Whether you're in the process of launching a new business or already have one, having a strong online presence for your brand is extremely important.
97% of people learn about local businesses online more than anywhere else.
Small business owners looking for a way to track ROI and brand awareness need digital marketing. Not only is digital marketing a must-have for promoting your products or services, but optimising your online assets is also critical to your business' overall success.
Marketing attracts prospects, prospects become buyers, and buyers provide profit. But marketing is more than just putting your business name out into the world. The Small Business Administration has a marketing 101 course that states:
Marketing is everything an organisation does to build a relationship between the company and the consumer.
This explanation of marketing is more relevant today than ever, especially since consumers expect businesses to be engaged and responsive.
To this end, one of the smartest things a small business owner can do for their business is to take the time to develop a small business marketing plan that will set them apart from the competition. A marketing plan clearly outlines how you will reach your ideal customers by effectively implementing your marketing strategy.
There are thousands of ways you can promote your small business. With the right mix of activities, you can identify and focus on the most effective marketing tactics for your small business. Here is a list of 101 small business marketing ideas to get you thinking about all of the different ways you can promote your business.
Small Business Marketing Strategies
These strategies are fundamental as you generate awareness and revenue for your organisation:
Know your audience.
A key mistake is thinking that "anyone" is your buyer. Larger companies may be able to appeal to a wide market, but they say, "the riches are in the niches" for a reason. A niche is where you'll have the most leverage as a small business. And to develop a niche and appeal to buyers within the niche, you must understand their pains, problems, triggering events, and priorities.
What is pushing them to make a purchasing decision? What does it look like if they succeed? Knowing these things will help you craft messaging that resonates and makes a compelling case for your solution.
Start by thinking about your existing customers and who you'd like to work with. Then, create a buyer persona to start the process of getting into the head of your ideal client.
Emphasise your value proposition.
If there's no difference between you and your competition, there's no reason why a buyer would be compelled to work with you. Your value proposition is what will differentiate you from others in your space and make up your prospects' minds that you're the provider to go with. What do you do better than anyone in the industry? Conveying, this makes a compelling argument.
Keep the focus on singular goals and objectives.
If you're exploring the world of marketing, you may have noticed that there are a gazillion directions you can go in. It's tempting to do it all at once and craft a complicated machine in hopes that you covered all your bases, and it's easy to take on too much.
Instead, identify where the biggest impact will be. Where is the biggest blind spot in your marketing that's prohibiting your growth? Set a performance goal around that one key area and focus your resources on the activities and tactics that will achieve that one performance goal. You can expand your efforts or pivot to other initiatives when you've made more progress toward that singular goal.
Capitalise on short-term plays.
Start scrappy. As you scale, it's critical to see ROI sooner. This will give you the momentum and cash flow to put toward larger projects, long-term plays, and more sustainable growth models.
Tactics that take time to build (such as SEO) are poor fits for your primary initiatives because you won't see a return soon enough for your liking. If you have enough resources to start there, great, but don't put all your eggs in that basket.
If you have evidence that people are taking to Google with purchasing intent for your particular solution, you may find that paid ads will give you that short-term ROI.
Double-down on what works.
Once you have your initiatives running and you've experimented with a few things, pay attention to the data. This can inform you of what's working. As you scale, it's a good idea to double-down on proven methods of generating revenue.
Understand the power of existing customers.
It costs, on average, five times more to acquire a new customer than close an existing one. This means you shouldn't stop marketing once they've made a purchase.
Identify your opportunities for repeat purchasing, upselling, and cross-selling. Because your existing customers have already made a purchase, they already know, like, and trust you. If you've provided a good experience, you've given them a reason to do business with you again should the need ever arise.
Even if the need doesn't arise (in cases where it's a one-and-done purchase with no upsell opportunities), you should still delight your customers. Word of mouth is a powerful (and free) promotional tool.
Use free promotional tools.
Speaking of free promotional tools, it's important to note that since you've committed to a limited goal and scope, there's no need to inflate your overhead with gadgets. Use free promotional tools where possible, and only commit to paid tools if you know they will drastically improve existing operations or performance. Here's a helpful list of marketing tools (some free and paid).
Craft an elevator pitch
You should be marketing all the time — wherever you are. Therefore, you need a compelling elevator pitch.
Research shows the average attention span of an adult is about six to eight seconds. That's all the time; you have to grab someone's attention.
If you successfully engage them, then you only have a little over a minute to sell them on your product or service. Invest the time to craft a killer elevator pitch. The return on your investment will pay huge dividends in terms of creating business opportunities.
Leverage your community
You don't have to think big when it comes to your marketing efforts. Think locally. What's going on in your community?
Sponsor a Little League team or a 5k charity walk/run. Print bookmarks and leave them at the local library. Get to know your ideal customer and think about how and where they spend their time.
Then search for opportunities to get in front of your customer with your marketing message.
Put together a group of synergistic, non-competitive businesses in your area and agree to cross-promote.
You can use coupons, fliers, reciprocal website links, bundled promotions or social media platforms. By collaborating, you can expand your customer base because you'll be reaching new people.
I'm a huge fan of networking. I don't think there is any better way to build a business than to get out there, shake some hands, and get to know people.
Networking requires a time commitment, and it doesn't provide instant gratification, but a strong network is one of the greatest assets any business person can have.
Give a speech
A lot of people hate public speaking. However, many organisations are looking for qualified, subject-matter experts who can present to their groups.
Take a deep breath and volunteer. You don't have to be a pro as long as the information you share is helpful to the audience. And the upside — the more you do it, the easier it gets. Plus, it positions you as a credible authority in your field.
I started my corporate career in the field of public relations, and the business has changed significantly because of technology.
Today, a small business owner can accomplish a lot without hiring a professional firm. Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out. You can respond to reporters' queries that are looking for story ideas and resources. Some are small media opportunities, but others are major media outlets that use this service too.
Ask for referrals
Don't be shy about asking for customer referrals. The majority of people say they are willing to provide a referral if asked, but very few take the initiative to do it on their own.
Referrals make it easier to get in the door with new customers. If you aren't asking for them, you are missing opportunities.
It is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. That's why establishing strong relationships with your customer base is crucial. One of the ways you can do that is by keeping in touch with people through email marketing.
Ask customers for their email address when they visit your store or website. Then, make your communications informative, helpful and professional — something your customers will look forward to receiving.
Coupons are a good way for many businesses to attract new customers. Research shows that people will go out of their way to use a coupon, proving that this method is successful in expanding their customer base.
Coupons can also generate return visits. For example, if you give a customer a coupon for a discount to use on future business, there's a high probability they'll be back.
Give it away
If someone has the opportunity to experience your product or service, chances are they will want to purchase more.
Don't be afraid to give someone a free trial or a sample. In today's economy, people are more comfortable purchasing something they have been able to experience first.
These ten inexpensive marketing strategies will help you engage customers, build relationships, and ultimately keep your brand top-of-mind. It's not always about the money you have to spend on marketing, and it's about the time and effort you put into it and above all, the relevance it has for your customers.
Profile your target markets
Trying to promote your product or service to everyone can be costly and ineffective. Grouping or segmenting your potential customers based on certain characteristics will help to focus your marketing efforts.
Generally, segmentation is based on factors such as:
- geography – location
- demographics – age, gender, education level, income, occupation
- behaviour - loyalty, attitude, readiness to buy, usage rates
- lifestyle – social class, personality, personal values.
Your target market should have a need for your product or service and be willing to pay for your offer.
Identify your unique selling proposition (USP)
A USP is a unique reason your customers buy from you and not your competitors – it's what makes your business stand out from the crowd. It is important to define what you do differently and be able to convey that to potential customers. Commonly, this reflects your special knowledge or skills.
Your USP may be having a new or unique offering or providing exceptional service. Start developing your USP by answering the following questions:
- What do you love most about your products and services?
- What special skills or knowledge do you have?
- What makes your customers come to you instead of your competitors?
- How do your customers benefit by purchasing your products or services?
- Which aspects do you generally highlight when you describe your business to strangers?
Develop your business brand
Every business, regardless of size, is likely to need a brand. A brand is more than a logo, colour or tagline. A well-articulated brand emotionally connects with your target customers and conveys who you are, what you stand for and what you can deliver.
Choose your marketing avenues.
While there are many available, consider your target audience when you are determining which to use.
Options include a business website, social media, blogging, brochure and flyers, networking events, print advertising, word of mouth, cold calling, and letter drops.
Set your goals and budget
Marketing goals will help you to define what you want to achieve through your marketing activities. Your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based.
You will also need to allocate a budget to your marketing activities. Your marketing budget will need to include elements such as:
- website development and maintenance
- search engine optimisation strategy
- design of branding
- printing of promotional material (business cards, brochures, signage, etc.)
- donations and sponsorships
- Employing staff to undertake marketing activities.
Essential Tools for Good Business Marketing
If you're armed with the marketing essentials, you can't help but succeed in attracting new prospects and bringing in more business. Spend some time on getting your marketing toolkit in place and be prepared at all times.
A plan and a budget
Getting a plan that will support you for years to come is essential to keep you on track. It doesn't need to be as thick as War and Peace, but it does need to be written down, clearly communicated to your team and acted on day by day — even when business is booming.
A great product or service
Advertising your business has no point if the customers don't want, value or love what you have to offer. Make sure you do your research and listen to your customers before sending your product out to the market.
A professional brand
A brand is much more than a logo. It encompasses everything people see, hear, think and feel about your business. Invest up-front in developing a brand that stands out from the crowd. It'll save you money and heartache in the long run.
Powerful marketing materials
Your business card, sales brochures, sales letters, website, signage, uniforms and car decal speak volumes about your business. Make sure they look professional and appealing at all times.
An elevator pitch
In the course of marketing your business, you'll get asked thousands of times 'What do you do?' Don't make the mistake of boring the poor person who asked the question. Make sure you have a fun, interesting and memorable pitch ready at all times — and be able to deliver it in the time it takes to travel a few floors in an elevator.
A brilliant website
Your website must attract attention and give value to those who visit. Use it as a tool to retain and keep in touch with existing customers as well as for enticing new customers. The online world can be very scary to many small-business owners, but, if you don't embrace it, you may find yourself out of business.
A simple database
The backbone of all good marketing is about building a solid database of past, present and future customers (prospects) so you can keep in touch and communicate regularly via e-newsletters, emails and phone.
Top Marketing Tips for Businesses on a Low Budget
Most small-business owners, especially those starting, don't have lots of money to spend on marketing. While the adage — you need to spend money to make money — is true, you can still generate new business without having to dole out big bucks. Try a few of these tactics for a start:
- Focus on relationship-building marketing strategies such as networking, building alliances with other businesses, and calling old customers, friends and people you once worked with.
- Find people who are prepared to help you with marketing on a commission basis or a uni student who's studying marketing and might need some hands-on experience.
- Develop a marketing mastermind group with other small-business owners to share low-cost marketing ideas and refer each other to business.
- Sharpen your online marketing skills and learn how to use Google AdWords and write blogs and market yourself on social media sites.
- Promote your business on free online directories and publish your articles on other websites with links to your site.
Being smart with marketing ensures the success of your business by attracting more customers and keeping them coming back. Small business is the backbone of Australian and New Zealand local economies — and you know you need to look after your back! Whether you own a bakery or a finance business, you need no-nonsense marketing strategies to secure a greater share of the market. Empower yourself to apply clever marketing plans and ideas without breaking the bank, or your back.