Small business marketing is always a hot topic. It seems everyone has a new hack, or a new tactic to increase leads and conversions across the funnel. And much of the advice is from seasoned marketers, like me, who have tested, analyzed and tested again before sharing their insights. But, marketing is as much of an art as it is a science, and because it’s ever-evolving, and resource intensive, small businesses need this constant guidance, or risk missing out on revenue opportunities in the future. So let’s look at how to improve your marketing in 2018.

Step 1: Get Narrow
Smarter marketing starts with a narrow target audience. Why? Because personalized and customized content improves lead quality. Yet most of us can’t create personalized content for each person in your email database. So instead, we define and segment.

This starts by defining your ideal customer. List out everything you’d want if you were shopping for a customer and then prioritize the list into must-haves and nice-to-haves. Finally, narrow in by segmenting further. Go beyond simple demographics and look at behaviors or needs.

Step 2: Map it Out
Take the segments that are most important to your 2018 objectives and map out their purchasing journey: from discovering they have a problem all the way to purchase and post or re-purchase. It’s a process that can take a day or more to map out, validate and refine, but it’s a critical tool to smarter marketing. Why? Because knowing what your customers do to identify a pain or problem, research solutions, narrow in on options and make the final purchasing decision, is what drives the type of content you’ll create, how you’ll distribute it and when. With narrow segmentations based on behavior from Step 1 this will help keep you focused on allocating resources to only the most valuable prospects, content and advertising.

Step 3: Be Consistent
Now that you have a narrowly defined target audience and you understand their journey, it’s time to get your messaging consistent. A key messaging exercise will help you succinctly describe your company’s value prop. From that statement, personalize the message to speak specifically to each segment from Step 1 and how that evolves over the journey you mapped in Step 2. While key messaging is not marketing messaging, it will guide that marketing messaging and help you maintain consistent communication over time.

With well-thought through key messaging in place, you should be able to ask yourself, before you hit Publish, “How does this piece of marketing support the key message to this customer segment at this phase of their journey?” Without this step, you’ll start to dilute and confuse your carefully crafted audiences and once they are gone, we all know how hard it is to get an audience to come back.

Small business marketing is an evolving art that uses data to inform new experimentation. These three steps to smarter marketing in 2018 will provide the solid framework from which to test and optimize.

Image: Photospin