Even small businesses can apply marketing frameworks, which is why we have listed a few to make them even more profitable.
You know you want to get the word out about your small business, and that somehow your message needs to punch above the weight of your size and market share - in a competitive world, success will come from growing your share of voice first. Just having a great business phone system from Ringover doesn’t guarantee success, you need to put some work in on the strategy side to put the tools at your disposal to best use.
Furthermore, you know that however brilliant and innovative and unique you are, that’s of no benefit if it's a best-kept secret that nobody knows about. So, as well as defining that uniqueness and developing the surrounding messaging, you have to have a strategy for getting the word out, to grow your business and your profits.
Whichever industry or niche you serve, it’s a crowded and fragmented world you are operating in when it comes to making your messaging cut through. And that’s why you need a framework with which to approach your marketing - you haven’t got infinite budget and time, and have to structure your application of resources.
Which framework you use is less important than simply adopting one in the first place, but we’ll look at 3 popular and relevant marketing frameworks which have benefited other small businesses - to help you decide which one to adopt, to help you reach your marketing goals. Remember: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, writer and pioneering aviator.
So, you need to put a plan in place to move you in the right direction, a framework to guide your marketing efforts.
RACE from Smart Insights
Dave Chaffey’s RACE marketing framework Is an excellent starting point for Small businesses in the digital environment, particularly (and which business is NOT in the digital environment in 2021?)
The 4 step mnemonic in the name maps the framework that the model describes. It’s practical and action-oriented, and being customer-centred, it integrates all modern marketing activities and channels - this makes it highly adaptable and future-proof, because even if the route to market changes, or the best way to reach your customers, the strategy for meeting their needs remains at the heart of it.
The phases of the plan are:
This is the awareness-raising stage, focused on creating visibility for your brand and driving traffic/eyeballs. You cannot market to anyone until you have their attention, and they know you exist, so any small business MUST start here.
You will see big brands too still devote considerable marketing budget to maintaining their visibility: how many ads for MacDonalds did you see the last time you walked through a town centre? These Ads are not aimed at whatever tiny percentage of shoppers are as yet unaware of the golden arches! They remain an essential investment in maintaining reach, and that subconscious recognition in the marketplace, where competitors can more easily stand out for innovation.
As a small business, you can exploit your difference, your USP, to drive reach, via a combination of paid, owned, and earned media touchpoints. Inbound marketing and content are vital for growing your emotional real estate footprint and share of voice.
This phase is about interACTion, and is all about lead generation and nurturing. Once you have reached a prospect, you need to guide them down through your sales funnel on the path-to-purchase, with easy baby steps - bringing them into your ecosystem of presence across the channels and networks where they are most at home, by meeting them on their turf, before guiding them gently in your desired direction.
Monitoring interaction means setting up your triggers and goals so that each lead can be tracked and communicated with individually and appropriately.
Every business owner loves this stage because it’s where you get the sale!
What the framework teaches us though is that this is a small and next logical step, after you have reached and interacted with your target and nurtured them along as a lead. There are no shortcuts, but once they’re ready, you need to have specific tactics to help them step over the line and become that most precious stakeholder in your business’ success: the customer.
Once you have a customer, it’s vital to retain their business and their delight. Engaging with them in a sincere and meaningful way is a path not only to their future purchases but also to their endorsement and recommendation. Increasingly future sales are driven by social proof, and people trust the opinions of their friends over any paid ad - so making it easy for happy customers to amplify your messaging and display their satisfaction should be a vital part of your marketing, as should identifying that joy in the first place.
7 Ps Marketing Mix
Of course, while it’s broadly relevant and applicable, RACE is far from the only marketing framework to consider, And some have been around a lot longer.
One classic which has stood the test of time, bridging the transition between the pre-internet world and today, is the 7 Ps marketing mix. The original model was developed in the 1960s and only had 4 Ps, but the role of customer service in the marketing mix was simply different in those days, particularly when most small businesses sold products rather than services. Like all valid models, it evolved, and today focuses on these seven elements:
Even services can be productised, or viewed through this vital lens: what are you selling? Defining this for its quantitative and qualitative dimensions is the starting point, ensuring that specifications, features, benefits, applications, variants and use-cases are thoroughly explained.
This reflects the matrix of marketing And sales activities, which may have evolved since the 60s but still embraces a diverse set of channels. From PR to marcomms to branding to influencer endorsement, there has always been a range of ways to get the message out about your brand, and by auditing the spectrum of these In your marketing framework you ensure consistency and a comprehensive approach.
Simply Business has a great blog that helps small business marketing by offering some ideas on how to grow their business and get noticed by customers.
Communicating about cost and value is a core part of your strategy, which reflects your positioning in the competitive landscape of the marketplace. Are you the luxury high-ticket option, or the basic affordable entry point? This will be reflected in your messaging, as well as the strategy which informs the barriers to purchase which must be overcome. Everyone likes a bargain, and even top-end customers like discounts and payment plans/credit, things which make it easier to buy.
Those shopping the bargain-basement by contrast will be influenced by perceptions of added value and savvy decision-making, which helps them Not To feel completely price-driven (sommeliers know this phenomenon well, and always consider carefully which high-margin Choice to place in the second-cheapest slot on the wine list - because diners with no clue flock to this option.)
Again this used to be physical - which trade shows or billboards do you want your product to show up at? Today we’re talking about digital channels, which are segmented in different ways, and constantly changing. By focusing your strategy on the customer, and listening to their needs and preferences, you know which channels to focus on, and which partnerships and associations to cultivate (such as which brands to advertise alongside.)
This element is unusually not about the customer, but about the people involved on your side - in crafting and disseminating your marketing message, and conducting the relevant activities. It means consideration of their skills and attributes, their training and how they embody your brands’ values and core messaging, even their image in face-to-face roles. It’s worth remembering that even in an entirely digital campaign, there are still people creating it and driving it, so their appearance at a sales concession might be less of an issue, but their representation of the brand is still a vital part of the marketing mix.
Ensuring all your operational processes align is crucial for business success, and therefore your marketing framework must mesh seamlessly with your technology (for frictionless sales), your logistics (so people get the products they bought), with product R+D (so feedback and user requests inform the development roadmap), and so on.
Again this harks from the physical world, but still applies digitally - and when you have a diversity of on and offline channels, it’s even more important to approach their development holistically, ensuring a consistent message is delivered. Growing that subconscious brand recognition depends on the correct application of your style guide and key messaging platform - it’d be no good if those golden arches were sometimes green or pink because of a local franchise’s mood or preference because the customer would get mixed messages and fail to develop a consistent mental map of the brand and its benefits.
The 7Ps marketing framework has delivered consistent value for decades but needs continual updating to ensure relevant application in a changing world. Indeed, Chaffey (of RACE fame) has advised the inclusion of an 8th P, Partners, to reflect the importance of the context of the messaging - while others are happy to address this within Place.
3 Cs strategy
Keeping the numbers simple is the approach of the 3 Cs model, which is a very easy starting point as a result for small businesses.
If the word strategy seems unrealistic, It simply means defining the intersection of 3 key elements and putting your efforts at that sweet spot. The 3 Cs are:
This bit is about you - because you cannot go to market until you understand what your strengths, aspirations, resources and objectives are. This doesn't matter whether your company is a global multinational or a solopreneur venture (or the latter aspiring to become the former!) - you need to start with where you are, to plan the journey to where you want to be.
This consideration means your addressable market of potential customers, as well as anyone already bought - i.e. your target market. Who are they, how can you meaningfully identify and segment and describe them? Think about their demographics, their need states, their emotional drivers, and factors that might influence their purchasing decisions. Then relate that to your products and services, in terms of what they (might) buy, to craft your marketing strategy.
This is where you consider the market landscape - what’s already out there, who is your competition? What do they offer, and how do you differ? What can you offer that they do not (or that you could do better in some way?) And how do they go to market? You might believe your offering is so innovative and unique that you’re carving out an entirely new category, and that’s great - but those customers you identified in the last section are getting their needs met in other ways somehow right now, so that’s the competition you need to benchmark and strategise against.
Once you have mapped out these 3 elements, you can define your product-market fit, in terms of what you offer to whom and how. Then your USP and positioning with being clear, and you can develop messaging which will connect effectively with your target customers.
A plethora of frameworks: but don’t get overwhelmed!
As we have presented here, there are a lot of different ways of thinking about how to bring your small business to market, and it’s easy to get stuck at the phase of examining frameworks and not doing any marketing. (That’s why we didn’t tell you about all the others, like The Boston Consulting Group Matrix or the Kotler Five Product Levels Or SOS TAC or the FCB Grid... Because you need to commit and get going, otherwise nothing is going to happen for your business!)
Most important is to take ACTION - the framework you choose will guide you in the direction, providing the basic compass, but your results will inform The actual map you follow, and that will be unique to your business, your products, and your customers.
The strategy you develop will become part of an evolving framework you evaluate and iterate based on changes in the external landscape (technology, channels, social change etc) and the internal one (your product development roadmap, personnel, priorities), and is a vital part of your strategic plan and intellectual property - and the future of your business.
To leave you with one more quote to ponder: “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.” ― Winston Churchill, former British Prime Minister. The very act of developing your framework is what will propel you towards the success you deserve.
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