Here’s to the Little Guys
National Small Business Week was June 17 – 21. Let’s celebrate with some marketing tips and inspiration for your small business.
I love this definition of an entrepreneur:
I understand the struggles of running what I fondly call a “micro business,” and oh boy does it ever take a considerable amount of initiative. The smallest businesses don’t have even one full-time person dedicated to marketing, let alone a whole team. They have limited financial resources to invest. But there are plenty of things you can do to promote yourself, your products or your services, and let prospective customers know what you have to offer.
Make a Commitment by Making a Plan
Just like the all the myriad things you “should” do, you are unlikely to carry out a marketing plan if you don’t have one. If you can’t afford a significant marketing budget, you’re going to have to invest with your time. Making a commitment to what you’ll do on a regular basis to promote yourself (even if your plan is to hire a marketing intern) is just as important as sending out invoices, paying the bills or “making the donuts.” The following dozen tips are all good marketing strategies to add to your plan.
1. Know Your Audience
Customize your marketing efforts to your target. Who needs (and can afford) your services or products? What are their demographics? What are their interests? Knowing this can tell you where to find them and offer hints for synergistic marketing (see #9).
2. Have a Website
Having a website is a critical part of your marketing plan. If you need to create or redesign your website, see my planning article from last month. Or maybe you already have a great site that offers relevant, useful content to your audience, showcases your work or your services, and has a compelling offer and/or call to action. Don’t forget you need to market that website too, so people can find it!
3. Update Your Website
Unless you’d like your website to serve as nothing more than a digital business card—meaning no one knows about it until you hand it to them and then they look at it once and forget about it—you have to update your content. Remember, search engines love fresh content. Your target audience should find your content useful (educational, interesting, funny, helpful, desirable). You’ll also want to communicate how you can benefit your clients or customers. What do they gain by coming to you?
4. Make it Searchable
Two quick ways to optimize your site for searches include assigning a unique title tag to every page of your site and making use of the “description” meta tag. Learn more about search engine optimization with Google’s SEO Starter Guide. If you would like help writing or implementing those tags, contact me.
5. Leverage What You Already Have
Regularly ask yourself if you have relevant content that you could be uploading to your website (new photos, client testimonials or case studies, affiliations and awards).
6. Maintain Relationships
Look at your current clients, customers and those in your professional network. Stay in touch with your customers and offer incentives to return.
7. Ask for Testimonials and Recommendations
You know who your happy clients and customers are. Ask them to write a review or testimonial for your website. Ask colleagues to write a recommendation on LinkedIn and get permission to use it on your site.
8. Share Your Expertise
- Write an article and post it on your own site or submit it to a site that specializes in your focus area (ideally one that has a lot of traffic).
- Write an article for a trade (B2B) or local (B2C) magazine.
- Give a presentation. If you’ve already presented, share the slides. Yes, for free! Or create an e-book from your presentation and offer it as a free PDF download from your site in exchange for names and emails of prospects.
Giving away useful information builds your credibility as a trusted expert.
9. Use Synergy
Is there a complementary business you could do a cooperative promotion with, share an advertising bill with, or refer clients to one another? Example: a veterinarian and a dog groomer. When you visit one, you get a coupon or special offer to visit the other.
10. Do Good
Get involved with an important social or charitable cause in your community by selling tickets for—or offering to host—an event or benefit.
11. Online Networking & Social Media
- Create profiles on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, and make sure you are linking back to your website.
- Sync your blog posts with your LinkedIn profile to create more linkbacks. Need help with this? Just ask.
- If you are a member of professional organizations that offer online profiles, make sure you have basic profiles set up that tell what you offer and list your contact information and website address.
Should you dive into Twitter and Facebook too? Depends on whether your customers are there and how badly you want to use that channel to reach them. Building up Facebook likes and posting your daily specials is a great idea for a restaurant. It’s free advertising that might be seen by customers who like your food. But what if you are running a law firm? This Forbes article argues that Facebook is a bad investment for small businesses with a limited budget. This question could fuel an article of its own, but I think social media should be considered on a case-by-case basis according to your target market and your resources.
12. Communicate and Drive Traffic to Your Site
- Make sure your web address is on your business card and any communications you send out. This is mandatory.
- Start an e-mail newsletter with relevant, useful information. People are literally bombarded with information, so reference something that will be useful or interesting or make them an offer. Don’t send this to people who may not know who you are and if there’s any doubt, ask for permission.
- Not ready to start a newsletter? Send just one e-mail to the relevant contacts in your address book offering a reason to visit your site along with a link to it. Always remember to BCC when you are sending to multiple recipients so you don’t accidentally reveal recipients’ e-mail addresses to each other.
200 Marketing Weapons by Jay Conrad Levinson. The site is “loud” but there are a lot of free-to-implement ideas in this list.
The Beginners Guide to SEO from moz.com