If you’re a small business owner, chances are you haven’t allocated a huge budget for marketing.
When you’re starting out, it’s a frustrating cycle of I need to get some business coming in so that I can spend some money on marketing and I need to market to get some business coming in.
Well, it’s not a hopeless cause if you don’t have big dollars. As long as you think creatively and you’re willing to put some time and effort into it, you can market your business and services to the audience you need to reach now to lay the foundation for successful growth.
Here’s some practical advice.
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1. Develop your website
You already knew this was important, didn’t you?
A great website is like a great handshake. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
Creating a clean, fresh experience for visitors to the site is critical, as is having great content for them when they arrive. Making an investment here will pay off later.
Do spend some time and money on creative content that speaks to your audience and pops up in searches when they’re looking for answers. Invest your time in researching what keywords people use when searching for your type of product or service and employ SEO that works.
Set up a Google My Business account — it’s easy and helps with traffic, and it’s free.
2. Develop social media and email lists
To complement your great website, build social media accounts that are creative, valuable and push the audience to your site.
Work on building an email list through personal encounters at your business before you buy lists that may or may not match your audience.
When you send an email blast, ensure that the content is actionable and links back to your site. When your list is huge, use an email service to send blasts and gather analytics.
3. Blog. Guest blog
A blog on your site allows you to demonstrate your expertise, which is a great objective.
It allows you to provide visitors with helpful content they can use immediately.
Don’t hype your business. Help your potential customers. Offer to guest blog on other companies’ blogs, companies that have an audience you want to engage with.
You can always reciprocate.
4. Have a fun contest
If your product or service is cool, have a contest!
Make the prize appealing. Partner with a complementary business to make the prize package even sweeter.
Push it on social media. Tell the audience on social media to share the link and you’ll give them an extra entry in the contest.
They’ll have to like or follow you that way. Engage, engage, engage. (Be sure to post the rules of your contest, too. Here’s a good generic list of social media contest rules from The Motley Fool.)
5. Build relationships through sponsorship, partnerships, brandscaping
These are slightly different, but all are
As you set out in your business, look for opportunities to do
For instance, you could offer to promote a charity fundraiser on your site and social media, in your storefront or office and in your
The charity, in exchange, lists you as a sponsor of the event in the program, on its web site, in its social media leading up to the event, promoting your brand at no cost.
Creating effective partnerships with others benefits all parties. You give referrals to trusted partners with whom you’re happy to work and they can send referrals your way.
Think about the business people you want to partner with and remember, the relationship is a reflection of who you are to others, including your customers.
Brandscaping is a really cool form of partnerships. Content marketing genius Andrew Davis wrote the book, Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships, and coined the phrase.
Brandscaping looks like this: I have great content on my site that is attracting a super audience and you want to talk to my audience.
You have great content on your site that is attracting an audience that I want to talk to. So, we join forces and effectively double the size of our audience. We work together on great content and share it freely, driving audience back and forth.
It’s unconventional, but it works to create demand for both brands.
6. Help a reporter out
Register with HARO, a site that helps journalists and sources connect for stories in all sorts of media channels.
If you have a great product or service, you can register on HARO and, if a journalist is working on a story relative to your product or service, the journalist may reach out.
It’s free, so it’s worth doing. Read this success story to see why you should go ahead and make the pitch to the pack on HARO.
7. Network effectively
Visit several networking groups in your area. Look for business associations that allow you to visit for free.
Community business associations and chambers of commerce are logical places to look for opportunities to network, but employ the power of Meetup as a way to meet other business owners or managers who want to get to know each other’s work and have the opportunity to make and receive referrals.
8. Association memberships
Joining an industry association gives you a couple of great benefits — it expands your partnership opportunities and referrals, and it allows you to stay on top of changes in your industry.
Where are your competitors finding business? What channels are they tapping? Where are they prospecting? Think of it as research.
9. Give a
how-to class on site
You’re knowledgeable about what you do and how to do it, right?
Invite potential customers to a
Direct engagement is powerful. Use social media, your newsletter, and the website to encourage guests to register.
10. Offer to be a free guest speaker
Many professional and social groups and service clubs actively seek out guest speakers on a wide range of topics for their meetings.
Think about the demographics you serve and search for some opportunities to offer a customized speech to that group. It doesn’t matter how big the group is, five people or 55 people.
It’s five more people you just introduced to your brand.
11. Provide stellar customer service
Business comes where it is invited and stays where it is treated well.
Make every engagement a positive engagement when you’re dealing with clients. Ensure they understand that their satisfaction as a client is important to you and to everyone on your team.
Listen to them. Solve problems. Be proactive. You want them to be a cheerleader for you and your brand, so them every reason to cheer.
Taking these simple steps will help grow your customer base as you build your brand and solidify your reputation.
Once you’re rolling along and making money, how much should you really allocate to a marketing budget?
According to FrogDog, companies that want to maintain their brand awareness should allocate 5 percent of revenue. Companies that want to continue to grow their brand should allocate 10 percent.
Lots of other factors come into play, but that’s a good place to start your calculations.
Read also: Publicity on a Budget