Marketing comprises significant expenditure for companies. Small businesses find it hard to grab eyeballs in the crowded advertising and marketing space. Also, marketing on popular platforms can blast a hole through the pockets of small-business owners. But, that should not stop you from promoting your business and getting the word out about your products and services.
So, how do small businesses manage to attract attention and stay relevant to customers? It is important to devise a strategy that is in sync with the brand image you want to build and appeals to customers.
It makes sense to use the numerous innovative, targeted and highly engaging channels available for marketers to tap into. Before committing big money to any specific channel or campaign, put your thinking cap on and analyze how you can go about your job cost-effectively. You will have to maximize every dollar you invest, and if you are not sure of returns, do not go ahead.
Here are a few tips for small businesses to market effectively and smartly.
1. Know the Game
Marketing becomes easy when you know what you are doing.
As a small-business owner, you may be juggling quite a handful of roles, right from that of the accountant to the chief strategist in your company. This will obviously leave you with little time to learn the ropes of the latest marketing tactics. But, if you have a good idea of your market, main competitors and the ideal customer, forming a strategy will be easier.
Google Analytics is a great tool to use to know about your market, competition and customer activities. Track data from your Website and monitor customer journeys. You can also get a clear picture of what your competitors are doing right and map areas where your business has room for improvement. Interpret the data and crank out reports, charts and graphs that will help in formulating your own strategy.
Consider signing up for courses that teach the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media and content marketing, and other paid forms of advertising. You should take heart from the fact that several online marketing geniuses are self-taught, and learned the trade as they used it. Follow thought leaders, and subscribe to their blogs. Consistent efforts from your side will help you learn to use the Internet to market your small business.
2. Team up with Like-Minded Partners
Often, teaming up with other small companies will help you leverage each other’s expertise, connections and customer base to reach out to a wider audience.
Right from pooling money and hiring a professional PR agency to teaming up for online contests and giveaways, there are several ways in which small businesses can cooperate and help each other.
Cross-promotion campaigns also grab customer attention and attract publicity. Some notable examples include Macy’s department store teaming up with nonprofit Special Books by Special Kids and Make-a-Wish Foundation. The co-sponsors promoted each other on their social media channels and were able to reach a wide target base. Sellers on sites like Etsy also join hands to drive marketing campaigns and sales events, and give away coupons or freebies.
You can team with other brands and offer discounts for partners on your invoices or set up display booths for partners at your shop. You can devise innovative cross-promotion campaigns in several other ways.
As a small business, you can leverage the reach of online influencers, local businesses and even businesses outside your niche. As per a 2015 study, companies make $6.50 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing. So, get online and find out who the influencers and thought leaders in your business niche are.
3. Capitalize on Content
As you very well know, regardless of the number of connections you have or how glitzy your Website is, it will not be easy to attract new users or retain existing users if you do not provide fresh, original and useful content. Also, remember that content marketing has the potential to drive new traffic by the truckloads, provided you maintain consistency and high quality. This is a form of marketing where it takes time to see results.
If you are investing in content marketing, make sure to track metrics and see which channels and forms of content perform the best for you. It is possible to deliver content through YouTube videos, emails, blogs, guest posts, social media, affiliate marketers and paid channels. Track the various platforms and work out the perfect marketing mix for you.
If you can craft content yourself, there is nothing better. But, if you do not have the time or the inclination, then you will have to set up an in-house content team or hire freelancers. However, unless you track all your activities minutely and monitor their performance, you will not be able to justify your marketing budget or understand the ROI (return on investment).
A few handy tools and learning platforms for data analytics include Google Analytics, Woopra, UserTesting, Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg. Also, if you are cost-conscious, do use fabulous content analytic tools that are absolutely free of cost.
4. Invest in Yourself
In the case of startups and small businesses, owners/founders are often the most important brand ambassadors. Pay attention to your personal and professional brand, and invest in yourself. Build your interpersonal skills and networking capabilities. Wherever you go and whatever you do, remember that you are representing your business.
If you can project a warm, approachable, confident and positive persona, you will rub off a bit of that positivity and likability on to your business as well. It is not for no reason that big shot investors say that their decision to invest or not is largely influenced by the personality of the entrepreneur seated across the table.
There is no one correct marketing channel for your business. It is your baby after all and you know best what will work for it and what will not. Decide carefully and ensure that you have analyzed the pros and cons of your choice. With time, you will arrive at the perfect marketing mix that will deliver the results you desire.
Ann Neal is a BusinessTown.com contributor