As a small business, marketing may seem like a daunting task. Are big results on a small budget too much to ask for? Definitely not, just as long as you’re willing to put in some time and effort. These 25 simple marketing tips will help get your business on track for success, both on and offline!
1. Social Media. Not only is social media a vital part of any marketing strategy, it helps improve credibility and visibility. Create a Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and any other social media account that you think will benefit your business, and update regularly. Use all-in-one programs such as HootSuite to push updates to all platforms at once. Encourage employees to share photos and interesting industry related stories or articles to build a dynamic content base.
2. Google Places. Today, more people search for a business online than anywhere else. Creating a Google Places listing is free sends information straight to Google about your business. This way when anyone searches for your small business or a local junk hauler, your business details appear in search results (including location and phone number). The listing also helps Google ensure that you are a real business with a physical location.
3. Blog. Blogging about industry related topics can help you gain exposure on the web. Blog posts from an expert may be useful to someone who is just starting out in the small business realm, and can also give your customers a better idea of your knowledge and expertise. Vice-versa, blogging from a novice’s perspective is a great way to receive engagement or advice from an experienced business owner. However, be careful not to directly “sell” your business or services within a blog post (that’s what your website is for!).
4. Google AdWords. Although Google is best known for its organic search engine, it’s actually primarily an advertising platform. In fact, their advertising service makes up the majority of their revenue. If you want to ramp up your online marketing using a pay-per-click method, AdWords is the way to do it. Also, if you’ve never had an AdWords account prior, Google gives you $100 free after you spend $25 – score! You should, however, be forewarned that it only works well if you know what you’re doing, so it may be worth seeking help from an AdWords certified professional.
5. Search Engine Optimization. Also known as SEO, optimizing your website for search engines is an inbound marketing tactic that is necessary to position your business well online. It involves a number of different aspects, from making your site “crawlable” to creating a pleasant user experience, and everything in between. Like AdWords, SEO can be difficult to master, so it’s often best left to the professionals.
6. Network. Regularly attending local networking events is a good practice for any business owner. Even if it doesn’t bring in immediate leads, chances are that it will bring in business long-term. A good place to start is by attending local Chamber of Commerce events.
7. Host Events. If you’re still not sure how to connect with others in your industry, host your own event! People are always looking to network and talk about their business, so give them a chance to do this while marketing your own. Meetup is a great site to find communities that relate to your industry and create events around it. Even if at first only a few people show up, you and your brand are still getting exposure (especially if you host it in your own place of business).
8. Reviews. After you do businesses with anyone, ask them to leave you a review. This could be on your Facebook page, Yelp, your website, or even ask them to send it to you directly for promotional use. After all, prospective customers would rather hear that you’re awesome from others that have worked with you, rather than you yourself.
9. Define Your Company Culture. What is your company all about? Its mission, beliefs, and values? You may be thinking that this doesn’t matter, but defining these aspects of your business will help you and your employees grow and thrive in the long-term. Creating a great company culture can also help to attract both prospective employees and clients. For a great example of a well-defined company culture, check out HubSpot’s culture code.
10. Define Your Target Market. Defining the type of customers you want to serve can help you to better discover the appropriate marketing strategy for your business. Segmenting the market will help you to group consumers with similar needs and interests and may be beneficial when deciding who to target.
11. Find a Niche. Although being a run-of-the-mill small business may bring in customers initially, it’s not a sustainable long-term plan. Who wants to be labeled as “average” anyways? You’ll want to position yourself with a competitive advantage that no one else in your area offers. Maybe you emphasize customer service or offer a larger selection of customer than your competitors. Whatever it is – market the fact that you are different (and thus, better) than the competition!
12. Use Analytics. What if I told you that you can see where visitors from your site are located, and how long they spent on your site? With Google Analytics (GA) you can. The basic software is free and can be installed on your site with a simple HTML code. With GA you can keep track of important metrics that give you insight into who might be interested in your business.
13. Interact With Others in Your Industry. Remember that saying, “It’s all about who you know”? Well, it still is. You should constantly be interacting with other people in your industry. And by interacting, I don’t mean telling them about you and your business. Create or continue a sincere back-and-forth dialog. Engaging with industry experts online (and in person if you can manage) can help you become an expert yourself. You would be surprised how many people are willing to share their wealth of knowledge.
14. Advertise In The Right Places. The majority of people today go online to search for products and services. In today’s world of social media and smartphones, placing an ad in the yellow pages or on the radio is probably not your best bet. Research and evaluate what medium of advertising will best reach your target market, because informed marketing decisions will result in a higher ROI.
15. Join Directories. Free or paid, directories are a great way to gain your company some exposure. They are also great for SEO, because links pointing back to your site gives it credibility in the eyes of search engines. Aside from Google Local which was previously mentioned, a good place to start is the Yahoo Small Business Directory.
16. Utilize Local PR. Press releases can help to publicize major events that occur in your business. Hiring a new employee, releasing a major new product/service, or even company-wide service projects are all worthy of creating a press release. Submit your PR content to the local newspaper or business publications, or even release it on your own blog.
17. Brand Everything. From flyers to uniforms to marketing freebies, make sure that everything is branded. To get a professional look, hire a freelance graphic designer to design a logo that can be used for promotions. If you’re just starting out and have a limited budget, try using a resource like fiverr, where people charge just $5 for logo design.
18. Vanity URLS. When it comes to most social media sites, you have the option to create a custom URL (e.g., facebook.com/yourbusiness). Utilize this option as often as possible, but make sure to brand your business with the same name and vanity URL across all platforms.
19. Vanity Phone Numbers. Vanity phone numbers use a mnemonic device to change your business’ phone number into one that’s more easy to remember, such as 1-800-FLOWERS. Consider using a vanity phone number if the majority of your business comes from phone calls, or if you rely heavily on display advertising. Doing so will increase not only increase the credibility of your business but is also a great branding tactic.
20. Anticipate Trends. The business of marketing is full of trends. By keeping up with recent news and stories (try feedly), you may be able to anticipate the next best thing. Another good strategy is figuring out new trends is using agile marketing; try something, and if it fails, move on to the next experiment.
21. Create Free Content. The best way to show prospective customers your expertise is to create content and hand it out for free. Such content could be in the form of a white paper, infographic, or industry-related resource such as a glossary for industry jargon. Everyone loves free stuff, and if you do it right, you’ll create some “buzz” around your brand.
22. Email Marketing. Whether you’re an online or brick-and-mortar business, collecting email addresses is a great way to build a customer database. Using this list and an email marketing platform like MailChimp, send out a monthly or even quarterly newsletter. This could include company updates, industry news, or even your most recent blog posts. Note that you should always be transparent when collecting contact information and disclose what you plan to do with it (if you don’t, it’s called spam)!
23. Partnerships. When they’re a match, strategic partnerships can be a marketing miracle. Local events and organizations are always looking for sponsorships. If you aren’t able to contribute monetarily, consider donating your time. Either way, partnerships are a win-win situation for both parties involved; you get to help out your community and your business gets exposure.
24. Go Guerilla. Sometimes you have to think beyond the confines of traditional marketing techniques. Guerilla marketing is a low-cost, unconventional form of marketing that disrupts the daily routine to promote an idea, product, or business. Maybe a full-fledged flash mob really your style – but there are lots of ways to think outside of the box and create a brilliant campaign. To spark your imagination, take a look at this SlideShare of 10 great guerilla campaigns.
25. Budget. Always define a budget before you start spending on marketing tactics. Think about how much you can reasonably spend within the confines of your revenue while taking ROI into consideration. Don’t be afraid to stretch your budget if a brilliant marketing opportunity comes along – but be careful to only spend within your means and with the best interest of the business in mind.