How to choose the right marketing mix for your small business

7 minute read

Running a small business is a job and a half. Between managing employees and overseeing your operations, sometimes marketing becomes a lower priority because it’s hard to know where to start.

In a perfect world, great products backed by amazing customer service should be enough to ensure success. But the fact is, almost every business needs some marketing to help them reach and connect with their target audience.

In this article, we’ll cover the importance of the marketing mix – the combination of the type of media and channels that you can leverage to connect with consumers. It’s not just about driving new sales – the right marketing mix can also help you build stronger, more profitable relationships with your existing customer base.

Define your target audience before you design your marketing mix

Any discussion about the marketing mix has to start with defining your target audience or target market – the specific group of customers and prospects that are most likely to buy from you. Knowing what makes them tick will help you create realistic and measurable goals.

Start by asking, who would my ideal customers be? What’s their gender and household size? Where do they live? What’s their income level? Why are they buying from me? What role does my product or service play in their lives? The more you know about them, the better.

Now you can begin to use these insights to reach prospects that have similar characteristics to your existing customers. The more precise you are in your definition of your target audience the more effective your marketing will be.

Learn how to find and keep the right customers for your business.

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In this article, we’re going to concentrate on five key elements that can help drive business growth by enabling you to reach both existing customers and prospects: content marketing, social media, promotions, print, and search engine optimization.

Content marketing: Building trust one customer at a time

Content marketing is about creating relevant material for your target audience on various online channels and outlets, such as blogs, articles, videos, email and social media. It’s a longer-term strategy with the goal of building trust with audiences over time.

Your content should not be heavily sales-focused – that is, you’re not necessarily getting your target audience to act right away (that’s a job for paid advertising, which we’ll get to later on).

The magic of content marketing is its ability to engage with valuable information, elements of storytelling and memorable insights. It’s an opportunity to differentiate your business by connecting with your ideal customers in a more personal, meaningful way. By sharing your story through your content, you’re slowly (but surely) building awareness, trust and loyalty.

Bonus benefit? Content that resonates with your audience is also more likely to be shared with others.

For instance, a local florist may create the following:

  • an ongoing series of social posts on the best flowers for specific events;
  • blog articles on flower varieties;
  • a video series on how homeowners can create arrangements based on common flowers found in their backyards;
  • employee profiles to show the ‘human side’ of the business;
  • sponsored content from complementary businesses, like wedding planners and event halls.

In short, content marketing will help your customers and prospects feel better about your business. They’ll know that you’re about more than making sales – you’re committed to helping them in their everyday lives. That’s a goal every great brand aspires to.

Discover more about the power of connecting communities with your marketing mix: Build community, build your business.

Social media: Showcasing your brand values

Today, the vast majority of people are on social media – whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, LinkedIn or one of the dozens of other platforms.

According to the 2019 Sprout Social Index, 83 per cent of surveyed consumers use Facebook. Of these, 66 per cent say they like or follow a brand on the platform.

The secret to success on any of these platforms is to focus on the word “social”. You’re socializing by starting or joining conversations in different online communities, and, as a result, spreading your message. You’re weighing in with your expertise, providing solutions, offering assistance – all to further engage with your audience.

Each social platform has its own unique audiences, attributes and even rules dictating content. Instagram is all about great visual presentation. TikTok is all about light-hearted videos with bite-sized content. LinkedIn tends to present content from a business perspective.

If your current customer base expects updates such as holiday operating hours, discounts or inventory/in-stock items, make sure to provide those updates to them. But be mindful when promoting your business to a new audience as you may want to have different content for that group.

Getting started on social media doesn’t have to cost a dime. However, it does require an investment of time from you (or an employee) to monitor social feeds and generate content on a regular basis. You want to ensure that you are actively engaging with your audience – striking a balance between inundating them and informing them.

Should you consider paid social media services?

If you’re pursuing new audiences, paid social media can amplify the reach and prominence of your social posts. The profile you created for your target audience can be leveraged here to zero in on consumers most likely to express interest in your product. In many cases, the social platform you’re on will charge you a cost per click.

Promotions: Kickstarting sales and customer engagement

While your budget may be limited, the variety of promotions that you can try is virtually infinite.

If you’re trying a promotion for the first time, consider testing different approaches in select areas instead of casting a large net from the beginning. You can apply the results and learnings to create new – and better – promotions in the future.

As you plan your promotion, keep your brand front and centre. Is the offer, content, and creative consistent with your values? Does the promotion align with your website, content marketing and social channels?

Here are some approaches that can pique the interest of your target customers, drive traffic to your store or website and convert that interest into sales:

  • local contests and giveaways;
  • discounts, coupons, two-for-ones;
  • offers that encourage customers to follow or like you on your social channels;
  • referral programs for your current customers, where they can save on a future purchase;
  • partnerships with complementary businesses, so you can share the costs of marketing.

It goes without saying that your promotional strategy must be paired with outstanding customer service.

Focus on building brand loyalty

Finding and keeping customers should be part of every small business’ game plan. After all, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer as it does to keep one.

Building loyalty doesn’t have to be complicated, or costly. Send a ‘thank you’ email after a sale. Offer a coupon that can be used for their next purchase. Follow up a couple of weeks later to ensure they’re still enjoying their purchase.

The next step is to create your own loyalty program. Loyalty programs can increase customer retention – and even create brand advocates. You could offer points that can be redeemed toward purchases, give access to member-only events, send free gifts, offer anniversary discounts, host exclusive open house events or offer free shipping.

Promote your promotions

Here’s a shortlist of places where you can plug your own promotions:

  • website,
  • blog,
  • social media channels,
  • e-newsletters,
  • direct mail and flyers,
  • print advertising and PR in local newspapers and community magazines,
  • radio and podcasts,
  • sponsorships.

Direct mail: Put your message into the right hands

Did you know that 88 per cent of Canadians visit a store or go online after receiving a direct mail piece?1

Whether you sell online, in-store or both, direct mail will give you and your message a one-on-one moment with your customers that can help you stand out and stick in their minds.

Beyond just coupons or short-term deals to drive traffic, marketing with direct mail can be used to create truly engaging experiences that are amplified by the physical power of receiving something in the mail, bringing your brand into their home.

Direct mail campaigns can be targeted to specific geographic locations – such as the area immediately surrounding your store. Like most offline tactics, direct mail is best utilized when it’s paired with other channels in your marketing mix.

Target sales prospects with Neighbourhood MailTM

If you want to send direct mail to prospects in a specific neighbourhood or region, but don’t have their addresses, consider Canada Post’s Neighbourhood Mail. Items such as flyers and postcards will be hand-delivered to their mailboxes with other mail.

With Neighbourhood Mail, you can:

  • Select prospects in neighbourhoods that best match your current customer base.
  • Apply filters like gender, age and income level to locate the postal routes that are home to your target audience.
  • Start small by reaching prospects in a single postal route (roughly 500 addresses).
  • Integrate your campaign with your digital ads by using similar designs, targeting with the same filters, or working with data experts to reach the same audience across channels.

Better still, Neighbourhood Mail offers options for businesses of any size, regardless of their experience and budget.

Get found online with search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine marketing (SEM), also known as pay-per-click advertising, is paid advertising based on the keywords people use to search for your type of business. You only pay when visitors click on your ad and are taken to your website. The key search engines to consider are Google, Bing and Yahoo – all of which offer comprehensive resources to help you plan your SEM strategy.

You’ll be asked to provide these search providers with a keyword or set of keywords, as well as your geographic location. Then you’ll “bid” on a price that you’re willing to pay each time a consumer clicks on your ad.

The next step is search engine optimization (SEO) for your website. A critical part of this process is choosing the right keywords for your website and blog posts. These words are vital as they enable search engine algorithms to find your business. For example, if your business is a children’s clothing retailer, select keywords or phrases moms and dads search for online when shopping for their kids. Some examples include “back to school”, “children’s clothing”, “autumn/winter coats kids”, “kids’ outerwear”, and “t-shirt cotton kids”. There’s no need to guess – there are tools that can help you find relevant keywords for your business. Choosing keywords strategically can help your business rise to the top of search results.

Make a bigger impact with the right marketing mix

Most small business owners are focused on selling their products and services, so the marketing side of their operation tends to take a back seat. The right marketing mix can help a business achieve its goals by finding the right customers, enhancing brand awareness and sales, and building customer loyalty.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to what belongs in the mix. The trick is to cultivate one that meets your specific business needs.

1 CPC/ Kantar, “SMM Stats Update”, Canada Post Corporation, 18-216, 2018.

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