For small businesses, good marketing can be a gamechanger. It can be the difference between spending hours and hours pitching and making cold calls, and having a crowd of potential clients beating down your door.
Marketing for small businesses is not just about selling your product. Of course, a successful marketing presence makes you more visible to potential customers, make valuable contacts with clients and other organisations in your sector, and attract new business. But it also helps you to shape your own brand, to define exactly what you want to be, and to understand how others perceive and interact with your business. Good marketing engages with your audience, and helps you to develop a relationship with them, adding value and entertaining as well as selling and attracting.
For some people, good marketing can seem out of reach. Some small business owners look at the marketing campaigns run by large companies and feel like there is no way to compete, and no way that anything they do can be effective as a result. However, and luckily for all of us who run our own small businesses, this is absolutely not the case!
These days there are a bunch of simple and inexpensive things that small businesses can do to supercharge their marketing efforts, particularly when it comes to having a strong digital presence. I’ve pulled together some of the best hints, tips and advice that I’ve found, and hopefully sharing this will be useful for anyone else out there trying to shine a bit more light on their brand!
Everything you do to promote your business and engage with your chosen audience can be considered marketing. There are loads of different approaches, methods and tools, and it’s usually a good idea to take a pick ‘n’ mix approach, to maximise your reach and get the best bang for your buck!
For small businesses it is particularly important to use a good blend of digital and offline marketing. Digital marketing techniques tend to dominate these days, particularly when it comes to the cheaper end of the spectrum, but getting the balance right is vital, as more traditional, offline marketing methods can be more effective when it comes to actually engaging with people, and showing a personal touch.
One of the most important things in marketing in general is knowing who your audience is, and speaking directly to them, rather than just throwing your message out there and hoping for the best!
For small businesses with limited budgets and even more focused target markets, this is particularly important. When it comes to social media, you want to make sure that you aren’t wasting your efforts speaking to an uninterested or unengaged audience.
So do your research, and make sure that your main social media platforms are the ones where the people you want to speak to are, and make sure your messages are targeted appropriately. Social media done correctly is an area where you can build great relationships, shape your brand, and entertain, so making sure you are entertaining the right people is vital!
People online tend to be busy, move fast, and have short attention spans. Visual content is the most attractive and effective way of grabbing their attention, while still pushing your message.
Best of all, producing good visual content is quick, simple, and free! Put some thought into how you want to curate your feeds, with a good mix of inspiring images and more traditional promotional messages, and always aim to be as engaging as possible.
Online marketing and social media in particular allows you to connect directly to your audience and potential customers, and to develop a real ‘personality’ for your brand. It is a wonderful opportunity to show the ‘human’ side of your business, and to build strong links between you and your customers.
Things like Instagram Stories and Twitter Polls are great tools for this. They allow you to show a more relaxed, casual, even playful side to your business, and to speak to and engage directly with you audience. Carrying out Q&As or offering sneak peaks, teasers or behind-the-scenes glimpses are usually very successful methods.
One of the most important about your online marketing is to keep up a steady flow of content. Not only does this give you plenty of opportunities to advertise your brand or services, and keep your business in the thoughts of your customers, but it is vital for SEO and your Google ranking, which makes you easier to find online.
When it comes to SEO, although visual content is more engaging, written content is just as important. Try and keep your website updated with regular written content, whether it is news, interesting information, or just an ongoing blog.
Email marketing remains a great way to talk to people directly, particularly if you’ve got a good mailing list (although do make sure you are up to speed on your GDPR compliance!). When sending out emails to previous and potential customers however, it is really important to add value to their inbox. Make sure you are offering a great read, with interesting tidbits and even exclusive access or promotions. You want people to be excited to see your email drop, and ensure great open rates whenever you get in contact.
If you are lucky enough to have a large mailing list, then being targeted with what you send out becomes super important. Sending the same stuff to everyone can be a real turn-off, and can lose you subscribers very quickly. Segmenting your list, and sending bespoke mails that are targeted at people’s specific interests, is the best way to engage your audience and ensure they pay attention to what you have to say.
Small business owners thrive on making connections in their local area, and taking advantage of the ability to place themselves at the heart of their community and use pre-existing networks to broaden their reach. Team up with other local businesses and take advantage of each other’s referral networks and customer relationships. A shared community helps grow everyone’s business.
Don’t forget about print
Now that digital marketing is such a big deal, many small businesses forget about print entirely…but this is a mistake! Print marketing still has a huge role to play, particularly on a local level, and can often feel far more personal and bespoke. It is also far more long-lasting than digital tools, and leaves a longer and stronger impression. Flyers, postcards, business cards, and even print ads in local newspapers are a great way to build your profile in your local area.
Or more specifically, build useful relationships with local press and stakeholders. News coverage gives you authenticity, and is great at raising awareness in your community. If you’ve built relationships and got to know the right people, then sending out a press release for a launch or a newsworthy event is far more likely to get traction. A good contact list of journalists and local writers and bloggers can get your business and your brand out there, through trusted, reliable broadcast channels.
Shoot for the moon
Another great idea is to try out for an award or a certification. There are a whole host of small awards that recognise things like customer service, design, innovation etc, and being recognized, even just on the shortlist, can be a real boost for your public profile, as well as increasing confidence and morale internally! A certification or an award win also looks great on marketing materials, and never fails to impress new customers.
Creative marketing approaches can be both free of charge and incredibly engaging. Guerilla marketing, ie inserting your brand into an unusual public space in a creative and exciting way, will really get people talking. Chalking messages on the pavement, or putting up custom stickers in surprising locations is an easy and cheap way of raising awareness of your brand. Just make sure you research local byelaws and ensure you stay on the right side of the law!
Marketing your small business doesn’t have to be hard, complicated or expensive. With a little creativity you can carry out loads of great, simple and effective marketing tactics that will ensure your public profile is high, and your business is being spoken about in all the right places.