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The Hierarchy of Marketing Needs: How to Scale Your Marketing Strategy as Your Business Grows

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is—in my humble opinion—one of the more fascinating aspects of consumer psychology. For those unfamiliar, Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who argued that human needs were arranged in a hierarchy, with physiological needs—the things we need to survive—at the bottom, and the more intellectual and creative needs at the top. Humans must meet their needs at each level before “advancing” to the next tier, for example, humans must have access to basic survival necessities—food, air, water, shelter, clothing, etc.—before they will be motivated enough to focus on safety and security needs: their health, career, asset acquisition, and social needs. Then, once those needs are met, they will find motivation to seek out love and belonging: friends, intimacy, and a greater sense of connection with their communities. And on and up we go.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Well, we’re no Abraham Maslow, but we’ve identified a hierarchy of marketing needs that works much the same way: the most basic “must have” marketing needs are at the bottom of the hierarchy, with more advanced strategies at each level moving up. This should serve as a helpful guide for small businesses that are unsure which marketing strategies to integrate as they continue to grow and scale.

hierarchy of marketing needs
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level 1: branding, website, and promotions

Branding isn’t just for big businesses. It’s arguably the most crucial component of a successful marketing strategy—no matter how big or small your business may be. Your brand is your identity! It gives consumers something to remember and relate to, and reinforces the credibility and professionalism of your business—businesses with strong branding look more “real” than businesses without branding. There are so many benefits of branding, and the branding basics include:

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Logo design

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Website with Google Analytics

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Corporate ID: business cards, letterhead etc.

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Font selection

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Storefront signage and product packaging, if applicable

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At this most basic level of marketing, you’ll also want to get a promotional strategy in place. This could include:

  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Referral programs
  • Sales, discounts, and special offers

As you’re just getting started, you’ll want to focus on driving customer loyalty and generating word-of-mouth referrals. Assuming you have a kick-ass product or service, this shouldn’t be hard—but you should incentivize it anyway. It’s incredibly difficult to get consumers to take action without there being something “in it” for them.

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Level 2: Digital Presence: Basic SEO, Google My Business, and Social Media Profiles

With your basic branding needs met, it’s time to increase the size of your digital footprint, so more people can find you organically. This will involve some foundational search engine optimization (SEO) work, getting your Google My Business profile set-up and optimized, and setting up as many social media profiles as makes sense for your business.

Implement a Basic SEO Foundation

To set some expectations, a basic SEO foundation is NOT going to be enough to get your website the #1 spot in Google. Targeting that top spot requires a higher-level strategy, and much more time, attention, monitoring, maintenance, and—of course—money. However, to set yourself up for SEO success in the future, there are a few foundational elements to put in place (and we strongly recommend hiring a professional for this work—friends don’t let friends DIY their SEO strategies).

  1. Optimize your website for speed and performance. This may include serving your website through a CDN, reducing the size of your images, and otherwise employing technical strategies for performance enhancement: limiting the number of HTTP requests, combining and minifying CSS and JavaScript files, and optimizing the way your website caches files.
  2. Verify your website in Google Search Console, and submit your sitemaps
  3. Perform some SEO keyword research and identify the keywords and long-tail phrases that you’d like to optimize your site for. We like to choose 3–4 primary keywords that will be used ubiquitously throughout the site, and then an alternative focus keyword for each individual page. Choose keywords that have a high volume of search, but not a ton of competition—this is easier said than done, and will require some thoughtful reasoning.
  4. Develop optimized page titles, meta-descriptions, permalinks/URL structures, and image alt-tags using your pre-selected SEO keywords; update on-page content to include your selected keywords in headings and body copy. Cross-link your keywords with other pages on your website, as it makes sense to do so.
  5. Consistently improve your website content to better match search intent. You can review the top 10-or-so pages that come up in Google search for your targeted keyword, and see what they’re doing to earn their position. How much content do they have? How is their content structured? What kinds of images are they including? Absolutely do NOT copy their content (or even re-write their content), but get a feel for the general volume, structure, and format, and then develop your own content. Your content should follow Google’s E-E-A-T principle by showing your experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Set up and Verify Your Google My Business profile

Google My Business plays a huge role in local search and SEO performance, as well as in new customer acquisition—but before you can start collecting those valuable-as-gold Google reviews, you need to have a strong profile. To set yours up, go to business.google.com and follow the prompts. It’s a pretty straightforward process.

A note about ethics here: lots of businesses try to employ shady techniques with their Google My Business profiles to gain more traction in local search. While some get away with it, others end up getting blacklisted…and, trust us, you do NOT want that to happen! Avoid keyword stuffing your profile, setting up profiles for “fake” locations, or otherwise trying to trick the system. In the long-run, it will backfire. Google does NOT like being fooled, and will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger…by yanking your profile and making it nearly impossible to reinstate.

Set up Your Social Media Profiles

Set your business up with profiles on as many social media channels as possible—even if you don’t have content or the capacity to start generating content, it’s okay. Each social media profile will make you more visible online, while creating valuable, authentic backlinks to your website—which will increase the size of your digital footprint and ultimately improve your SEO performance.

Must-have social media channels include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • X (whether you need this platform is actually debatable, but for the sake of backlink building, we’re saying it’s a must, at least for now…)
  • YouTube

We also recommend setting up profiles on TikTok and Threads, as well as on local-focused platforms, like Next Door, and Yelp (just know that Yelp will call and hound you to advertise on their platform).

Just having these profiles set-up and populated is enough at this level of the hierarchy. We’ll talk about how to get started actually using these platforms in the section below.

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Level 3: Social Media Marketing, Content Marketing, Email Marketing & Advanced SEO

Now that your digital presence has been established, it’s time to get a little more active with your marketing strategy. Social media marketing, content marketing, and some more advanced SEO techniques come into play here.

Social Media Marketing

The benefits of social media marketing are extensive. Not only is promoting your business across social media completely free (not accounting for the cost of your time), but it can help increase brand awareness, assert your credibility and expertise, drive traffic to your website, connect and engage with your community, keep your business at the top of your audience’s minds, and—in general—improve the entire user experience.

What should you post to social media? Here are a few ideas:

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Inspiring or entertaining quotes, laid out in an eye-catching graphic
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Tips, tricks, and useful education

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Media spotlights

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Customer testimonials

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Client success stories

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Highlight sales or special promotions

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Fun facts about your industry, product, or service

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Videos

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Showcase your corporate culture

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Each social media platform will have different formatting requirements and user engagement trends to consider, so it’s worth taking time to understand the nuances of each social media platform.

In social media marketing, it’s so important to keep your content 90% non-promotional. This is a platform that helps build trust with your audience.

It’s not the place for the “hard sell,” unless you truly have a great sale or promotion in place. We like to say that it should feel like you’re giving away a little too much information for free (and, case in point, this article is filled with tips and tricks essentially teaching you how to do our job).

Employing the same strategy on each platform and being overly promotional are just a few of several social media marketing mistakes to avoid. You’ll also want to make sure you get personal and engage authentically with your audience.

Content Marketing

Content marketing describes the process of curating and sharing blogs, videos, e-Books, infographics, and other content that doesn’t outrightly promote your product or service. Rather, your content should pique curiosity in your product or service, and position your brand as a thought-leader and industry authority.

An added benefit of content marketing is that it is hugely valuable for search engine optimization. Quality content will attract people to your website organically, while also:

  • Educating your audience, and showing them how your product or service can help solve a problem they may be experiencing
  • Generating leads, especially when you have quality of a high enough caliber that you can “gate it” with an email capture
  • Strengthening the relationship between your business and its customers by asserting your brand’s core values

Creating content is important, if not incredibly time-consuming. Most business leaders have endless ideas for content they want to create: a blog about this, a video about that, an e-Book, a video masterclass…

But these ideas rarely come full circle because leaders are busy being leaders. That’s why companies hire agencies like ours: a professional can help take your great content ideas and bring them to fruition.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is another cost-effective way to keep your brand in front of an already-engaged audience—after all, if they’re in your email database, they have most likely interacted with your company on some level in the past.

The benefits of email marketing include:

  • Impressive ROI: on average, marketers generate $36 for every $1 spent on email marketing
  • Distribute all that great content you’re already creating, and drive traffic back to your website
  • Bolster top-of-mind awareness
  • Promote new products, services, sales, or promotions

A few quick tips about getting started with email marketing:

  • Segment the heck out of your email contacts: use tags that can help you better personalize your email outreach based on user demographics, interests, or what stage of the sales cycle they’re in
  • Don’t use too much imagery: the more images in an email, the more likely it is to be filtered into your user’s spam box
  • User merge fields to personalize subject lines and email salutations with first names, company names, and more

As you get more advanced with email marketing, you can even set up nurturing campaigns and automations to follow-up with someone who, say, downloaded a free e-Book on your website, or to remind a client to leave you a review, or to encourage audience members to connect with your brand on social media.

Are you starting to see how all these components work together to make magic happen?

Advanced SEO

Your content marketing and social media marketing efforts will contribute to improved search engine rankings by default, but there are a few advanced SEO strategies you can fold into the marketing mix to further boost your rankings:

  • For long pieces of content, include a “Key Takeaways” section at the top, or an executive summary. This will decrease your time-to-value and decrease your bounce rate while increasing dwell time.
  • Cross-link between your content—you’ll see we’ve done that in this article, here, by linking to other articles we’ve written about interrelated topics.
  • Use FAQ and Q&A schema where appropriate
  • Build your web of backlinks through paid advertising, submitting guest blogs to reputable websites, and through public relations
  • Try to take over featured snippets, which show at the top of Google results
  • Search for mentions of your company online, and reach out to the publisher to ask about adding a link back to your website

SEO is a wildly robust (and wildly time-consuming) strategy that requires constant monitoring and maintenance…plus consistency, and—most importantly—patience. These advanced SEO tactics are best implemented by a qualified agency, since many of them require programming knowledge.

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Level 4: Social Media Advertising and Pay-Per-Click Ads/Google Ads

Spending money on advertising is scary. But here’s the thing: the marketing tactics in the first three tiers of our hierarchy are long-term strategies. It will take some time for them to really gain traction. Advertising is much more immediate, and—if managed properly—should generate positive ROI. Two of the most popular online advertising channels are social media advertising and pay-per-click ads/Google Ads.

Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising—specifically Facebook and Instagram advertising—is an affordable way to make your foray into the world of advertising. The “entry-level” way to dive in is by boosting the content you’re already posting. This can increase the reach and visibility of your content, and get your brand in front of a much bigger audience. Boost as many posts as you can—even a $5 budget will earn you more exposure. Plus, boosting your posts with the objective of engagement will generate a lot of post likes…giving you the opportunity to invite each of those users to like or follow your page.

At a higher level, running social media advertising campaigns is a better strategy when the goal is conversions. If you want users to download your free e-Book, gain access to your on-demand video masterclass, schedule a consultation, or simply contact you, a social media advertising campaign is what you’re looking for.

The budget you need for your campaigns to be effective will vary from industry to industry, and from location to location. We run social media advertising campaigns for clients across the country—from Massachusetts to Oregon, Alabama to California, Georgia to Texas—and we’ve found that a $40/day budget for a campaign that runs for 10-days generates pretty rock solid results. However, take this with a grain of salt—there is no hard and fast rule, and the best way to find out what budget works for you is to just get started.

As you grow your social media advertising strategy, there are all kinds of fancy targeting and retargeting strategies you can employ. It’s a bit outside the scope of this article to get too deep into that, but if you are interested in learning more about these advanced social media advertising techniques, please contact us or subscribe to our email list.

Pay-Per-Click/Google Ads

Pay-per-click ads—most typically Google Ads—come at a higher cost than their social media counterparts, but can be highly effective for targeting consumers who are specifically looking for your product or service.

To run Google Ads effectively, it’s important to create a dedicated landing page that follows Google’s best practices:

  • Make sure your headline is powerful, and focuses on the benefit of your product or service
  • Use an eye-catching image that supports your call-to-action
  • Write compelling content, rich with appropriate keywords (but avoid keyword stuffing—keyword use should feel natural)
  • Include a powerful and clear call-to-action: download the e-Book, schedule a consultation, contact us, request your free whatever-your-offer-is…
  • Make sure your lead form displays “above the fold,” so users don’t have to scroll to access it
  • Strip out all navigation and external links—you want to keep people on your landing page
    Make sure your page is responsive across all devices, loads quickly, and doesn’t include any pop-ups.

Google does make it easy for the layperson to set up an ad campaign—the Google Ads platform will walk you through the process step-by-step…but we don’t recommend going that route. Remember, Google wants your money, so their automated campaign set up tools will often waste more of your budget than you would want. Working with an agency to set up, monitor, manage, and maintain your ads is the way to go.

As for budget, again, there is no hard and fast rule. Every industry will demand a different daily spend, and as competition increases or decreases around the keywords you’re targeting, your advertising budget will need to change accordingly. We’ve seen companies succeed with a spend of $8/day, and other companies struggle to keep up with a spend of $150/day. Like with social media advertising, the best way to get started with pay-per-click or Google Ads is just to dive in and get started (but with professional guidance, of course).

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Level 5: “Big Ticket” Brand Awareness: Billboards, Print Ads, Event Sponsorships, Etc.

With Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, very few people ever reach the top tier of self-actualization, or—if they do—they pop in and out of it as life changes and evolves. The same is true with our hierarchy: not every company will reach the stage where it makes sense to invest in “big ticket” marketing strategies.

For those companies who have room in their budgets and are looking to really hammer home their brand’s presence, initiatives like billboards, print ads, event sponsorships, TV/streaming ads, and radio ads may be appropriate. It is difficult (if not impossible) to track the efficacy of initiatives like these, but companies that invest heavily in brand marketing are the companies that remain standing when the economy tanks.

As a general guide, we hope this information helps you understand which marketing strategies to employ as your business grows, and which marketing strategies are “must haves” along the way. Every business is different, so if you’re interested in discussing your company’s unique needs, please contact us using the brief form below, or shoot an email to info@birdhousemarketing.com. We can’t wait to help you do more of whatever it is you do!

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Written by Robin Agricola

Robin is the founder and CEO of Birdhouse Marketing & Design. She holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing from UMass Boston, as well as undergraduate degrees in Marketing Communications and Creative Writing from Emerson College. She founded Birdhouse Marketing & Design, LLC in 2012, and the rest is history.

December 8, 2023

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