Where do you start when advertising your small business? Many small business owners begin with an excellent product or service, but aren’t sure how to reach out to their customers. In truth, marketing and advertising is extremely complex, with a number of different techniques that all need to work together.
Here’s how you can get started.
- Get Organized
Start getting organized by designing a marketing message. Your marketing messaging is comprised of your company’s branding, values, and voice. What does your brand mean to you? A logo, mission statement, and “elevator pitch” will inform your marketing efforts. You should be able to describe your company and what makes it special in a few key sentences, and use that as the foundation of the rest of your company’s marketing content.
- Get a Website and Leverage Social Media
Websites and social media accounts aren’t optional for businesses any longer. You should create a website and social media accounts and keep them active. For your website, you need content that is targeted towards your audience and your demographics, for the purposes of search engine optimization. For your social media, you should keep them active and use tags to encourage people to find and follow you.
- Create Local Awareness and Establish a Network
If you run a brick-and-mortar business, networking with local businesses can help. Ask to put up flyers, brochures, and business cards in local businesses, in exchange for doing the same in yours. Go to local business events and meet other business owners: it’s possible that many businesses may want to collaborate with you, which will get your name and your brand out to local clientele.
- Encourage Word-of-Mouth Advertising
Word-of-mouth advertising is often perceived as the strongest type of advertising, because people trust friends and family members more than they trust ads. To encourage word-of-mouth advertising, create a referral or loyalty program, and make sure that customers leave consistently satisfied with the products and services they acquired.
You can also hand out discount cards to your existing customers to give to their friends and family, to encourage them to let them know about your business. Most people want to make recommendations for products and services they truly enjoyed: you just need to make it easier for them to do so.
- Use Google AdWords
Online advertising is a booster. If you aren’t currently getting a lot of traffic to your website, or you’re launching a new product or service, online advertising can help you. Online advertising can also be regularly invested in, as a way to get more eyes on your business.
However, creating the right type of online advertising is important. To get the most benefits, you need to go through a large type of paid advertising service, such as Google. You also need to target your ads, so they’re only shown to your major demographics.
If your business is in a certain location, you should target your ads to that location only. Consider the age, gender, and even hobbies of your most common customers: this will be used to properly target your ads to those who are most interested in your products.
- Set up and Claim Your Business Online
You need to take control of your third-party reviews. Google and Yelp both collect reviews of businesses. This is true even if you haven’t created an account: there may be reviews of your business in public right now. You can take ownership of these pages and respond to any positive or negative reviews. It’s important to do this: often, these third-party reviews are going to show up before your own site does.
When responding to reviews, remember three things:
- Be professional and courteous.
- Stick to the facts.
- Suggest a solution.
Even if someone is rude or uninformed, it’s important that you respond to them courteously. This isn’t for their benefit, but for yours: other people will see your response and will judge your business accordingly. If others see that you’re interested in providing solutions to customers who aren’t satisfied, they’ll feel more secure making a purchase.
- Offer Coupons or Free Products/Services
Charities and events are a great way to reach out to a local audience that doesn’t already know about your shop. Often, you can donate things to charity events, run booths there, or provide products and services that they can giveaway. Giving items to silent auctions is a good way to improve your company’s exposure.
Many studies have shown that people trust businesses more when they perceive them to be charitable. You can build up customer trust and loyalty while also developing your relationship with the community.
Deals and promotions are a great way to bring in both returning customers and new customers. You can run deals and promotions on your website or post flyers in your store, to encourage people to come back during the sale. Share your sales and promotions on your social media for even further reach.
This is a good place for newsletters. Email newsletters can be used to send coupons out to your customers to reward them for their loyalty. Customers cost less to retain than to acquire. You can collect email addresses from your customers when they make purchases, and retain a direct line of conversation with them.
- Collect and Analyze Your Data
Which of your marketing strategies are working most effectively? How many of your customers are coming from your website, your social media, or your local endeavors? Track your marketing strategies from month-to-month to determine which strategies are working for you. From there, you can identify the areas that need the most improvement.
Small businesses often don’t have the luxury of outsourcing their marketing; marketing is expensive. But by using the above techniques and tactics on a regular basis, a small business should be able to build its customer base over time. It just takes patience.