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You can't build a business without a marketing strategy, plan and budget

Having a substantial marketing budget, certainly helps. One of the brands I worked with a few years ago had a marketing budget of £5 000 000. This is a lot of money, however being a luxury brand, this needed to cover their advertising campaigns, model shoots, sponsorships, usage rights for advertising across a global market as well as driving print and online media and PR. It was soon put to good use, and it was challenging to ensure we didn’t go over budget.

As a small brand, this marketing budget may sound incredibly appealing, it may be difficult for you to even think about how you could put such a sizeable figure to task. One of the first things I do when working with a new client is understand what their marketing budget is, and I carefully study their marketing strategy and how they plan to deliver this.

If they don’t have a marketing strategy in place I work with them to create a clear marketing strategy, marketing and promotional calendar for the coming year and product campaigns. I also work very closely with them to review their New Product Development Plan, and to create a clear, concise product development process to steer their product pipeline for the next 12 – 18 months. As a product-based business, your products sit at the core of your business, everything else in your business is there to support and to promote your products, your marketing is designed around elevating your products and telling your story.

Whether you are a small business owner, or a multi-national brand, key to your success is having a great formulation and very strong branding. To create strong branding, you need to identify how you are going to position your brand in the marketplace, you need to know exactly who your competitors and customers are.

Branding refers to your logo, typography, brand colours, font type as well as your packaging and your copy, tone of voice and brand personality. Remember that you can have the best formulation in the world, but if you don’t present your brand in packaging that resonates with your target audience, nobody is going pick up your brand, let alone buy into your brand. If you are a cosmeceutical brand, does your packaging and branding clearly communicate this? If you are an ethical, vegan skincare brand, is this clear to your customers at first glance.

Always think about your marketing and product development from your customer’s perspective. Consider your website, copy, ‘about us’ page, brand messaging, and ensure that you have clearly defined your USP, what you stand for and what makes you different, and that this is consistently communicated across all of your marketing materials and your packaging. Ensure that your customer knows exactly why you are the brand to solve their problems. Tell a powerful brand story, and let your customers know why you started your brand, who you are and what you believe in. Share where you source your ingredients from and why you have selected these ingredients for your specific products. Tell people about your packaging and your stance on sustainability and environmental issues.

Your marketing strategy should include a strong content calendar, that supports your brand values, your philosophy and your products. Think about how you can effectively utilise your social media channels, and how you can make the best use of your videos, your tutorials, influencers, vloggers and bloggers. Instagram and Instagram stories along with Facebook Live are incredibly powerful for beauty brands in terms of driving engagement. Video is key for your brand, you can create your own videos, based on research, unpolished videos have a higher level of engagement than professional videos. Plan your blogs and how you are going to communicate with your customers, and educate them about your products, ingredients and techniques.

One of the key advantages you have as a small business owner, is that you invariably launched your brand because you couldn’t find a product that solved your problem. Build up your online community so that you can reach out directly to your customers and help them to solve their skincare, body care or hair care problems using your products. Create a private Facebook group and engage with your online community to help you to develop your products, so that you know that you are developing products they specifically need and may even have requested.

Look at how you can collaborate with other brands, to promote your products to their customers, build affiliate relationships. For example, if you are a body care brand, is there an opportunity to promote your products to a gym or a yoga studio or to another business that has similar customer values? On your website include a reward programme, and a referral programme where people are rewarded through points or vouchers for recommending friends and family. Provide free samples with every order, so that people can test other products in your range, sampling is incredibly important in the beauty industry. Entire businesses like Birchbox have been created around product sampling. There is nothing more powerful than word of mouth. Include product recommendations and customer reviews on your website.

We are living in the age of authenticity and technology, people value transparency and trust above all else. There has never been an easier time to reach out directly to your customers online, across the world, and if you are selling into retail, reach out to buyers and to retailers. Embrace this, as a small business owner, this provides you with so much more opportunity and power than ever before.