How to Brainstorm the Best Small Business Marketing Ideas

marketing communications for small businessesFor those of you not familiar with IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications), let me first start out by giving you a brief description. The American Association of Advertising Agencies was the first to officially define IMC in 1989 as, “an approach to achieving the objectives of a marketing campaign through a well-coordinated use of different promotional methods that are intended to reinforce each other.” In other words – it is all about getting your advertising, marketing, public relations, promotions, branding… and so on working in conjunction towards a common goal.

Let’s be honest, a full bore IMC campaign is far from cheap, and it probably seems to be out of the realm of possibility for many small businesses. When I think of companies that really do this well, the first few that come to mind are the big names like Coca-cola, McDonald’s and Nike. However, you don’t have to have millions or even thousands of dollars in your yearly budget to benefit from the idea behind IMC. Start small and grow your marketing campaign over time. The most important thing to remember and understand is that marketing is on-going and that you won’t see your dream results overnight. It takes time, dedication, energy, resources and then some more time, dedication, energy….. Putting together a fully integrated marketing plan is a BIG task.

If you want to start on an integrated marketing plan for a small business, first ask yourself these questions:

What are the main business goals you want to achieve? 

  • This sounds easy enough right? Well, not always. Oftentimes I see companies list out a ton of the typical textbook answers. “We want to increase brand identity, awareness, and recognition; increase sales and revenue; improve customer engagement; improve our services”… and the list goes on. While these are all important broad-picture goals, listing these out in practice really doesn’t seem to get anyone anywhere.
  • First, I think it is important to PRIORITIZE your goals and keep that hierarchy in place when carrying out your marketing efforts. Brand identity, awareness, and recognition should always be an overall goal for your business, but it is much harder to gauge the effectiveness of these efforts. Try to be more specific. Set deadlines for you to reach your goals and make them quantifiable and measurable (i.e. increase sales by 15% in 2014; increase positive customer feedback by 5% in 2014). Yes, you should always reach for the stars, but be REALISTIC so you don’t set yourself up for failure. Setting a goal to increase your sales by %150 is a reach at best. Start with small goals and work your way up to bigger ones.

What is the main focus of your business?

  • Having a focus on your integrated marketing campaign can help to strengthen the effectiveness and retentiveness across all of your marketing channels. The focus should not be confused with goals. This is hard to define, but one example I can think of is the integrated marketing for the country restaurant, Cracker Barrel. From the atmosphere and decor of the restaurant itself to the style and typography used on the menus, to the layout and look of their billboards and website… everything points back to that main focus of country style livin’. Or we could look at it a different way… let’s say you offer a service where you want to put customers first as the focus. So instead of focusing your marketing on the prices, location, hours, and so forth you would focus your entire marketing campaign from a customer focus approach.

Who are you trying to reach?

  • Defining your target audience is important. Even more important is doing the research to help you create those definitions. For some companies in a niche or B2B market, this is easy. “I sell baby clothes, so my target audience is new mothers” or, “I sell power tools so my target audience is men between the ages of 25-40” or “I am a US furniture distributor, so my target audience is furniture stores.” For companies that could sell or provide services to just about anyone, defining this can be a much more challenging task. No matter what type of business you are in, you should still define a few specific target audiences for whom you will direct and market your messaging. The more specific you can get with your targeting, the more effective your marketing will be.

What are your objectives, strategies, and tactics?

  • I think of an objective as the big picture of what I want to accomplish to help meet an overall goal. I consider a strategy to be the big picture of what I am going to do in order to complete my objective. The tactics are the specific tasks that will be carried out to execute the strategy. One example might be:
    • Goal: increase customer engagement and relations
    • Objective: increase the amount of Twitter Followers
    • Strategy: improve my Twitter page and expand my page’s visibility
    • Tactics: post to Twitter at least 3-5 times a week; follow other profiles within my industry; re-tweet and favorite tweets that are relevant to my business; create promoted tweet; use specific hashtags; add a link to my Twitter account on my website; create a QR code on direct mail that will link to my Twitter account, start a contest and enter everyone who re-tweets my message will be entered to win a prize; write blog posts and articles and include a link to my Twitter page; etc.
    • Brainstorming really comes into play here, and the creativity can (and should) grow over time during the course of your campaign.

Where do you currently stand?

  • Do an analysis of your current position within the market. Take a look at your past and current marketing attempts, and determine which strategies and tactics succeeded and which came up short. Now take a look at some of your top competitors in the market. What have they done that seems to have worked well or backfired? Where do you think you stand in comparison to them? Use this information (good or bad) to help push your integrated marketing efforts in the right direction.

Answering these questions, are just a simple starting point to help get all of your eggs in a row. The next big steps are to determine your budget, media outlets, and finally, create your plan of action to integrate your campaign and execute.

If you are interested in learning how Ironistic can help you with your integrated marketing goals (specifically with your online marketing efforts), I would love to hear from you! Feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected]. Also, learn more on our Integrated Digital Marketing services page.


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