When budget is tight it’s critical to ensure the marketing tools you’re investing in are “must haves”, or your precious resources (both time and money) will be wasted.

Give some thought to this check list of what I believe are “must do” marketing tools for small businesses.  These low cost, high return tools provide small businesses with the advantage they need to cut through the noise and get their messages heard without breaking their budget.

If you don’t believe you’re delivering 10/10 in all areas, set aside a small amount of budget and invest to improve them immediately.  Your business will thank you for it!

1.  Responsive website

If you don’t know what a responsive website is, you probably haven’t got one! It’s not an overstatement to say that today, if you don’t have a website, you don’t exist as a business. However these days, with the number of users on devices of all different sizes, it’s critical that your website “responds” well, ie. your website should adapt to the optimum size for the device your customer is using – whether that be a mobile phone, a Smartphone or a tablet.  If it does not, your website will lose legibility, formatting and clarity… and, more than likely than not, you’ll lose the customer.

2.  Lead generation tactic

The #1 objective of websites owned by small businesses should be to generate leads.  Make a compelling offer attached to an enquiry form. Offer something of value in return for signing up to your database.  This is the basic principle of inbound marketing.  “Offer it and they will come!”  Make the offer motivating and make it easy for them to obtain.

3.  Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Search engines are the new Yellow Pages – in Australia predominantly Google.  Consumers use it to find anything and everything. So these days, it’s not good enough to simply have a website. Your website must be fully optimised. This does not mean investing in a pay per click campaign (whilst at times they have merit), I’m talking about organic optimisation.  A strategy is critical for this, and the right keywords, but done right any additional spend on pay per click is minimised, hopefully avoided completely.

4.  Multi purpose marketing

The principle behind multi purpose marketing is leverage. For one thing you do, make it count for 6 things! For every blog post you write, blast it out via multiple social media channels. For every flyer you produce put the content on your website (and optimise it). The concept lends itself perfectly for time poor small businesses that can’t afford to waste a second of unnecessary time on anything. Not only will your customers see you/hear you more often, but Google will love you too!

5. Social media

If you’re not yet convinced about the importance of social media, then let me give you two additional reasons you need to get on board!  1) Social media is brilliant for multi purpose marketing – and making what you do, count 10 times every time you do it – and 2) Social media should always be part of a solid SEO strategy.  The specific social channels to use vary depending on your business type and objectives, but don’t ignore Google+ and YouTube.  Video is a marketing tactic you absolutely must nail, once you’ve got this list of 6 “must haves” taken care of.  (And YouTube is owned by Google so it can’t hurt your search rankings.)

6.  Consistent contact

Once upon a time in the big old world of traditional advertising, I was taught the 3+ frequency rule of thumb.  Essentially this meant that consumers needed to see/hear your message 3 times before it was effective, ie. affected an opinion, changed behaviour etc. This is based on human nature.  Familiarity, leads to curiosity/interest, leads to intent, leads to trial etc. For small businesses, there’s no big media budget, but the same principle can be applied to other communication tools.  Email marketing for example – hence the important of lead generation.  And social media is a very inexpensive communication tool for maintaining consistent contact.  My mantra (perhaps it should be yours) is every customer is a potential future customer and/or every customer is a potential brand advocate, spreading the word about your business. Hence the need to stay in touch.

So there you have it, the 6 marketing tactics I believe small businesses should be doing to get ahead and keep on top in 2014.