Marketing is such an important part of any business and yet it is a somewhat terrifying concept to so many small business owners. But without marketing you cannot grow, so it’s vital to have a plan and spend a good chunk of time focusing on the how, what and where of your marketing strategy.
Many who are inexperienced with marketing often search for that miracle, overnight solution; something that costs little to no time and money and that sees new clients flooding in. But, the truth is, like building your business, marketing is a long, slow, and sometimes frustrating process. However, when done properly, the positive effect it has will be absolutely worth it.
Different marketing strategies will work for different small businesses, so take a look through this list, grab a pen and paper, or open your preferred word processor, and work out what is right for you. Marketing is experimenting so if something isn’t working, change how your doing it or move on to the next possibility.
1. Create a blog
A lot of competition today lies in ranking high on Google, and an excellent way of doing this is to post a regular blog. However, blogging for the sake of blogging will not be successful. In order to get the best result from this strategy, your content must be relevant and useful. If you are a small business selling unique jewellery, writing a blog on your day-to-day admin is unlikely to be useful to your marketing, but a blog on what inspired your latest product would be perfect. When coming up with a blog strategy, don’t focus entirely on what Google wants, but instead think about who your customers are and what they might be interested in reading. If you do that right, then you are already providing Google with what it wants to rank your business highly.
As well as being useful for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), a blog is a great way to shout about your successes. If you have won awards, if you’re supporting your local community, if you’ve taken a new step in your business, talk about it on your blog. When you start building a loyal following, people will want to celebrate with you and your achievements will help create trust with new potential customers and clients.
- Make sure your content is relevant and informative
- Aim for a length of between 300 and 1,600 words
- Add new content regularly
2. Provide excellent customer service
As a small business, you don’t have the same visibility or marketing budget as bigger companies who can sometimes, unfortunately, get away with bad customer service. So you need to leave an excellent impression with your customers and clients so that they want to a) come back to you and, b) recommend you to their contacts.
The important things to remember with your customer service is that you can’t do everything and you can’t please everyone. Decide to what extent you can provide excellent customer service and go for that, then grow your offering as your business expands. For example, if you’re a solopreneur or working with a very small team, you won’t be able to offer 24-hour customer service. So, make sure your opening hours are clear – on your website, across social media, on your answering machine – and set up autoresponders to let enquirers know when you’ll get back to them. Most importantly: DO get back to them in a decent amount of time!
There will always be difficult customers; you could bend over backwards and still be unable to satisfy them. Before you do yourself an injury, decide on how far you can go for a customer. Where do you draw the line and decide you have given a reasonable amount?
- Make it easy for customers to get in touch – don’t hide all your contact details!
- Be helpful and willing to listen, but don’t let people walk all over you. The customer is NOT always right.
- Let people shout about how wonderful you are! Ask for feedback and display it publicly.
3. Create video content
Have you ever looked up something in Google and found that the first result is a video? Doesn’t it stand out amongst all the text on the page? This is becoming more common, and social media is also big on video, often showing video posts to a larger audience (helping reduce the need for so much spending on advertisements).
Similar to blogging, it is important that anything you put to video should be relevant and informative. If your business offers a service, give people a taster or a DIY guide. Yes, some people will then go away and do it themselves, but some will decide it’s too much for them and come and ask you for help, because you’ve demonstrated your expertise. Others will so value your advice that, when they have followed it and find they need more, they come to you to purchase your services. If, instead, you’re selling a physical product, show people how it’s created, the love and joy that goes into it, why it’s so special and what benefits they can get from using your product. Once you start to brainstorm, the ideas will come flooding in.
- Your video should have decent lighting and video and sound quality
- Find a good space – get rid of the clutter unless it’s relevant to your video
- Research best practices – different types and lengths of video will have better results on different platforms
4. Branding, branding, branding
This is a biggie and so many people think that a name, and perhaps a logo, are all it takes to brand yourself. Really, you should think of branding as a big box that holds everything about your company. That’s your name, your logo, yourself, your staff, your services/products, your company voice… the list goes on.
A few years ago I was standing at a tube station in London and looking at one of the adverts next to the tracks. The advert told, in words (no images), the story of the brand. There was no mention of the brand name, but the last words of the text were along the lines of “You know who we’re talking about and we haven’t even mentioned his name.” And they were right. It was an advert for Jack Daniels whiskey and everything on the poster; the font, the colour, the story, the tone, told me that. This was my first real revelation to the power of branding and it has stuck with me to this day.
Being recognisable makes it easy for people to share and you should spend some valuable time going over what your brand is and how you make sure everyone knows it. If you have staff, make sure they’re fully aware of your brand and what part they play in it. And definitely make sure that you are following your brand guidelines yourself! If you are naturally quirky and unusual, you probably don’t want a brand that is very corporate, because you will have difficulty putting that across. When it comes to branding, start with yourself and make your brand fit you, don’t make yourself fit the brand.
- Start with you; you are the foundation of your business
- Make sure everything in your business reflects your brand
- Create clear brand guidelines and make sure everyone knows what they are
5. Get people talking
If people have a strong opinion about your company, if something is a bit unusual, or if they connect with something on an emotional level, the are more likely to share their thoughts and experiences.
For example, there is a small, independent cinema in Keswick in the Lake District called The Alhambra. It’s a lovely place where you can, unusually, help yourself to free tea and coffee when you go to see a film. If you went to the cinema whilst on holiday, you may mention you’d seen a film, but probably wouldn’t discuss the cinema. But, because The Alhambra offers something a little bit out of the ordinary, visitors share the experience with friends. The result is that the friends visit the area and go to the cinema, too. In a crowded world, it can seem difficult to stand out, but even something small and inexpensive can be the key to good marketing.
There is an excellent book called Contagious: Why Things Catch On that delves into this subject in much more detail.
- Encourage people to talk; sometimes this requires a direct ask
- Have a contingency in place for how to deal with negative sharing
- Brainstorm ways to add value to your customer experience
I hope the above ideas give you some food for thought about ways to market your business. If you would like to implement some of these ideas, or explore other possibilities, or if you just have a question, please get in touch to see how I can help.
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