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  • Writer's pictureMichael Campagna

The Scientific Approach to Creating a Small Business Marketing Strategy

By far, the question I get the most as a marketing strategist is a variation of: which marketing channel is best for growing my small business?


The answer to that question is both straightforward and complex. Because there is not one right answer or a single channel that will yield better results than all the rest for every single business. But it is possible to find a channel or maybe even several channels that works best for your brand and yield the greatest return on your investment.


Still, many brands attempt to market their businesses according to the latest fad or based on what they have heard has worked for someone else. This is why over a quarter of the average brand's marketing budget is reportedly wasted every year, due to poor planning and even worse execution.



The importance of "scientific marketing"

Many small businesses get the marketing process wrong because they forget that it is highly data dependent. Without a data driven, analytical approach to your marketing framework, you will probably waste money without realizing it.


This article will show you how to use data to your advantage, insulating your brand from wasteful spending through a formulaic strategy we call the "scientific marketing" approach. This strategy eases your brand into the budget allocation process, revealing the channels that yield the greatest results for your business before investing more money into your campaigns.


You might not be a scientist... neither am I. But this methodological approach to your marketing strategy will save you countless hours of frustration and give you peace of mind, knowing that your marketing investments are working the way they should.


the scientific marketing strategy

Market research and preliminary data

Before you begin investing your hard earned dollars in marketing your business, you should have a clear understanding of the market that you are trying to reach.


That might sound obvious, but many small businesses simply assume they know their audience and even their competitors, so they skip this step altogether. When their campaigns are ineffective, they assume it is the channel they chose when it is likely they simply targeted the wrong group of people with their marketing message.


This is one of the main ways that brands inadvertently waste money in their marketing campaigns. It is a mistake that can easily be avoided through a preliminary effort on the part of the business owner or marketing team. Anything from talking to previous customers to researching trends within your industry to studying your competitors' websites can give you a broader understanding of the market you will be entering with your marketing messages.


No business operates within a silo and this is especially true when it comes to marketing. Your customers will be surrounded by hundreds of advertisements on a daily basis, and by understanding those other voices, you can break through the noise with your own message.


The following questions are a good place to start in collecting some initial data.


Who is your target audience?

As with any experimentation technique, you should begin with the end in mind. From a marketing standpoint, this involves a holistic understanding of your customer base, what they desire, and the messages to which they respond the best. This includes a comprehensive understanding of their demographics and psychographics as well as their spending habits online.


What type of marketing works best for your industry?

As we mentioned before, not every channel will work for every business. That is why you should understand which ones have worked best for brands within your particular industry and which have not yielded the expected results. By no means should you simply copy the work of other brands, but it is important to understand the trends within your industry relative to specific marketing channels. We will present some of the primary channels to consider later in this article.


An explorative mindset will not only serve you well in the beginning, but throughout the entire marketing process as you continually assess the effectiveness of your campaigns and the ever-evolving nature of your audience.


Formulating a hypothesis

In scientific terms, a hypothesis is an estimation made on the basis of limited evidence as a means for further investigation. This concept can be applied to the marketing process by evaluating the various channels available to your brand and testing those channels until you settle on the one that looks most promising for further investment.


This is a powerful component for any brand's marketing strategy, as it keeps the guesswork out of your campaigns and gives you something specific to work toward in your initial marketing tests.


When generating a useful hypothesis, consider the following structure: [x channel] will yield [y result] for my brand in [z period of time].


Based off your previous research conducted in the last section, try to formulate a realistic expectation of what a particular channel could offer from a particular investment. Do not set your expectations too high with this initial test but maintain the goal of discovering a channel worth investing in further.


We recommend creating two or three hypotheses simultaneously (one per channel) with the goal of uncovering the one channel that will yield the greatest results for your brand.


Top marketing channels to consider

There might not be one right answer to all your marketing problems, but there are a few primary channels that you should consider for your brand's marketing strategy. In this section, we will break down some of the best ones to use, along with recommendations for effectively implementing each one. While this does not comprehensively cover every channel you could use, these channels are a great place to start for small businesses looking to make an impact and grow their brands today.



six channels for marketing a small business


Social media advertising

YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and most other major social media platforms offer advertising options with advanced targeting capabilities to position your brand in front of new customers. In the beginning stick with just one (maybe two) social media outlets, prioritizing the ones that your target audience uses the most. If you run a B2B business, LinkedIn is likely your best option. YouTube ads tend to yield the best results for education-based businesses that teach a particular skill. And Instagram is great for promoting the products of an online store. With an investment of a thousand dollars or less you can effectively test this channel to determine whether or not it could yield the results desired to move your brand forward.


Offline advertising

Sometimes, especially if your business is just getting off the ground, offline advertising can be a great way to get your product or service directly in front of more people. Trade shows and networking events will allow you to practice pitching your offer to prospective customers face-to-face. Other offline tactics like billboards or direct mailers can also be effective for certain industries, particularly when you operate a business in a specific geographic area.


Search engine optimization

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your brand for discovery through search engines. While this type of marketing comes in many different forms, at its most basic, it involves optimizing your website for prospective customers to find you more easily online.


Email marketing

Email marketing is a powerful way to reach customers with your message. It allows for more direct, personal interaction with your target audience and is a great way to build trust with your customers over time. Consider giving away a free resource related to your brand in order to start growing your email list and reaching more customers with your message.


Search engine marketing

Sometimes referred to as pay-per-click advertising, a search engine marketing strategy will improve your brand's results on some of the most popular search engines, including Google and Bing. This form of paid advertising will promote your brand to new customers who are searching for your industry online and is a great way to drive more traffic to your website.


Content marketing

Content in its various forms is a powerful way to demonstrate your expertise in a field and to grow an audience for your brand. From Instagram photos to YouTube videos to blog articles to LinkedIn posts, content is all around us. The key to gaining traction in this channel is to create content that is actually valuable to the audience that you serve. While content might be a harder strategy to get off the ground, when done correctly it overlaps with many of the other strategies mentioned here, including search engine optimization and email marketing.


The key with all of these channels is to find out where your customer is online and to meet them there. In the Marketable Brand Framework, we call this being "discoverable" or putting your brand in the optimal position to be found by your target audience. It is not pushy and it is far more likely to work because your customer is actively interested in what you have to offer.



seven days to a seven figure marketing plan


Conducting experiments

Most small business leaders acknowledge the significant role that marketing plays in scaling a business over the long term. But many of them do not realize how difficult it can be to find a channel that actually provides a return on their investment.


The experimentation phase allows you to invest in several channels that look the most promising for your brand's future growth, without overspending. This methodical approach lets you test a particular channel just enough to assess its potential without spending too much of your marketing budget on things that do not work.


Your goal through this process should be finding the channel that positions your brand most effectively to your target audience at the lowest price possible.


Sometimes that means foregoing a particular channel that yields some results but not the kind most suited to move the needle for your brand. This section will detail some of the more practical applications of the experimentation phase to ensure the errors are minimized in your execution process.


Conducting simultaneous tests

When it comes to finding a marketing channel that works best for your brand, you really do not have time to waste. Speed and efficiency should be your top priorities to ensure you are not wasting money and your brand can scale as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is by running simultaneous tests on each of the channels you have identified. If you have three channels that have the potential to grow the reach of your brand, generate a hypothesis for each and test them at the same time, tracking their effectiveness. Simultaneous testing will also give you a real-time look at which channel is bringing in more leads relative to the others.


The importance of split testing

Usually, one test is not an accurate representation of the effectiveness of a particular channel. Split testing or A/B testing is a truly scientific approach to your marketing campaigns as it allows for the comparison of different variables in order to determine which ones affect performance the most. In practice, this looks like trying two different subject lines for an email campaign or writing different ad copy for your Facebook ads or trying two different designs for your sales page. Split testing is the best way to ensure you have exhausted the potential of a particular channel before giving up on it and trying something else.


Reducing experiment errors

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to the performance of your campaigns is the user error that comes from a lack of experience in a particular area. Many small business leaders and entrepreneurs are "DIY-ers" by nature and think they are being cost effective when trying to do all the marketing themselves. More often than not, this leads to even more waste in the long term as poor performance leads to a false belief that a particular channel simply "doesn't work" for their brand.


As you set out to conduct your first experiments, don't neglect the importance of an expert's opinion in saving you both time and money. Hiring an expert copywriter to write your ad copy or your blog post can save you an incredible amount of time, as does hiring an social media advertiser who has been in the space and understands the algorithms. This will ultimately reduce experiment errors and give you confidence knowing that your channel has been fully tested before moving on.


Luckily, hiring for projects today has never been easier. Platforms like our partner site, Marketable Connections, offer project-based work from experts across the marketing industry.


Interpreting the results

In order to determine whether or not your hypothesis was successful, you need to articulate the key performance indicators that will move the needle for your brand. This means choosing KPIs that are directly correlated with the results you are looking to attain.


The number of sales generated from a particular campaign is a great place to start. But what other KPIs will lead you to more sales? It could be more email subscribers gained from a particular lead magnet. Or the number of clicks on an advertisement for a free estimate.


Before you can understand what the results of your campaigns are, you have to understand what success even looks like for your brand.


Maybe a particular channel worked and drew more customers to your brand, but the sales you received were not enough to justify your initial investment. If this is the case, you should adjust your marketing investment or the price of your offer until you are satisfied with the return on your campaign.


How to know when you have found "the right" channel

The right channel for your brand is the one that produces the highest quality results at the lowest price possible. As your interpret the results, your goal should not be a ton of scale in the beginning, but validating your hypothesis and determining whether or not that particular channel can yield results for your brand moving forward. While it is entirely possible to find multiple channels that work well for your brand, in all likelihood there will be one that shows the greatest potential. It is important to focus on this one channel, especially in the beginning, as you will work on refining it for your brand's long term strategy.


How to know when you have exhausted a particular channel

Hopefully your efforts pay off and you see a return on your marketing investment immediately. But you might find a particular channel is not working for your brand. If this is the case, ensure that your experiments have been free of errors on your end, even if this means investing in an expert's opinion (as we discussed in the previous section). If you are confident that the tests have been executed well but are still not yielding results, head back to the drawing board and construct an alternate hypothesis around a different channel or set of channels. While it might be frustrating to start over in this way, your previous efforts have not been wasted. Your ultimate goal is to find a channel that works to grow your brand consistently. When this is achieved you will see growth. Let this be your motivation to continue testing out new and better ways of achieving your brand's goals.


Implementing a long-term marketing strategy

Once you have determined the channel that is most profitable for your brand, you can slowly begin investing more of your budget into it.


The great thing about methodically determining your ideal marketing strategy is that your brand will eventually see results. And once you see results, you can reinvest some of those profits back into the channel that you have found to be most effective. It is at that point that marketing will become a reliable investment for your brand instead of something you do off the cuff, hoping and praying that you strike gold.


As mentioned in the previous section, we recommend focusing on one channel and refining it over time. If you skip from one channel to another you will likely waste more money than you would by optimizing a reliable, tried-and-true method over the long term.


At the same time though, you should not expect one channel to serve your brand for years into the future. In all likelihood, it will become less effective over time as channels evolve and become more saturated across industries. Be obsessive about analyzing the results of your campaigns to stay on top of those changes and to understand when it might be time to switch strategies.


Algorithms will change, consumer interests will change, and results will inevitably change with them as time goes by. That is simply the logical evolution of the digital space. Adapting with it is the best way to stay ahead of your competition and establish yourself as an industry leader.



the scientific marketing strategy


Conclusion

Too many people publish marketing campaigns like they play the lottery, hoping that they hit the right numbers just once and see a huge payoff. But the vast majority of marketing campaigns will not work like that, and spending a large amount of money without knowing what you are getting into will almost certainly result in a loss. By following a reliable framework, your brand can find the channel most suited to exponential growth over time. Instead of stumbling from one idea to the next, you will set the standard within your industry and reach more customers with your unique message.

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