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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

Online marketing

If you've got a website, you need to be doing search engine optimisation (SEO). It's as simple as that. SEO can help your website to feature prominently on search engines like Google.

So if you have a flower shop in Wigan, it's about optimising your website so that when someone types in "flower shop in Wigan" on Google, your website is at or near the top of the results list. Without SEO, you may not appear at all.

SEO is a fast-moving discipline and there's a lot of competition for the pole positions online. So SEO is something that has to be done regularly, and it pays to keep up with the latest SEO tools and techniques.

Find your keywords

It starts with optimising your website with keywords and phrases. You may already have a good idea which words people use to find your business but it's important to keep an open mind and do your research. The results may surprise you. Google's keyword planner can help you find the most popular words and phrases.

Once you've got your keywords and phrases, you need to make sure they are used in your web content and in meta tags, page descriptions, image tags and so on. This job is all about discipline but it really helps Google to find you when people search for those words or phrases.

Google is incredibly sophisticated, however, and it can spot a cynical attempt to stuff a website full of keywords. It's important to use your keywords within good quality authored content - including blogs, articles, web copy and social media. Post regularly to improve your search results even more.

Link-building

Link building is the other important aspect of SEO. The more links to your site from high-quality, relevant sites, the higher you'll rank. But tread carefully - links should never be bought, forced or acquired by dodgy means. Take time to build links naturally by offering quality content that people want to read.

Local SEO

The internet may be global, but most small firms are casting their net in their local area and their SEO strategy needs to reflect this. Using tools like Google My Business can help you rank well in local searches.

Can I do my own SEO?

If you understand the basics, it's totally possible to do SEO on a shoestring. Otherwise there are plenty of companies out there who can help you optimise your site - just make sure you do your due diligence to make sure they're not using dodgy tactics that could do you more harm than good.