Since you’re reading this, chances are you’re a small business owner or manager responsible for marketing your small business. You know that if you want to grow sales, you need to invest in the right marketing tactics. But which ones? With all the latest marketing options available to your business it can be confusing, overwhelming and become a major resource drain.

The truth is, we can’t keep up with it all — social media, email marketing, content, blogs, SEO, PPC, trade shows…..whew. But we try anyway. And in doing so, it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus on what truly matters and get enamored with marketing initiatives that in the end don’t drive sales or pay the bills.

Focus on what matters. Ignore, or at least minimize, what doesn’t.

So, what is it that we so often focus on that may either be meaningless or not all that important in the big picture of small business marketing success? One common area for most businesses is social media. In fact studies show that 43 percent of small businesses spend about six hours per week on social media — buying into the hype of likes, follows and shares.

Don’t get me wrong, social media can definitely be a valuable small business marketing tactic. It can help indicate the word is getting out about your business. Social may also solidify your brand and build trust as well as TOMA (or top of mind awareness) with your audience. The main benefit of TOMA is that when your prospects are ready to buy, they think about you first

On the other hand, you can get views, likes, shares and follows until the cows come home, and still not get the results you want, and still not sell anything!

Let’s face it: Buying requires a commitment on the part of the buyer. A like, follow or share doesn’t require much commitment at all. Just because someone likes your page on social media does NOT mean they are truly engaged and going to buy your product. There’s a very good chance they won’t even remember you.

Think about it.

Do you remember and mentally dwell on every single page you’ve ever liked on Facebook? Of course not. I know it can be self-gratifying to see your like totals go up each day but be careful not to let your time on social take away from working on marketing activities that move the needle the most.

Going Viral: Should You Care?

Very much related to this discussion is the notion of going viral. (Talk about a time suck!) It seems we are constantly hearing about the latest video to “go viral” such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. But the reality is for the one time that viral marketing works there are a million times that it doesn’t. Consider this: You don’t control whether your brand or product goes viral…your audience does. Trying to get your small business marketing campaign to go viral can drain your energy and valuable marketing dollars from your business.

And even if it does spread like wildfire, will it help you sell more? Maybe not. Evian water had perhaps the most successful viral ad campaign of all time. This video has been viewed over 130 million times! But did it, and the other viral videos in the series, boost sales of the product? Apparently not. According to this article, “…viral success is not the same as sales success. After Roller Babies was released in 2009, sales of the water brand actually declined…”
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Let me ask you, do you really care about “going viral” if it doesn’t help you sell more of your products or services? Let’s focus on what matters.

So what does matter? Making sales. Making repeat sales to your current customers. Building long-term relationships with customers. Taking the necessary steps to make these vitally important things happen. What steps are these? They include:

Looking at marketing from a “big-picture” strategic perspective

In today’s crazy, constantly-changing marketing world, it’s easy to get caught up in “the latest trend.” It’s easy to do something just because it seems like everyone else does it.

My advice? Don’t. But do develop and follow a comprehensive marketing and sales strategy. Employ the tools and tactics that will help you succeed with that strategy. Ignore those that won’t. If that means you have to forego the latest digital breakthrough that everyone seems to be loving, so be it.

Identify and nurture your ideal buyer

It does no good to spend your marketing dollars on campaigns targeted at the wrong audience. You have to market the right product to the right audience, and you have to get their attention.

Do they want what you offer? Can they afford it? Are they ready to buy now? If so, are you ready to capitalize on this big opportunity? If they are interested and qualified, but not yet ready to buy, do you have systems in place to nurture the relationship and maintain TOMA until they are ready?

Provide excellent, proactive customer service

It is often said the best form of marketing is word of mouth. So train your staff and yourself to be genuinely, cheerfully helpful. And don’t wait until there’s a problem with a particular customer. Give great service from the beginning of the relationship, even before they have purchased your product or service. In addition providing standout service after the sale will help set the stage for future referrals and boost sales to your current customer base.

Small businesses often overlook the importance of customer service as a differentiating factor for prospects and customers.

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Build a website that serves as your online marketing hub (and drive traffic to it)

It’s imperative that you drive traffic to your website. How? That can involve SEO, email marketing, PPC, and even offline marketing. You need ample traffic to your site. But that’s only a piece of the online marketing puzzle.

What do you do with these visitors when they land on your site? How do they respond? Are they immediately turned off and quickly leave, never to return? Do they spend time on your site? Does their interest and curiosity about about how you can help them deepen and intensify? Do they return to your site again and again?

The right copy and content, and the right conversion-oriented design all play a huge part in attracting and converting your website visitors into customers.

“Things that matter the most, must never be at the mercy of things which matter the least.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If a viral video, likes, follows, shares and so on help you grow your business and make more sales, great! But pursuing social stardom and virality instead of a smart, well-rounded marketing strategy can prevent you from getting the sales you need to thrive (or survive). When deciding what marketing initiatives to pursue in your small business take this advice from John Carmack to heart; “Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.”