The Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Small Business
From postcards and flyers to ad spots in circular mailings, direct mail is great way to get advertise your small business’s offerings. Direct mail can be effective when executed correctly, but does carry an expense due to printing and postage costs. To get the most out of your investment, here are some ways to ensure that your direct mailings resonate with recipients and convert them into customers:
- Do your research: Determine who your audience is and find out what they consider valuable. Then, select images and content that will catch their attention. Understanding your target market goes a long way in successful direct mail marketing!
- Provide incentives: Everyone likes a discount, free sample or incentive. Use direct mail advertising to send coupons, loyalty cards and small complimentary tester products directly to your potential customers. Make sure that you explain the incentive, and detail any exclusions or exceptions as well.
- Consider the timing: When sending out direct mailings, timing is pivotal. For example, be sure that if you are advertising time-sensitive promotion, the mailings are delivered in advance of the start date with enough notice for a potential customer to respond.
- Follow up: Sending direct mail can get your business’s name in front of people, but it may take several attempts before they respond. To see the best results, send mailings more frequently to a smaller sector of consumers, instead of once to a larger group.
As a small business owner, connecting with your customers through email is an inexpensive method that can showcase new products, communicate sales, announce changes or simply stay connected. While sending out an email is fairly straightforward, businesses must be very strategic in what they share in emails and how it is sent. This way, it isn’t marked as spam, or simply overlooked in recipients’ inboxes. Here are some quick tips:
- Make it easy to subscribe and unsubscribe: Essentially, you want to contact customers that want to receive your emails!
- Make it easy to read: Time is valuable, and most people won’t take more than a few seconds out of their day to read your email. So, make your content digestible and easy to understand.
- Make it valuable: Very few people will continue to open emails that they feel are just another sales pitch. So, be thoughtful and provide something of value. Tips, advice, how-to guides or answers to common questions are all great content ideas.
- Make it mobile friendly: With many people accessing their emails on-the-go via smart phones or tablets, be sure to test your emails to see how they look on various devices. Remember that an email might look correct on a desktop, but content, links and other valuable info can get lost if not also formatted for mobile.
- Make it legal: Following email etiquette is essential. Only add people to your list that subscribe, and be sure to explain what they will be receiving. Don’t over-send emails, either, as too much of a good thing can turn subscribers sour quickly.
If you haven’t noticed, social media has grown significantly over the last decade and is one of the best methods to use for business marketing. In terms of cost, social media marketing is relatively inexpensive and can reach people in specific niches that your business serves.
There are various platforms, depending on your audience demographics and business’s industry, so if one doesn’t fit your needs, keep trying until you find a platform that does. Here is a quick rundown of platforms that you should consider utilizing:
- Facebook: By creating a Facebook Business Page, you can promote your brand and provide customers with information about your business. In addition, customers can post reviews – which should motivate you to ensure they are satisfied!
- Twitter: If you want to post frequent, concise messages to your followers, Twitter is the way to go. Post links to your blog posts, updates on upcoming sales and other relevant news. In addition, you can post sponsored tweets that will reach your target audience.
- Instagram: Instagram is designed for creating and posting images, and appeals to businesses that showcase their products or services through photos (such as restaurants or retail stores). On your business’s Instagram page, you can also promote your brand and show off your company culture – giving your followers a look into your business’s day-to-day.
- YouTube: It’s all about videos on YouTube. You can gain followers and promote your business by creating promotional video content, vlogging about various topics, posting video reviews and even showing off your latest offerings with demos.
- Pinterest: Another visual-focused site is Pinterest. This site allows users to save and share pins (which have images, descriptions, and sometimes an accompanying link). Pinterest is especially constructive if you run a retail store; you can post an image of the items you’re selling with a shoppable link, so that your followers can make purchases.
- Google+: This platform is multifaceted; it can help advance your business’s appearance in search results, and it also allows you to post content and connect with potential customers. Start by optimizing your Google My Business page, so the necessary information is included in your listing. In addition, you should frequently post content to your Google+ profile and communities that potential customers are active in.
- LinkedIn: Many business owners overlook LinkedIn, which can be used for social media recruiting. Keep your business’s LinkedIn page up-to-date with information about open positions and company updates, so that candidates can get a sense of what it’s like to work at your business. Remember, marketing your business as a desirable place to work can be just as important as marketing products or services to customers!
By creating a social media strategy, you can ensure that you are appropriately using these platforms to benefit your business. Plus, as you refine your social media strategy, you’ll be able to gain more followers, which will hopefully convert into loyal customers!
Whether you are considering Google AdWords, online banners or text ads for your small business promotion, one of the primary benefits to this is that you can track everything easily. With tools like Google Analytics, you can create a customized URL for each ad, so that you know which campaign is producing the most clicks, the best income-producing clicks, and which aren’t receiving traction. This will allow you to quickly understand which ads need to be removed, substituted or modified for better results.
Getting traffic to your website and increasing your rankings through search engine optimization (SEO) can be a challenge, but a blog can help! Blogging provides value to your audience, builds your brand recognition, and showcases your expertise. Over time, this gives your business’s website visibility, and hopefully higher search rankings. If you follow these steps, your business’s blog can generate revenue, and provide insights to readers:
- Choose platform and theme: To start a successful blog, you need a platform to host it. Check out popular platforms such as WordPress, Weebly, Joomla and Drupal. Once you’ve selected a platform, you should design your blog’s theme to be eye-catching and in-line with your brand.
- Decide on a publishing schedule: Some businesses post blogs frequently, following a daily or semi-weekly schedule. Others find that weekly, monthly or semi-monthly work better for them. Regardless of how frequently you post, follow a schedule so that readers will know when to expect new content.
- Determine your voice: Will your blog be light and comical? Or serious and data-driven? Will you write in the first person or third person? It is important to choose a voice for your blog so that content is consistent. This helps readers get to know the author and connect with content.
- Brainstorm topics: To start, write a list of possible topics that you can cover on your blog. A good goal is to have titles for the blogs you will write for a whole year. This makes it easier to organize your content on a calendar, ensure you don’t repeat topics and gives you a starting point when it comes time to produce content.
- Create engaging content: Strive to produce educational, captivating content. Think about your audience and produce posts that you think will be valuable to them.
Review and Listing Sites
Having your business featured on listing sites such as Yelp and Foursquare can help connect you with potential and existing customers. Completing your business’s profile on these sites will help you come up in search results, when potential customers are searching for products or services that you offer.
Another component that these sites often include is the ability for patrons to leave reviews about your business. If these are positive reviews, they can work wonders for your business. Many patrons rely on fellow shoppers’ feedback prior to making a buying decision. On the flip side, if you receive consistent negative reviews, this can be a detriment to your business. To take advantage of all of the feedback you receive, make a habit of responding to your customers’ reviews. Thank them for their business, and ask how you can further assist them. If they leave a negative review, make sure to apologize for any inconveniences, and determine how you can fix the issue. Examining the reviews you receive on sites like Yelp and Foursquare will allow you to see any reoccurring problems your business is having, so that you can improve them.
To gain positive publicity for your business, pitch stories to local publications and PR firms about your company culture, business news or events and community service efforts. This is a wise technique to follow if you want to gain positive publicity for your business, and allows you to get the word out about your products or services.
Many marketers overlook the traditional practice of print advertising. This can be a strategic way of reaching patrons in your area. For instance, you can pay for advertising space in local magazines and newspapers, or post print ads on community bulletin boards. To guarantee that this is an appropriate use of your marketing budget, monitor how many inquiries you receive from these advertisements. That way, you can adjust the quantity of ads you’re posting, or the content featured in them.
Become a Business Marketing Maven
As you can see, marketing your small business is not a “one size fits all” process, and there are tips and tricks to navigate within each kind of marketing function. However, with a little practice, and an eye for detail and feedback, it isn’t hard to find what works for your business within the scheme of the marketing world. Once you know where your money is best spent, fine-tune that area until it produces money making results for your business!
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.