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7 Marketing Steps to Grow Your Business in 2024

7 Marketing Steps to Grow Your Business in 2024

This is the time of year when many small business owners take a moment to pause, reflect, and think about what they need to do to grow their business in the coming year. 

And since marketing should be a pretty significant part of that, we thought we’d share some of the most important steps you can take to kick your business into growth mode in 2024.

First, and foremost, we’re strictly talking marketing, here. But that doesn’t mean that marketing can magically grow your business in a vacuum. We’re assuming that you’ve already put thought into making sure you have a product or service that people do want, AND that you’ve priced it correctly. ‘Cause the best marketing strategy in the world will only solve those problems temporarily, if at all. 

The top ways to grow your business this year

    1. Make sure you have an excellent, converting website. Do not put your website up and forget it. Look at it regularly with a critical eye. Is it doing what you need it to do (i.e. converting to sales)? Is it optimized for SEO (Search Engine Optimization)? What can you do to improve conversion rates? (A conversion rate is the percentage of visitors to your site that buy your product or contact you)
    2. Put in place well-run search marketing (SEM, aka Google Ads). 99.9% of businesses will benefit from good search marketing. SEM is one of the rare times when you’re serving someone an ad specifically when they are looking for your product or service, so it works really well. But notice we said, “well-run”; search marketing takes skill and experience to do well. Make sure you hire a good agency. 
    3. Leverage a great email marketing strategy. Email marketing is one of the least expensive and most effective ways to turn past customers into future customers. It also works well to keep potential customers warm while they think about whether to purchase. You’ll want to communicate regularly—say once or twice a month—and use a list you’ve built organically over time (although building a list organically can take a really long time, purchased lists are usually a total waste of money). Do not, however, send a newsletter that shares updates on your business because nobody cares. Instead, send information they can use, offers, and new product information—things your customers might want to know about.
    4. Focus on social proof. People are more likely to buy if they know other people are doing so and are happy about it. And no, we’re not just talking reviews, here (though reviews are great, especially when collected by an unbiased platform like Trustpilot). Try other routes, too, such as pulling Instagram posts from people who have used your product onto your website, or collecting short video testimonials from customers in your store. And make darn sure you’re encouraging people to leave Google reviews!
    5. Make sure you have a good marketing funnel in place. Make sure your website is a sticky as it can be. Put in a pop-up to collect email addresses, run retargeting campaigns, etc, etc. We talk about it more in this blog about building a great marketing funnel.
    6. Put in place a strategy for getting NEW people in the funnel. If you keep marketing to the same group of people, you’ll eventually tap them dry. To grow, you have to keep attracting new people to the top of your sales funnel. How exactly to do that will look different depending on each business, but it could include the following channels (see The Top Marketing Strategies for Small Business for more details on these):
      • Social media platforms
      • Social media advertising (paid)
      • PR (media outreach)
      • Web display ads (including IP and Geo-Targeting)
      • Radio/TV/Other media
      • Direct mail/postcards
  • Test and adjust your strategy. We had a client once who was convinced that a particular value proposition was the only thing that could sell their product. I finally convinced them to let me A/B test it and we found that in both digital and email marketing, a different one worked much better. Bad marketing happens when you make assumptions and don’t test them. Test things. Look at the data. Adjust. Learn. It’s the only way you’ll continue to optimize your marketing. We talk more about that in this blog on testing your marketing.

There you have it. Due to space constraints—nobody wants to read a novel—we’re kept this really brief… but we’d love to hear from you if you have any questions!

Happy marketing,

Katie & Theron

Five Thoughts on Surviving the Holidays as an Entrepreneur (and a Marketer)

For some reason this year it struck me particularly strongly how different the holidays feel when you’re an entrepreneur than they do when you just work for someone else. 

Back in those carefree days, the period leading up to Christmas was a gentle slide into, well, not much work getting done. People brought in treats, silly sweaters were worn, holiday parties were had, white elephant exchanges occurred, and it was generally pretty well expected that nothing important would happen until “the new year”. It was a pleasant way to get in the mood for my Christmas break and a relaxed finish to the year amongst the good cheer of colleagues.

But now (I’m sure you relate), I own my own company, and there is no comfortable slide into the holiday spirit. It’s a little harder to relax into the season when the buck literally stops with you, of course. And for us, as a marketing consultancy with e-commerce businesses among our clientele, the period from September to December is anything but relaxed. Yes, I’m sure some of you relate to that as well.

This all got me thinking about what we can do about that. Because, after all, the good cheer and togetherness that come with the holidays is a wonderful thing for the soul (and your team)—and who wants to suddenly try and switch off from panic and mayhem right before you sit down with your family on the first day of Hannukah or Christmas?

Tips for managing the holidays as an entrepreneur

  1. Remember that you have (some) control over this. Yes, I know you’ve got a lot on your plate—especially if you’re D2C (direct to consumer)—but that doesn’t have to mean that you give into the stress entirely. I know that a lot of the stress I feel during this time is stress I’m bringing on myself by worrying about stuff when I simply don’t need to. Be aware of this, and try and make time to shed some of that unnecessary baggage. 
  2. Do your holiday marketing planning way ahead of time. One of the easiest ways to cut down on stress (and chaos) is to get your planning done as far ahead as you can so you’re not making decisions at the last minute—especially if you’ve got orders flooding in or if you’ve also got a round of social commitments for the season. Get your holiday email schedule planned back in the fall. Plan your digital marketing campaigns as early as you can. And if you’re a B2B (Business to Business) company, get your planning for the new year done early as well!
  3. Execute your holiday marketing campaigns way ahead of time, too. Even better than planning early is having your holiday marketing done early. Embrace scheduling! Get your digital campaigns set up and scheduled well in advance. Get your emails made and scheduled. Get any website updates lined up and ready to go. Need new collateral? Get it made early! 
  4. Hire help with your marketing and more! Sure, this may sound self-serving since we offer the type of help I’m talking about, but it’s good advice anyway. Bringing in a little expert help—whether to set up your holiday email campaigns or to just answer phones—can take a lot of the pressure off. And, because an expert has the experience to get your marketing set up faster and (likely) more effectively than you could, it’s a worthwhile investment on all fronts. And yeah, did I mention it? We can help with the marketing stuff (just not the phones). 
  5. Bring in the cheer. It’s important to make time for that “silly” holiday stuff that helps everyone de-tune at the end of the year. Even as the boss, take the time to participate with your team. Of course, this is a little harder if you have a remote team or are a single shingle, but you can still work up a little cheer. Have a remote holiday happy hour. If you’re a single shingle and you have a membership at a co-working location, make sure to go to their holiday party. Put up decorations. Send holiday cards. Make sure to wish people happy holidays. Consciously make time to enjoy the season.

I hope this helps, even just to remind you that it’s okay to relax and enjoy this time of year. And, of course, we’re always here if you need help doing it. 

We hope you have had, are having, and will have a happy holiday season this year!

Katie & Theron

At Urban Sherpa Marketing Co. we offer fractional marketing director services, which include marketing advisory, strategic planning, program and staff management, and marketing implementation for small to medium businesses and startups. Our goal is to make high-quality marketing possible for every business, no matter the size. Think of us as your outsourced marketing department, strategic marketing adviser, and phone-a-friend marketing lifeline. We specialize in building efficient marketing programs to grow your business without blowing the bank.

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How to build a website conversion funnel

A website conversion funnel is a way to capture the people who visit your website and convert them into paying customers—even if they didn’t become a customer the first time around— and it is arguably one of the most important pieces of your marketing strategy. The last thing you want to do is spend time and money driving people to your website and then just cross your fingers and hope that anyone who leaves without buying will remember you when they are ready to purchase sometime in the future (hint: they probably won’t).

So what does it look like? We’re going to show you two main types of website conversion funnels: one for a typical e-commerce website, and one for a B2B service-type company. They are pretty similar, just with a slightly different focus. So let’s get started!

How to build a website conversion funnel for an e-commerce website

1. Build a subscription pop-up with a discount

You’ve probably seen one of these on every e-commerce site you’ve visited in the last few years, for the simple reason that they work. Most people won’t just voluntarily sign up for you to spam them with email, but they will if you give them 15-20% off their first purchase. And you want people to sign up so can stay top of mind with them. Remember, email marketing is one of the most targeted and least expensive revenue generators available to small businesses.

2. Set up a cart-abandonment email automation

The average cart abandonment rate across all industries is 69.57%. Yes, it’s that high. There are lots of reasons for this (sticker shock from surprise shipping/tax costs, using the cart as a favorites page, just not sure they want to purchase, etc), but no matter the reason, it’s effective to remind people about what they’re missing, ideally with a nice product shot. We like to send a series of 2 or 3 or so emails over a period of a week that remind people of the product they added to their cart. This is easy to set up in e-commerce email platforms like Klaivyo

You can also set up similar emails for browse abandonment—emails that are automatically sent when someone looks at a product on your site but doesn’t add it to their cart. These are less effective in generating additional revenue than cart abandonment automations but still work pretty well.

The other automation (Klaviyo calls them “flows”) that we use a lot is the simple welcome/purchase thank you email. These don’t generate nearly as much revenue as cart and browse abandonment, but they do create additional sales often enough to be worthwhile—and also help people feel good about you and their purchase. This is a great place to show other top-selling products, tell people how to take care of their new purchases, or even let people know why your company is so great. 

3. Set up cart-abandonment and browse-abandonment display ads

What you can do in email, you can also do with ads. We like to put together cart/browse abandonment ads on Facebook/Instagram and retargeting display ads on the Google ads platform. If you set up a catalog with your products on Facebook/Instagram, you can show the exact product on the ad that the person was looking at, which works very well to increase conversions. Retargeting ads such as these usually have a much higher ROAS (Return On Ad Spend) than standard outbound advertising.

4. Set up lookalike audiences on social media

If you have enough website visitors, one of the best ways to target social media ads is to build a lookalike audience from them. Lookalike audiences are built by the social media platform to match the parameters that your website visitors have in common, and are usually (with rare exceptions) much better targeting than audiences targeted by interest or other demographic. We like to use audiences built from a combination of website visitors and lookalike visitors, and then serve them with ads featuring new products, promotions, and the like. 

5. Make sure you have your email marketing plan in place

Finally, make sure you’re emailing your email list on a regular basis. You absolutely do NOT need to email them daily, or even weekly (in fact, you probably shouldn’t), but try to get something unique and interesting to them at least once a month (interesting being a new product, a flash sale, a bit of information that can help them in their lives, etc).

… and here’s the funnel for a B2B service business

A B2B website conversion funnel isn’t all that different in the basics… but should have a slightly different approach in the details. For instance, content (blogs, vlogs, white papers, and case studies) are much more impactful than discounts and product photos. Here’s what we mean:

Put up a subscription pop-up

As with e-commerce, don’t be afraid of the pop-up! For some B2B businesses, however, a discount might not make sense—particularly if the sales cycle is long, or if your business doesn’t discount much (as with many consultancies). In this case, think of something that it does make sense to offer—such as a free consultation, white paper, article, blog, or webinar. You can even suggest they schedule a time to talk to one of your people to learn more—anything that will get them to hand over their email address.

Set up a subscription welcome email series

Instead of cart-abandonment emails (since that isn’t really a thing in this case), when people do give you their email address, set up a subscription welcome series over the course of the next few weeks so that people can learn more about your company and be reminded of what you do. We like to do about three emails spaced about a week apart. This is a good place to tell people what makes your business special and why it’s a good match for the customer, and to share some pertinent content like blogs, vlogs, or articles that would be of interest to them. It’s also an excellent time to share some customer testimonials!

Set up retargeting display ads and social media ads

Just as with e-commerce, you also want to follow B2B website visitors around the internet. Set up ads on social media and Google display that are targeted to your website visitors. This is the perfect time to share customer testimonials (video is ideal) and your best, slickest “who you are” video. If you offer more than one product or service on your site, tailor your ads and messaging to people that visited the pages associated with each product. This keeps you top of mind and helps cement your messaging.

Depending on your volume of web traffic, you may also be able to build lookalike audiences and test them as outbound ad targeting on social media as well. This isn’t as straightforward for B2B as it is for e-commerce, however, so make sure to test (here’s more on testing!)

Make sure you have your email marketing plan in place

Finally, make sure you’re optimizing any email addresses you gather from your site. Email marketing for B2B companies often doesn’t have the instant gratification of e-commerce email marketing, but it’s a very effective way to reach the elusive business decision-maker directly. In order to keep from being ignored, make sure your email marketing adds value to the reader’s professional life. Share industry information, how-tos, case studies, and webinar announcements rather than pestering people with the same sale pitch over and over. The idea is to send emails that people actually open and read so they can be reminded that you and your product exist when they finally are looking for the product or service you offer.

In conclusion

If you have built a website—even more importantly if you are paying to drive traffic to that website—it is just plain silly to let the majority of that traffic slip away without doing anything to capture it for the future. Even the simplest of website conversion funnels will help stem the flow a little and slowly turn those casual looky-loos into customers. Even if you’re not ready to implement a complicated funnel, throw up a pop-up, up your email game, and put up some retargeting ads… you will be glad you did.

Happy marketing and funnel-building!

Katie and Theron

 At Urban Sherpa Marketing Co. we offer fractional marketing director services, which include marketing advisory, strategic planning, program and staff management, and marketing implementation for small to medium businesses and startups. Our goal is to make high-quality marketing possible for every business, no matter the size. Think of us as your outsourced marketing department, strategic marketing adviser, or even your phone-a-friend marketing lifeline. We specialize in building efficient marketing programs to grow your business without blowing the bank.

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Do I need a Black Friday sale? How to decide when (and if) to discount your product

Should you run a Black Friday sale? Let’s break it down.

There’s no question that sales drive conversions. And conversions drive revenue. But that doesn’t mean that sales always make the most sense for your business.

Your average marketer will push you to run a sale because sales drive revenue, and big revenue results make marketers look good. Also, a lot of us really like the buzz we get when the virtual cash register starts ka-chinging off the hook like a bugs bunny cartoon. (Who doesn’t?!)

But any marketer that’s looking at the big picture—the whole business bottom line (and the good ones will be)—will take a much more nuanced approach to sales.

Why? Because sales aren’t just big happy pots ‘o gold at the end of your marketing rainbow. The most obvious reason is that revenue that is driven by a discount is, well, discounted. You’re literally cutting into your bottom line. 

But there are other reasons to think twice about running a sale:

  • Run too many and you can potentially train your audience to expect sales and wait for the next one rather than buying right now at full price 
  • By reducing the price too much too often, you risk devaluing your product in the eyes of your customers (price is a large part of the perceived value of a product)
  • Too many deep sales can start to feel like your company is desperate—and since we’re all sheep at heart, people tend to lose interest in something nobody wants

So… are we saying you should never run a sale? Hardly. Sales are a really useful tool in your marketing toolbox. Here are a few great reasons to run a sale:

  • You have a lot of inventory you want to move 
  • You are in competition with another brand and want to get people to discover/buy your product rather than theirs (this should be a short-term strategy only to make people aware of your product, however—the last thing you want is to get into a sale war with the competition)
  • You have a product line or a new product that you want to bring attention to.  Sales get people’s attention (and opening emails) better than anything else
  • You want to drive revenue to boost sales in a slow month or quarter for legitimate big-picture business reasons
  • You want to capitalize on a traditional sale period, like Black Friday, and capture some additional traffic by appearing relevant during a key selling season

OK, let’s say a sale makes sense for your business. The next question is, how much of a discount should you offer? That is going to depend on your product (or service), how much margin you have to play with, what the lifetime value of acquiring a new customer is, and a bunch of other factors unique to your business. But here are a few tips to help you figure it out:

  • Except in rare cases, don’t go too small. People don’t respond well to discounts of 5% 10%, or even 15% off. In fact, they respond so poorly that if you do decide to offer a low-value discount, don’t use it as the subject line in your email. We’ve A/B tested and found you need at least 30-35% to use it successfully in the subject line. (Note that discounts as small as 10% can be effective as a sale, if on the right (expensive) products and messaged correctlyit’s just not where you should start.)
  • Also, avoid going too big (we’re talking 50% or more off) unless it’s a sample sale, you’re pushing things on clearance, or it’s a veeery special occasion. Deep discounts can lower the perceived value of your brand… and aren’t really generally necessary to get people’s attention. 

We usually advise starting somewhere in the 35%-off range, and then testing it (want to read more about marketing testing?) to see if the amount is meeting your needs i.e. helping you do the thing you are trying to do with the sale without leaving too much money on the table.

But wait, you still haven’t answered the question about Black Friday sales!

Actually, I have, believe it or not. You should approach a Black Friday sale or Cyber Monday sale much like any other sale: do you have a business purpose (that makes sense) for running the sale? Rather than running a sale because everyone else is, ask yourself what you want to achieve with the sale… and go from there. That should give you your answer.

That said, Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday are somewhat unique in that people have been trained to buy during that period. This means sales work really well—better than usual—to drive revenue over that weekend. So if you do have a business reason for a sale, it’s often a good idea to jump on this particular bandwagon. 

In conclusion: should I run a sale?

To recap: run sales—including black Friday sales—strategically. Keep your business purpose in mind. Set your discount amount to whatever is the lowest amount that works to meet your business purpose. And don’t run sales just because other people are doing it. 

Because, ultimately, for your business to succeed, you need to be able to sell your product—at full price—to satisfied, engaged customers. If you need to rely on sales as a prop, you’re missing some key part of your strategy… and it’s time to look closely for what that is. 

Happy marketing!

Katie & Theron

 

Urban Sherpa Marketing Company is a boutique marketing advisory firm specializing in helping small to medium-sized companies jumpstart their growth. Offering everything from outsourced marketing director services to marketing training and hiring advisory, they love helping marketing teams grow and thrive.

 

Too busy for marketing? What to do instead

Well. Those of you who check in on us periodically may have noticed that we went totally dark on the new-blog-posting-on-social-sending-emails marketing front for about seven months here recently. 

Yeah, we know, a marketing company not doing their own marketing is a bit of a bad look. 

That said (wiping the egg off our faces), we—as small business owners—are not alone on this sort of thing, so let’s take the moment to talk about what happened. 

The short story: we got really busy with client work. For us, as for most of you, our customers come first. And if we have a choice between getting something done for a client or writing a blog to progress our own marketing, it’s pretty easy to push that blog on to the next week on our calendar… and then the next week, and the next week.

Does any of this sound familiar? I can’t tell you how many clients we’ve worked with who have struggled with getting the marketing side of things done while still juggling all the other extremely important stuff they have to manage on a daily basis. 

And, ironically, often the better the business is doing the harder it is to find the time for marketing. 

The problem is that you need to be focusing on marketing when times are good just as much as when times are hard. Marketing isn’t magic. Except in rare cases like a well-tuned Google search marketing campaign, marketing isn’t something you can turn on when you need it and turn off when your tank is full—and still expect to get results. 

For most businesses, effective marketing requires multiple touch points, good frequency, consistent SEO building, review gathering, staying top-of-mind, and more… in short, a cohesive and enduring marketing strategy.

And, no, going dark on your marketing for 7 months does not a cohesive and enduring marketing strategy make. 

So, what do you do if you’re too busy to keep up with your marketing?

  1. Reduce the time needed. Look at your marketing strategy, and figure out which items eat the most of your precious time. Is there a shorter or less time-intensive option that might still get the same results? Instead of a long blog, write a short one. No time to put together a fancy graphic? Shoot a quick video with your phone to post instead. 
  2. Revisit your perfectionism. I like to say that about 80% of the effort towards making a marketing piece perfect pays off, and the last 20% is just wasted time. Seriously, there IS such a thing as “good enough”. And, when it comes to marketing, “good enough” actually happens to trump “perfect”, if perfect takes months to complete. Every. Single. Time.
  3. Tap internal resources. Is there someone in your company that likes the idea of helping out with marketing? Many employees have secret talents that they actually might like using. Find their marketing superpower, and tap it. Sure, you still have to manage everything, but it can help cut down on how much time you’re spending producing.
  4. Hire help. That’s what we’re here for, folks… to take the main burden of marketing off your shoulders so that you can focus on other things. And even if you don’t hire a fractionalized marketing director like ourselves, don’t be afraid to outsource certain tasks to freelancers. Upwork is a great resource. You don’t—repeat after me—need to do it all yourself.
  5. Change your attitude. No, I don’t mean to stop whining (who said anything about whining?). What I mean is that, in order to get marketing done, you need to make it enough of a priority that it actually gets done. Otherwise, it will continue to slide from week to week in perpetuity. And that, folks, is all in how you look at it.

Well, that’s all for now; it’s time to get my nose back to the grindstone. But boy do I have a warm feeling of accomplishment for actually getting this done!

Happy marketing,

Katie & Theron