Our live Zoom Dives bring creative business experts together in conversation with our founder, Carolyn Dailey, to tackle some of the most urgent topics currently affecting entrepreneurs and freelancers as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

For this edition, we were joined by marketing expert Stephanie Melodia, founder of startup  marketing agency, BloomStephanie shared her top tips on how to approach marketing for small businesses, including how to focus your marketing strategy and how to use marketing to make your brand standout.

Read on to discover the key takeaways, or you can listen to the discussion in full here.

How should you decide where to focus your marketing strategy?

  • Take the time to think as much as possible about your customers. Who are they? Where are they spending time? Where are they getting inspiration?
  • Don't worry if you don't have a fully fleshed out customer profile, but have an initial idea of who your audience is and where to find them, and you can evolve and alter this as you go
  • Choose the right channel. Which channels make the most sense for your audience and your brand? Which channel will support your content/products/message the best?
  • You’re serving your marketplace, not your own interests, so don't spend time on a channel just because you like it, if it won't suit your business' needs
  • Choose two or three channels to start off with, and build firm foundations there before you expand. Continue to research your audience, communicate with them, ask for their feedback.

How can you ensure you maintain brand consistency over multiple channels?

  • It's in the details. No small detail is unimportant. Details build the brand and they  all communicate something about the brand to your audience
  • Write strong brand guidelines. These make up your brand DNA. They outline all your brand rules, your tone of voice, your style. Brand guidelines make you look more professional and they help with consistency and authenticity.
  • Consistency! Effective branding comes from consistency. You’re more aware of what you’re doing than anyone else, so don’t worry too much about repeating what you said a month ago. People need to see the same brand interaction 5-7 times before they can build an idea of the brand in their mind - what it does, how it works etc. - so consistency in your marketing and message is key.

What should you consider when writing a mission statement?

  • Remember the three pillars: Why? How? What?
  • Start with the why: why are you doing what you're doing? Why is this brand/product/service important?
    • It's beneficial to get a bit personal here. What’s your experience as a founder? What have you learnt? What’s your personal founder mission and purpose? This is intrinsic to the business you’ve set up, so it's worth sharing.
  • Next up, cover the how:  how do you do what you do? What's the process? Some of your audience will already know this, but it's important to include  so that customers can get to know you and your brand better.
  • Finally, the what: what you/your business does. It's likely that anyone reading your mission statement will already know this, so don't go into too much detail here.

What's the best way to utilise marketing to standout in a saturated market?

  • Creativity should be at the core of your marketing and branding
  • Creativity helps people to create emotional connections
  • People are fundamentally emotional - they connect to people/places/things with their emotions first, before rationalising with their minds, so use creativity to engage their emotions and draw them in
  • Remember the marketing funnel: awareness, consideration, intent, conversion, loyalty, advocacy. Reactivity and emotional intent will encourage customer loyalty and advocacy

How should you prioritise your marketing activity?

  • First of all, there are three types of marketing to bear in mind:
    • Organic - this is all of your activity that doesn't require a media spend, such as newsletters, social media posts etc. This marketing is directed towards your existing audience.
    • Performance - this is marketing that you pay for, to attract people who don't know about y0u yet, such as boosting social media posts and sponsored content. Bear in mind it is 5-15% harder to convert through paid marketing than by reaching someone already in an organic channel.
    • Earned - this also doesn't require you to spend money, but is a reciprocal type of marketing, such as partnerships with other brands, collaborations, competitions, shared audiences. This will appeal to your existing audience and also reach a wider audience that you might not have had access to on a small budget.
  • Push your organic marketing as much as possible before doing any performance marketing. It can be very easy to waste money on marketing if you don’t know what you’re doing. When you're starting out, paying for expensive marketing is not going to produce results, just because you're paying for it. You need to build your audience organically first.
  • Avoid boosting social media posts. This looks like an easy way to get some visibility and it isn't too costly, but they're such saturated platforms, posts tend to end up scattered randomly, not reaching your target audience. Remember, these platforms want to make money too, so they'll make it look as attractive as possible to get you to part with yours.
  • Focus on a few channels first. Does a particular channel make sense for your brand? Is it where your audience is? Observe and analyse patterns of your visitor activity, and if you're not getting the engagement you need, try another platform.
  • Speak to your customers! Get them involved in the process, listen to their feedback, then you can start to make more informed decisions.

What are some common marketing mistakes that startups make?

  • Founders try to take on too much themselves and spread themselves too thin. Often they don't know what to outsource and don't try to delegate where they can
  • As above, wasting money boosting social media posts, thinking dipping your toe into the paid marketing pool is a good move
  • Founders often don't realise how important creativity is and how much it can build their brand
  • There is often a lack of understanding of the power of the personal brand. Emotional connections are much easier to make with a person than with a faceless company, so share your story.

What metrics can you use to measure the success of your marketing?

  • This is very difficult to do
  • Don't expect results right away. Remember your time frame – you need time to build your audience and to turn visitors into conversions
  • Ultimately the best way to measure is through sales/conversion. Try to marry your sales figures with your marketing activities. If you see a spike in sales, find out what marketing campaigns you were running. Can you repeat them and see if they produce the same positive results?
  • Talk to your audience – how do they respond? How engaged are they? Are they remembering what they’ve seen? Are they telling their friends? If the answer is no, then it might be worth trying a different marketing tactic.

How should you decide on the type of marketing?

  • Don't invest in a channel or platform if you haven’t tested it out yet. Start by trialling them, and see which ones get the best responses
  • Be open-minded about all the options available to you
  • Be flexible -  don’t back yourself into a corner by persisting with an approach that you want to take but that isn't necessarily working
  • If you do these things, when you're finally ready to invest, you will be able to make a  more informed decision, so you will be more likely to see a return

Some free or low cost marketing resources that will help you get started:

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