One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs make is underspending on marketing. It’s easy to get so excited and focused on developing your own product or service platform that you completely forget about getting the word out about your launch. By the time you go live and the sales just aren’t coming in, you can be so exhausted that you lose hope. But there are plenty of easy and affordable small business marketing tips you can take to give your business a leg up on the competition.
The Most Common Challenges Of Small Business Marketing
Small business marketing itself isn’t hard, but finding the time and the energy to be proactive about it is pretty tough. You might get lucky with your product launch by timing things well or just by word of mouth, but that’s way more often a rarity than the norm. There’s a lot of competition out there!
Another common challenge is realizing the relevance of marketing. A lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners brush it off or put it so low on the priority list that it gets lost in the shuffle. I know several people who spent hours building custom websites and packaging for their products, paid zero to hardly nothing on marketing, and then lost all hope when the sales didn’t come in that they completely gave up after just a few months.
Pitching your product and brand is not always easy, especially if you’re an introvert, but it’s a part of doing business. You gotta get comfortable in your own skin and get out there and spread the word. People have very short attention spans these days and information overload, so you have to do your research and be prepared.
A Simple Set Of 12 Small Business Marketing Tips
- Carve some marketing dollars into your budget – You don’t have to spend a lot on marketing each month since nowadays there are a lot of free and cheap ways to promote your business. But don’t assume that you should rely on free methods alone. For example, explore spending some of your online budget on Google Adwords and Facebook Ads which have helpful analytics features built in.
- Offer promotions and rewards – Everybody loves getting a good deal, and as JCPenney has taught us, people want sales and promotions more than everyday low prices. Keep your existing customers sticky by offering things like frequent shopper rewards. And consider advertising seasonal discounts, coupon codes, and free trial periods. Who doesn’t like a chance to try something for free?!
- Network and get involved with your community – A lot of businesses with multiple branches were only able to grow and expand to their current size because they focused on making an impact on the locals in one small area first. Some great ways to get your name out there are to sponsor community events, rent a booth at a fair or farmers market, offer student and senior discounts, or have a sidewalk sale. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals while you’re at it! You can also consider collaborating with other small businesses in your area to increase sales.
- Get your business in public listings – Make it easy for people to find you. Get your business added to online yellow pages, review sites, and other listing services. Yelp, Angie’s List, Craigslist, SuperPages, and the big search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing are a good place to start. Also try searching for online directories based on your niche and submit requests to get added.
- Sign up for an email marketing platform – Don’t underestimate the power of email marketing. I highly recommend Aweber, which I’ve used myself for the last several years. You can read more in a post I wrote about the many benefits of email marketing, which include creating multiple lists, selecting and saving newsletter templates, and automating welcome and thank you emails.
- Utilize free social media applications – It’s free to create a Facebook page, Twitter account, Youtube channel, and Google+ account. A core component of branding and marketing today is leveraging these social media platforms. But it can be challenging to keep up with them all, so don’t go overboard signing up for every platform out there. It helps to use apps like Hootsuite and Buffer to post to multiple platforms at once. I don’t use them nearly enough as I should.
- Build a log of testimonials and learn from user feedback – People love to read positive reviews and hear feedback from other users. Highlight your best testimonials on your website and even on your product packaging if there’s enough space. Offer ways for all of your clients to easily provide feedback via email, surveys, contact forms, and on-location. A lot of companies offer incentives like 20% of your next purchase for completing a survey or feedback form.
- Create and maintain an updated website – Keep your product and service offerings up to date on your site, including price comparison charts and testimonials. Stick with a clean design that’s easy to navigate on devices of all sizes, and be sure that there are multiple ways for people to get in touch with you and your team.
- Start tracking your results – You won’t be able to tell if your marketing dollars have been well spent if you don’t spend the time to analyze your results. Look at how your phone, email, and social media leads have improved each month and pay attention to where they came from. Find the answers to questions like: How are those leads impacting your sales? What’s your new versus return customer ratio? What are the demographic trends? Based on the outcomes you may want to change some of your strategies, pricing, and product offerings.
- Automate and improve your user experience – Remember when the only way to make appointments and reservations was with a phone and a paper calendar? Take advantage of cloud based platforms that your team as well as new and returning customers can access anywhere from any device. You can also gain exposure to a wider audience by leveraging 3rd party platforms such as Opentable, Amazon, and eBay.
- Don’t ignore negative reviews – One of the downsides to more transparency for businesses in today’s world are the bad reviews that can pop up from angry, disappointed, and frustrated customers. Every business has to deal with these from time to time, and the faster you act, the better. Try to resolve the matters privately, but make sure to leave a public posting that you reached out to the client so other readers can see you took action.
- Practice how to pitch your business in 10 seconds – The faster technology gets, the more our attention spans seem to shrink. Even if you’re not a natural salesperson, you should practice how to sell your business and its benefits in a few quick sentences. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, you want to be able to grab their attention quickly and spark their interest enough to continue listening. You never know who you could run into, so always be prepared to share your awesomeness with the world.
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Updated for 2016 and beyond