Ten Effective Ways To Market Your Small Business
Successful marketing is integral to the survival of small businesses. It’s key to wining and keeping loyal customers. Smart marketing attracts the customer base your business needs and keeps them coming back. With these ten steps and processes, you’ll be well on the way to becoming a marketing genius.
The Initial Stages
Before you can implement any of these strategies for marketing your business, though, there are a few things you’ll need to do.
– Research and get the appropriate level of marketing know-how. Knowing what to do and what not to do will serve you well when you’re suddenly stuck trying to implement a campaign at four in the morning.
– Understand your customers. What customer base is your business aiming for? Who would be interested in the service your business provides? This will help you target the right people with the right strategy. Appealing to the people who need and will be interested in using your business is the secret to longevity.
– Understand that marketing is not advertising. Advertising is a useful tool for attracting customers, but know what marketing is and isn’t so you know what you’re doing and why.
– Have clear and defined goals. There’s no point in developing a really clever strategy if it doesn’t bring in new business.
Now that you understand the basics – and how to focus your efforts – it’s time to talk about how to market your business.
1. Create a brand image
Brand recognition gives your business credibility and inspires others to spread the word about that business. Good branding develops an image of a company’s product and services in the minds of consumers; goods are identified with qualities or characteristics that are attractive to the target audience. The positive sentiment that comes from good branding means you can command higher prices, improve the effectiveness of your advertising, and increase product acceptance. This ‘brand experience’ can lead to greater customer loyalty – you have worked to build a relationship and have created an expectation of trust. A strong brand image creates an association with certain qualities, setting your business apart from the services and/or products of your competitors. A well-managed brand image makes your business more appealing and relevant to your desired
This can come in two parts:
– Having a distinctive and memorable logo. Customers, competitors, and other businesses should associate your brand with an image, or logo. Use your logo on business stationary, business cards, email signatures, brochures, signs, websites, and merchandising materials.
– Having a clear brand style. All your materials, whether they’re leaflets, tweets, email newsletters, or your website, should reflect the same voice and tone.
2. Harness The Power of Social Networks and Media
Social media marketing is the darling of small business because it’s easy, cheap, and will often benefit from the input of dedicated customers. An established community of customers can advertise your business by word of mouth for absolutely nothing. Effective marketing on social media can take a little time and effort, but it’s an invaluable tool for the modern business.
– The key to business success is knowing your customers. Social media makes this incredibly easy. You’ll be able to see what your potential customers are looking for, what they’re talking about, and you’ll get to know what they want. This information will allow you to improve your services and adapt what you’re providing accordingly.
– Social media enables you to deal with customer comments, questions, and concerns
instantly. Although you may have a dedicated receptionist or phone answering service, customers now expect businesses to communicate with them on their terms, which, these days, is often about communicating on social media. Using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter means you’ll be addressing and talking to customers in a public format – and in the process displaying the quality of your customer service and the transparency of your business. Some 71% of customers who receive a quick response on social media say they are more likely to recommend that brand to others.
– Businesses can spread the word about their services with just the click of a button. Social media now accounts for a huge amount of referral traffic on the internet. It takes roughly six to eight exposures to a product before a customer decides to purchase. The repeat exposure of your content – such as a press release, promotional images, or viral content – through social media will shorten your sales funnel dramatically.
– Use social media to become an influencer in your industry. The more people are talking about your business on social networks, the more valuable and authoritative your business, and brand, will appear to new consumers. The more information and content you put out there, the more readers and customers will return and share your content. It’s also a great way to interact with major influencers and build a network of contacts.
Get on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Tumblr as soon as you can. It’s a very effective approach for directly interacting with customers and keeping them interested. Just take a look at this Blendtec video on YouTube; it’s a perfect example of a well-executed social marketing strategy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sbizs-qAwY
Fun and informative, these videos are designed to be shared on social media networks. They have all the ingredients to successfully go viral, but at the same time let the customer know what a great product lies at the heart of the business.
3. Build a Relationship With Your Customers
Customers are becoming more demanding and discerning in the information age. They expect businesses to go over and beyond, and if they’re unhappy, they have ways and means of expressing this thanks to the Internet, and can easily finding another business that will suit their needs. Customers no longer have to settle; they can choose the best products and brands from the any business that is to their liking. Customers want your business to treat them as individuals and invest time in building a relationship with them. People are looking for a long-lasting rapport before they’ll even consider giving you any money – so you’ve got to be on the ball right from the start.
– Open communication is vital. Think about how often you actually speak to your customers. Are you only posting or talking when you have something to sell? Make your customers feel involved and that you’re interested in more than just making a sale. Put time and effort into your online and face-to-face interactions with your customers.
– Rewards are a very simple way of saying ‘thank you’ and have practicality become expected. Whether it’s is free shipping or money off coupons, rewards make a customer feel appreciated. Customer loyalty programmes are always well received. They’re about recognising and understanding the customer and letting them gear such rewards around their own likes and dislikes.
– Good customer service can be the determining factor in repeat business. Make sure you provide your customers with the best possible service, whether it’s dealing with a specific problem or a sales enquiry (a virtual receptionist, who can deal with customer calls promptly and efficiently, can be a big help in this regard, as can a dedicated social media manager, who will quickly reply to any comments or criticisms on, say, Facebook or Twitter).
– Maintain flexibility. Make sure you’re quick and attentive to problems and complaints. Set up a strategy for dealing with different types of unhappy customer, and be adaptable when it comes to solving problems. Amazon.com is one of the largest online retailers in the entire world, but Jeff Bezos, CEO, still takes the time to write personal letters and messages on the front page of the website. The success of Amazon is assured, but he still recognises the importance of creating an emotionally valuable connection with his customers. If Amazon can do it, you have no excuse.
4. Have a Website
Do you have a business but don’t have a website? Then your business doesn’t exist, not properly. It cannot be overstated how essential it is that you have a website for your company. The first thing a customer will do when trying to find out about your services will be to look you up online. Information is critical to success in the business world, whether for new customers or for potential contacts. Your website channels attention to your products and services and should be the home of your online presence.
- Websites are a cheap and easy way of promoting and advertising your business. They also have the benefit of being environmentally friendly!
- A website is a convenient place for customers to learn about your business and to use your services. Most people would rather use your website than drive a car to your business and physically browse. In today’s world, consumers are looking to find what they want online.
- A website connects you to the entire world. With a website, you have the chance to generate customers from across the world, not just within your local community.
- You’ll never have to turn away customers because it’s closing time. A website can be visited anytime of the day or night, making your business far more accessible.
- Outdated information is no longer a problem. Websites are easily updatable to account for sudden changes or new information, whereas brochures and leaflets would incur substantial reprinting costs.
- Links are important to viral marketing. If there are lots of people on social media linking to your website, it helps to spread information about your services around the globe. A good website with good content related to information, products, or services will be shared and therefore seen as trustworthy.
- An easy way to build relationships. A website helps build better relationships with customers, and is a base for your social media marketing.
- A website with great information and content turns visitors into customers. More visitors lead to more potential sales, and the happier those customers are, the more they will return.
- A website helps prove a business’s credibility. Take the opportunity with your website to tell your customers why you deserve their trust. You can even prove to potential investors what your business is about and how valuable you are.
Your website should be clear, easy to navigate and have quick links to your social media presence, use multiple forms of content, and be designed specifically to function across the three major platforms – desktops, tablets, and smartphones. The Siemens website is a great example of a well laid out and functional site.
5. Start a Blog
Having an up-to-date and relevant website is important for keeping your visitor stats up. New content encourages people to spend longer on your site and encourages repeat visitors, and this is why it’s a good idea to have a blog. If people read and like your posts – which can be spread on your social media outlets – they’ll enjoy and respect your business all the more. A well-maintained blog gives your business a strong voice and works to enforce your brand image. It also works towards building a strong relationship with your customer base and draws traffic directly to your business.
- Blogs should be informal. The best blog posts are generally humourous, informative, or instructional in some way. They’re not about selling your product; they’re about establishing a rapport with the reader. Address your audience as ‘you’, avoid being offensive, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t to a business contact.
- Keep to a schedule. Maintain a regular schedule of content so that people know when to look and expect content.
- Use lots of different types of content. Images and videos make your written content more engaging and inviting.
- Stay on brand. The way you write and the content you post should be coherent with your business identity and also sector-relevant. The more niche your business, the more likely you are to pick up a dedicated following.
- Customers aren’t interested in day-to-day trivia. Talking about awards and unusual events is fine, but updates on the weekly team lunches (while assuredly delicious) are not going to be interesting to anyone.
- Don’t forget about social media. Include social bookmarking options (such as ‘tweet this’ and ‘like this on Facebook’ buttons) and remember to post your blogs on social media.
- Cross-promote with other blogs to draw more traffic to your site. Find non-competitive blogs with a similar audience base to yours and offer a little quid-pro-quo to drive up your traffic and search engine rankings.
- Design your homepage so the most recent blog post is displayed. This keeps the content fresh and ranks you higher on search engines.
Here’s a good example of a blog that’s got the balance right. The content is informative, humourous, and insightful about the related industry. The tone is consistent, there’s a mixture of content types, and the blog maintains a regular schedule.
6. Convert Your Customers Into Promoters
You could devote thousands of pounds and thousands of hours into trying to turn potential customers into actual ones, but why not let your current customers do that for you? People are far more likely to use a business if recommended by a friend or someone else they trust. Work on turning your customers into brand ambassadors. You’ll need to make your service and product so positive, though, that customers can’t wait to talk and post about it.
- Maintain a strong presence on social media. Promote positive interactions with customers – retweet positive reviews and compliments from customers. Use these testimonials on your website and in your marketing.
- Rewards for referrals. Give discounts to customers if someone they’re connected to – such as on Facebook or LinkedIn – buys something from your business. Lots of sites offer discounts for referring a friend.
- Seek out customers with good stories to tell. As happy as customers may be with your business and your services, they might not be willing to volunteer to become a spokesperson. After all, most people are shy about offering praise! Take the imitative and find customers with a good story to share – and consider bribing them with discounts!
- Look for genuine stories that customers want to share – do not pay for testimonials. Paid testimonials are a waste of time and money. Customers can generally tell when reviews or stories are not real, and as a result are unlikely to want to use your business.
Don’t let your customer base remain an untapped resource. Authentic stories from satisfied and eager customers are more valuable than any paid advertisement. Strive for excellence, and customers will be more than willing to market your business for free.
7. Help Out a Local Charity
Most consumers believe that businesses should support charities. When faced with a choice between two business that offered products and services for the same price, 82% of customers said that their decision would be altered by whether or not the business engaged with charities and the local community. Charity work changes customer perceptions of your brand and can get you free advertising online and in the press. Charities are not oblivious to the reasons other than kindness you have for supporting them – they will try and help you as much as they can. A partnership between you and a local charity can be mutually beneficial.
- It forms part of your brand identity. Charitable works define you as being different from your competition, and shows how you are ethical and trustworthy.
- It helps you build a good relationship with your customers. Display your charitable works on social media, your website, and your blog to show that you are dedicated to charitable causes.
- You can involve your customers. Customers will feel they’re helping good causes through using your business. You can even have charity drives (such as sponsored walks) or have the addition of donating to charity at the point of purchase. This can build a great relationship with your customers and encourage them to promote your services.
Charitable endeavours help the community and help your business become well known. TOMS, the footwear company, has explicitly made itself synonymous with social responsibility. The unique selling point of their business is that with every pair of shoes purchased, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. You may not be able to make such a huge commitment, but a consistent approach to helping charities will do endless good for your business.
8. Email Marketing
Most businesses are aware of the benefits of email marketing, but many fail to fully utilise it to its full advantage. Start as early as possible, use incentives to encourage customers to sign up, and use it as often as possible.
- Another way to connect with customers. Email marketing is twenty times more cost-effective than traditional media, and many customers will expect your business to keep in some form of contact with them. Email newsletters are a way to directly contact and interact with current, former, and potential customers, and a deeper relationship with customers is likely to be more profitable and long lasting.
- Email marketing helps you adapt your service to the customer. Email marketing allows your business to get a response to changes, sales, and promotions within 48 hours – much quicker than through face-to-face contact or traditional media. With email, everything can be tracked. You can see which customers are interested in what aspect of your business, giving you valuable feedback on what is and isn’t working.
- Another way to win customers and encourage them to promote your brand. Offering freebies, discounts, competitions, and rewards are all great ways to entice customers and get them promoting your brand.
Email marketing allows you to have a direct relationship with your customers. You can appeal to them personally, accounting for individual likes and tastes. Check out the newsletter style of quirky clothing company ModCloth and how it ties in with their brand image.
9. Have an Ongoing Optimisation Strategy
Of course, all this great work you’re putting into building a website, a blog, social media sites, and helping charities will be of little use if no one can find your business! Businesses that are optimised for the Internet can be expected to grow up to forty percent faster than those that aren’t. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a set of rules that allows websites and blogs to improve their rankings on a search engine – it’s much better to be on the first page of Google than the twenty-first. You’ll need to work on and refine your website on a regular basis, but keyword rich content and back-links will help to draw people to your business.
- First, get people to your website. Better rankings in search engine results will translate into more targeted visits to your website, and from there you have a greater chance of converting those visitors into customers.
- A high search ranking will give your business kudos. People are more likely to trust a brand that appears in the first few places of a search engine’s results. They’re not going to scroll through to the twelfth page to find your business, and even if they did, they are far less likely to be willing use your services.
- Small businesses needing to build brand awareness must invest in SEO to gain top positions over their competitors. Search engines play a huge role in building or destroying a brand. Your competitors will be investing time and money in SEO and social media marketing – you have to do it too, and do it even better to get a step ahead of them.
- Social media is important for SEO. Your social media will help your webpage rankings, and your webpage will help your social media. To achieve your goals you need both working together. Social media popularity is great for SEO purposes, and SEO will bring more visibility to your social media.
10. Get Your Business Listed
Listing your business is a simple yet great way of marketing your services and attracting new customers. No less than 97% of consumers turn to the Internet to find local businesses, so being listed will be a big boost to your Internet visibility. There are also industry-specific local directories that can help you target your customer base. Whatever you do, people are going to be searching for your business online, so make sure you’ve got all potential bases covered.
- Google Places. Google gets six billion searches every day. Getting listed on Google Places for Business will be a big boost for yours.
- Bing and Yahoo! They’re the second and third most popular search engines in the world, and both also have business listings.
- Yelp. Yelp is one of the best places on the Internet for customers to find a quality review. It’s a great place to promote your business through word of mouth.
- Yellow Pages. There are many who still swear by the Yellow Pages, which still lives on the Internet. A listing on Yell.com will give your business credibility.
- Thomson Local. It also has an online presence, and offers both free and premium listings.
- Freeindex. Freeindex is on the rise in the UK. On here your customers will be able to review and rank your services.
- UK Small Business Directory. This directory provides local business information in a micro data format to boost your local search results.
These ten effective ways of marketing will increase traffic and interest in your small business. The huge shifts in how marketing and business are done in the 21st century can seem intimidating at first, but now you know the basics, you’ll become an expert in no time.