Small business owners and employees often find their time spent marketing to be quite divided and limited due to the numerous responsibilities that come with having a small number of employees. There are many tried and true methods to marketing your small business, but which methods should you focus on given your limited resources? We’re here to offer our advice based on personal experiences and knowledge of marketing. Though I do not cover everything in this post, I did cover those initiatives which are cost effective and easy for people with limited resources.
The first thing you should do is come up with a marketing plan to determine who you are, what you are marketing, where you want to market, how you want to market, how you want to gain and retain customers, what your goals are, etc. I recommend looking over this Forbes article which discusses exactly what to include in a marketing plan. Everything else listed in this article will all most likely end up going in your marketing plan.
Search Engine Optimization
You may already have your website created and live on the internet. However, none of the content or products you put on it will matter if nobody sees it. This is why the first thing you should do with your website is make sure it is optimize for search engines so that you appear higher in search engine rankings and thus have a better chance of people seeing and clicking on your site. Read our blog “What is SEO and Why Do I Need It?” for more information on this topic.
The next thing you need to be focusing your time on is your social media presence. You can start by creating social media accounts for all of the big social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, FourSquare, etc.) and then track which ones are succeeding the most over the first few months. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of effective social media sites for your business, up your presence on those sites while decreasing efforts on the sites that aren’t getting much response. After all, marketing is about putting out content and getting a response. If you aren’t getting a response, it’s not worth your time.
This is actually part of SEO, however we are mentioning it separately because SEO may seem too daunting if we added this to the already somewhat lengthy process. In order for the internet to take your business seriously, your business listing has to be consistent across all listing sites such as Google, Bing, Yellowpages, etc. Hubspot has a list of 50 directories where you should consider listing your business. Listing your business also increases the number of quality external links to your site, which helps improve your search rankings and validity.
Inbound Marketing (Blogging and Vlogging)
Putting out informational content about your industry helps people view you as an expert in your field. Both blogging and vlogging are free (minus the wage of the person you are paying to write or help you film your blog/vlog). Once you have created your content, you can upload the blog to your website by creating a “Blog” page, or upload your video to YouTube. Examples of a video blog (or vlog) include tutorials for software used by your customers or people in your industry (if the software is an integral part of using your product and is not your core competency), updates on what cool stuff your business is doing (i.e. filming you and your employees at a charity 5k), or defining difficult concepts that would help people in understanding what it is that you do. I must stress that you should never give away a trade secret or your competency in any of your blogs or vlogs as it will essentially take away your competitive advantage.
Inbound marketing can also include your social media activity, as posting useful content will bring followers in that interact with your business and eventually make purchases.
Meeting with potential customers, clients, or business partners in person is about the best thing you can do marketing-wise for your company. This not only lets respected members of your community see who you are, but also get to know you and your company on a more personal level. People can see and feel your passion when speaking with you directly and form a connection beyond anything formed over the internet. I recommend attending local meet-ups, expos, and networking events with a huge stack of business cards and be prepared to talk to some strangers.
Are These Initiatives Free?
Some of what I have mentioned in this article is free for your business. However, whatever you will not be able to accomplish on your own will cost you. Every dollar that is spent on well-researched marketing initiatives will be earned back with considerable ROI, so don’t be afraid to spend marketing dollars. If you’re not sure how much money you should be spending on hiring someone to help, I recommend checking out one of my previous posts on setting a realistic marketing and graphic design budget.
For those of you wondering why I didn’t mention email marketing, the reason is that you must acquire a sizeable list of subscribers to your newsletter. Although this is definitely a necessity for keeping in touch with your customers, I consider it on the “intermediate” level of marketing, and everything mentioned in this post is more so for beginners. It also takes a decent amount of resources to get a good campaign up and running. Once you have accomplished everything on this list and accumulated a long list of newsletter subscribers, then you should move on to beginning an email marketing campaign.