Maybe you are starting a new business this year. Or maybe you’ve been in business for years, but your market share is stagnant. Or maybe things are thriving and you’re growing like crazy. A killer marketing strategy will ensure your business is promoted and introduced to prospective customers.

No matter which phase of business you find yourself in, a strong marketing strategy is critically important because it will create new client leads and keep your presence fresh in the marketplace.

Be Honest With Yourself

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You’ve got to start by taking a close and critical look at the environment around you. This first phase, often called a situational analysis, will provide you with a truthful look at your business environment.

A common tool used by many is a S.W.O.T. analysis, named because it looks at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing your business. For example, if you are a one-employee operation, it can be hard to operate a storefront and online shop successfully. Or if you live in a town with three other similar businesses, market saturation will be a problem.

This exercise forces you to look both internally and externally to understand adjustments that may need to be made and assets that may need to be fortified.

Customers Come First: Consider Your Audiences

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A common mistake business owners make is starting out with audiences that are entirely too broad. Of course, in a dream world, you’d be able to reach every person in your city, state and country. But those aren’t achievable goals, at least in the beginning.

Instead focus on your true audience and your specific niche. If you are children’s clothing store without an online storefront, parents and grandparents who live within driving distance are your audience. If you are an upscale restaurant, your audience is adults with disposable income.

Being as exact as possible about your audience will help you set your goals and decide on your tactics, so specificity is important at this stage. Resist the urge to say, “My audience is everyone!”

Set Smart Goals

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Now that you know who you are targeting, it’s time to set smart goals. Setting these goals will help you be focused and realistic.

They are called S.M.A.R.T. goals because they must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. The point here isn’t to set an objective that you will dominate the marketplace. Of course, that is a great long-term goal, but your smart goal would be something like, “I am going to increase my new customer base by 15% in the next six months.”

See the difference? Both goals have to do with making more money by reaching more people, but one can be quantified and one cannot.

Decide on the Strategy You Will Use

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Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks. What are the essential steps will you take to achieve your goals and reach your niche market?

If we stick with the example of bringing in new customers, maybe it’s time to consider social media advertising. On Facebook, for example, you can set your target by geographic region, so you can advertise only to people in your market.

If your goal is to increase visibility with community leaders to garner endorsements, one of your strategies should be to get involved with the local Chamber of Commerce or other high-profile community organizations.

Choose your strategy wisely, always in the service of your goals and audience.

Regularly Check on Goals and Measurements

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Now that you’ve set some wheels in motion, many people incorrectly think their marketing plan is working on its own. Not so. You’ve got to stay connected to your goals, listen for feedback and use the data available to make decisions.

For example, if you run a children’s clothing boutique and are hearing from parents that they’d love to have an online shopping option, it is time to consider e-commerce. If parents confess to you they buy clothes online because they think about it late at night when they finally have a moment’s peace, listen to your audience!

Or if your Facebook advertising isn’t leading to new clients, look at your keywords, audience and other backend data to see what can be adjusted. Never let your marketing strategy become stale.

Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Tactics

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The tactics you used in your first round of marketing won’t be the same tactics you used after one year or five. This is not only because technology changes, but also because demographics shift and your business needs to adapt as well.

For example, a lot of that initial groundwork you laid in the very beginning will set the stage for greater goals and milestones. You will find you no longer need to explain your business to everyone, whether you do it on your about page or through social media. It’s because word of mouth and marketing have spread your reputation. A second-tier tactic might be to expand into public relations, becoming an expert source for your local and state media. This will help you reach a wider audience now that your core audience is strong.

Join the Community

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As a business owner, you are asking your community to patronize your business. What do they get in return? Sponsorships, giveaways and fundraising are great ways to become involved in the community and spread your name.

You could sponsor a local 5K or a meeting of a local professional organization, or you could join your local school in raising funds for needy families. Whatever you do, this type of community involvement shows corporate social responsibility, and that is good for business.

Marketing is a large term that includes advertising, product promotion, public relations, communications and social media. It can be overwhelming to undertake marketing for your business without a clear strategy. Follow these steps to a killer marketing strategy and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

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