There’s a saying in business that you can’t promote a secret. In other words, even with the best products and services, you still need to make people aware of your company’s existence and how it can make their lives easier.
“A marketing strategy is an essential part of any business plan,” says Liz Fotiou, marketing manager – business at iiNet. “Within your business plan, a small enterprise needs to focus not only on the operational factors of the business but also the sales and marketing strategy.”
You won’t need a marketing budget in the millions to make a promotional splash. Today a combination of cost-effective strategies including mobile marketing, social media and public relations can deliver brand awareness and sales. “All these strategies fall under an umbrella term called ‘content marketing’,” says Fotiou.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that there were 21 million mobile handset subscribers in Australia in December 2014. So it would be a folly for a small business to ignore mobile technologies when promoting its products.
Janeece Keller, the chief executive of The Third Floor, a change management firm, which counts the NRL and Canon among its clients, says people use mobile phones and tablets around the clock to access news and information. “They want information while waiting for a train or bus or wherever else they find themselves with a spare minute,” she says.
Google, the No. 1 search engine, now penalises businesses that have failed to improve their websites for mobile browsing with a lower search ranking.
“It’s like Google has made a declaration that you can’t just outsource your mobile strategy to social media or an app,” Keller says. “This is important for me as a business owner as I want to keep people engaged with my brand and the information has to be accessible on mobile devices.”
Businesses are increasingly using online marketing tools such as e-newsletters, blogs and customer case studies, says Kate Mather, the owner of Profile Digital Group. “The key with digital marketing, whether it’s a blog, newsletter or Facebook post, is to minimise the hard sell and provide unique and quality content that will build long-term relationships with prospective customers,” says Mather.
For the initial concept, design and writing of an e-newsletter, expect to pay a few thousand dollars, while it costs about $200 for a small business blog if you outsource it, Mather says. “If you can attract advertisers to your blog, it might be possible to recoup some of these costs.”
Social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are proving an important way for customers to access information. “More people are using social media to find out where the best bars and restaurants are located,” Keller says.
“I like to share the content that is on my website through social media channels, so that I don’t have to rely on them going to the website alone.”
A bundled social media strategy that includes post to platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram andLinkedIn starts at $1500 a month, Mather says.
Fotiou argues that public relations (PR) is interchangeable with content marketing, yet many businesses don’t use it to promote their brand, services or products. “Many people put together advertising plans but neglect to include PR because they lack the knowledge of how to effectively get their story out there” she says.
“Good PR usually involves building a content strategy and relationships with journalists who work in your industry whether they’re in print, radio, television or online.”
Keller says PR is a very effective way to deliver messages about your company through the media. “We use PR a lot and it works well as long as you find the right professionals to work with. It’s critical that you target the right publication with the right stories.”
If you don’t want to write a media release yourself, expect to pay a few thousand dollars for a smaller PR outfit to do it.
Anthony O’Brien is a small business and personal finance writer with 20-plus years’ experience in the communication industry.