The term “marketing” covers a lot of ground.
It’s your web and social media outreach. It’s your brand and logo. It’s your packaging and customer experience. And yet, it’s even more.
“How many senses can I activate with my brand?” said Diego Hodge. “Buying is an emotional experience, and you create emotion with your senses. Marketing is anything that activates the senses.”
Hodge, the chief operating officer for FLOH Spirits and an investor in business and real estate, was one of the panelists in the latest installment of “How To Grow Your Business” webinars presented by Huntington National Bank; this one focused on marketing for small businesses.
Established companies with large footprints are often able to staff specialists in social media, e-commerce and graphic design. But that doesn’t mean such processes can’t be scaled down for small businesses. In fact, it’s almost a requirement for small start-ups.
“We’re not Beyonce,” said Jacquelyn Darby, consultant and owner of The Darby Creative House. “We can’t put [product] out there and expect people to run to it.”
The good news is that there are easier ways to market than there were even a decade ago. Adam Armstrong, a member of Huntington’s marketing team, said that we live in “a golden age of tools.” Automated software can help design a logo. You can develop a web presence with a Squarespace or WordPress site, and you can watch tutorials on YouTube.
“You have access to the same solutions as Huntington,” he said.
And when you have a brand, Darby said, it’s crucial to make sure you have a consistent voice for it.
“Your brand voice is how you communicate on all platforms,” she said. “It’s the copy of the website, it’s how you communicate when someone comes into a store. It’s your advertising copy.”
The most important factor in developing a website is ease of use, Darby said. Make sure your content answers any potential questions about your product. You can easily take your own photos with your phone, against a white backdrop. And make it easy to purchase your product.
“We’ve all left our carts full because the payment system isn’t as intuitive as we thought it would be,” Armstrong said.
Web-based transactions are also important because they provide data about your customer base – which in turn can be used to help retain customers.
“Ten to 20 years ago, we didn’t have access to the data we have now,” Hodge said. “It wasn’t a guessing game, but it was far less exact than it is now.”
It’s important for a small business to know its customer base in order to form a business plan – and that can get lost in the shuffle compared to more immediate operational concerns, Armstrong said. But it’s still important.
Even though you’re offering solutions, Hodge said, those solutions won’t turn into sales unless you’re offering them to the right people.
“I may have a restaurant,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean everyone who eats is my target. If I’m a personal trainer, my competition might not be other personal trainers. It might be a couch and a remote control.”
And above else, Hodge said, understand you’re making a tough ask: You want someone to make a change.
“You have to understand you’re interrupting relationships,” he said. “If I have a problem and I’m solving it, I have a relationship with that solution, whether it’s effective or ineffective. How do I effectively interrupt a relationship to have someone see what I have and give it a chance?”
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