etc.—at our disposal to broadcast our message. And we still have print, radio and television.
The Need for Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC)
With the choice of marketing channels increasing daily, an integrated approach to marketing is more critical than ever.
IMC unifies all your marketing channels with consistent branding, messaging and strategies. Instead of marketing silos, each channel can be used to reinforce and strengthen your message.
Quite simply, all communications are branded and messaged cohesively so that your customer and prospect that are exposed to all of the channels gets a consistent message…over and over.
With a consistent message, customers and prospects will have a firm understanding of what you do and how you can help them. And keep your business top of mind when the need arises for your services or products.
Small Businesses have an IMC Advantage
Actually, this complexity can be an advantage for small businesses.
Big businesses frequently have a manager for each marketing channel, which can complicate communicating a consistent message to the public.
On the other hand, small businesses usually have one person coordinating their message across multiple channels.
If a small business has a firm understanding of their customers’ personal interest and the marketing channels they frequent, creating an integrated marketing communications strategy can be a straightforward process.
We explored how to gather valuable information about your customers in last month’s marketing post. Last months post
Of course, while small businesses have a clear advantage in coordinating a consistent message, having the time to do so is clearly a disadvantage. That’s where delegating your IMC strategy and tasks to a marketing agency, like Business Solutions Unlimited, can be helpful.
Regardless how you do it—by yourself or with specialists—making sure that each marketing channel is in harmony will ensure that your customers and prospects hear what you want them to hear. And that they won’t forget about you when they need you.
Communicating a consistent theme and message will result in a consistent flow of customers, sales and revenue. And that should be music to your ears.
In the marketing world, it’s pretty noisy. We’re awash in promotional clutter online, offline, roadline, tvline, and every other line where there’s a blank space.
Overwhelming advertising can turn off consumers. I recall a 2012 report on digital advertising released by Upstream and YouGov that showed 20% of American Consumers would stop using a product or service “if they were subjected too much advertising.”
While the survey focused on digital promotions, I believe that the same could be said to all advertising in general.
However, the report did show that 69% of U.S. consumers would “respond positively” to promotions that are:
- Tailored to their personal interest
- Relevant to what they are doing
- Specific to their location
That’s great news for local businesses. Especially those that fully understand its target market.
Know Your Audience: Create Customer Personas
Creating customer personas can be very helpful in creating a marketing strategy that resonates with your target market. One of the best ways to create customer personas is to speak with the experts about your business—your best customers.
These are the people who can give you great insights on your business, your industry and how they like to hear about your products and services.
First Step to Making Music Your Customer Want to Hear: Listening
The ultimate goal of the interview is to develop an understanding of your typical customers. The right questions will also give you insights into your business’ strengths and weaknesses and approaches to marketing likely to be most effective to reaching prospects who are just like your best customers.
Consider conducting 5 to 10 customer interviews. This would help give you well-rounded insights into your business.
The first step is to identify customers who will provide meaningful information about your business. Look through your book of business and select people who you consider would be good candidates for a brief interview – loyal, well spoken, and well-informed.
Next, determine the best setting for your interview – in-person or on the phone. For the most part, a phone call will suffice.
Now, arrange for the interview. Yes, everyone is pretty busy these days; however, you’d be surprised how your good customers would be willing to take a half hour out of their day for a personal interview.
If you’re in a charitable mood, offer a restaurant gift certificate. That would certainly motivate participation plus generate a happy customer.
Questions to Ask During the Interview
Before the interview, gather the following data from your customer:
Then ask the following questions:
- How would you describe our business?
- How has our product or service helped you?
- How did you first find out about us?
- Why did you decide to do business with us?
- When you made your purchase decision, was there anything that helped you decide to buy from us (brochure, ad, website, or referral)?
- What companies do you consider to be our competitors?
- How did you become aware of these competitors?
- What one thing do we do better than others that you do business with?
- What one thing we could do to create a better experience for you?
- What source of information do you consider credible in helping you make purchase decisions?
Sometimes, each of these questions can lead to additional questions. After all, you’re really just having a conversation with a customer.
Once you’ve conducted several of these interviews, then you’ll probably start seeing valuable trends for your business. You can apply the information you gather to create an effective marketing strategy. You’ll understand better who your customers are, and how to meaningfully promote to them in ways to cut through the marketing noise.
With a marketing strategy in place that’s based on information gathered by your customers, you’ll be able to tailor messages and promotions that will be music to their ears and, ultimately, better profits for you.
During a recent visit to the Fort Matanzas National Monument, I was amazed by the historic significance of the little outpost. It also stands as a good reminder for local businesses to shore up their online outposts.
Just 14 miles south of St. Augustine and the larger Castillo de San Marcos, this little Spanish fortress with a force of 7 men and 5 cannons protected the city and its citizens.
The fort’s presence alone deterred invaders from using the ocean inlet where the Matanzas River flows into the Atlantic. With only one brief encounter with a British invading force, the outpost proved its worth for decades.
Building and manning this little outpost was a brilliant military strategy.
Online outposts serve an equally vital function for local businesses who want to be found online by local buyers. And it’s a smart business strategy to make sure these outposts are fully manned with consistent and accurate information about your organization.
What are Online Outposts and Why are They Important to Local Businesses?
Online outposts are business listings sprinkled throughout the internet that share information about your business.
Examples of online business listings include:
- Search Engine business pages: Google, Bing, Yahoo
- Directories: Yelp, Merchant Circle, YP.com
- Social Networks: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin
- Data Aggregators: Infogroup, Neustar, Localeze, Acxiom
- Industry-Based Directories: Lawyer.com, Zillow.com
Actually, business listing sites can be extensive. And the importance of some may outweigh others depending on location and business type.
However, search engines place immense importance on the information found on these sites regarding your business. And that importance can influence your search rankings.
We can help guide you in making sure you’re listed on the best directories for your business.
Information Search Engines Seek Out on Online Outposts
Search engines use these business listings as a way to verify that your business is real and in good standing. Consistency of your business information is key to better local ranking.
When you claim each business listing, make sure you’re consistent in the following information about your business:
- Business name: Use your proper business name
- Address: Physical address consistent with the U.S. Post Office (no PO or UPS Boxes)
- Phone number: Published local number (not a tracking or toll free)
- Category: Correct primary category for your business
Besides the above data, it’s good practice to fully fill out your profile on the business listings. That can include a description of your business along with photos and videos.
Basically, treat online business listings like you would on your own website. The value is not just for better search engine ranking. Many times, local buyers will land on these pages, find the information they are seeking and make a decision to call or visit you based on what they see.
That makes these business listings crucial outposts in your search for customers. So make sure you’ve secured them.