In the day-to-day rush of managing your business, how often do you stop to think about your long-term business goals?
By Rieva Lesonsky
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you think about your goals far less often than you would like. According to a new survey by Constant Contact, almost two-thirds (63%) of small business owners only create strategic plans for one year or less in advance.
True, business is changing so fast these days that it can be difficult to think 10 or even five years ahead, as the conventional wisdom once urged. But looking into the future is still important if you hope to be where you want to be when the future arrives.
The most popular business goals
What are your goals for your business in the next 12 months? Here’s what the entrepreneurs in the survey had to say:
- Increasing revenue/sales: 64 %
- Increasing new customers: 53 %
- Offering superior customer service: 33 %
- Increasing productivity: 32 %
Using online marketing for business goals
How are small business owners working toward their goals? Marketing is an essential tool for attracting new customers and increasing sales, as well as for letting prospects know about your amazing customer service. Small business owners in the survey are increasingly using online marketing to promote their businesses, and putting less emphasis on “traditional” types of marketing such as print advertising and direct mail.
Here are the marketing methods that survey respondents say they’re most likely to use:
- Email marketing: 42 %
- Online advertising: 39 %
- Promotions on their business’ homepage: 39 %
- Social media advertising and paid social content: 37 %
- Customer review collection: 33 %
- Print advertising: 32 %
- Direct mail: 26 %
- Event sponsorships: 22 %
- Billboard advertising: 6 %
- TV advertising: 6 %
As you can see, digital marketing outweighs all types of traditional marketing in importance among the entrepreneurs surveyed. Clearly, entrepreneurs are recognizing the value of online marketing, both in terms of its effectiveness with customers and its affordability for their marketing budgets.
Benefits of email marketing for small businesses
What makes email marketing, in particular, so popular among entrepreneurs? Business owners in the survey say it’s effective at helping them connect with new and potential customers (57 %) and increasing awareness of their brand (56 %). I’d add a couple of important factors:
Email marketing offers a great deal of control. You create and own your email list, you control what goes into your email marketing messages, and you control when customers receive them.
The results of email marketing can easily be measured. One of the great things about marketing with email is the ability to see who received your emails, who opened them and what action they took after doing so. You can’t get that type of accountability from a print ad or billboard. For entrepreneurs with small marketing budgets, being able to pinpoint which methods are most effective is a huge bonus.
As companies grow, the survey reports, they’re more likely to use email marketing. Sixty-one % of small businesses with between 11 and 20 employees use email marketing, compared to 42% of all small business owners.
DIY vs. DIFM
Is it better to handle your marketing yourself, or turn the job over to an employee or outside company? Of course, your budget is probably the biggest factor in determining who handles your marketing, and a whopping 95% of small business owners do at least some of their own marketing and promotions. But that doesn’t mean they’re experts at it: 64% say they are “self-taught” when it comes to marketing, and fewer than half believe they are “marketing savvy.”
If marketing isn’t your strong suit, you may want to consider rethinking the DIY approach. Because marketing is so important to achieving your business goals, it’s important to do it right. One thing I’ve noticed in years of working with small business owners is that, when business is good and they’re juggling lots of customers, they often put marketing on the back burner. This is a huge mistake, because marketing is what helps you not only get new customers, but also encourage your existing customers to remain loyal and buy more.
I know you’re busy, but no matter how busy you get, it’s important not to let marketing fall by the wayside. Constant Contact recommends taking small, everyday actions to market your business. This approach will help keep your brand top of mind with customers. And with so much affordable assistance available to help you with your small business marketing, there’s no excuse to settle for less.