Anne-Marie Saint-John, Alva, Long Island City, NY >
Before we get started, it’s important to note that there is no fixed formula for success. No single approach to marketing channels is guaranteed to succeed. Marketing small businesses is about developing an understanding of the target market, then using a multitude of channels and tactics to reach that audience and compel them to take action.
In this article, we discuss the basics of marketing a small business in almost any sector. While certain industries do have limitations or specific channels and tactics that work well in isolation, the general guidelines offered here could be applied to almost any small business.
#1 Social media marketing
With very few exceptions, all small businesses need a strategy for handling marketing on their website and social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. There are many social media marketing strategies, and it’s important to try out a few approaches before committing to any one strategy.
We’ve written the quick guide How to Build a Social Media Presence as a Small Business to help you identify the best ways to increase your following and engage new customers on social media.
Regardless of which channels you use, as a new business customer, you will most likely be awarded some free advertising credits. Experimenting with these can quickly help you understand how social media marketing could work for your business, without having to put up any of your company’s cash.
#2 Email marketing
Email marketing should be part of your marketing mix. It is a proven marketing tactic that can be highly automated and systematized. There are a number of email marketing strategies for small businesses that can help boost your conversions, your engagement, your loyalty, and ultimately your revenue. Most businesses collect email addresses in a database. Once obtained, this list can be used to send a range of marketing messages to new and existing clients.
There are free and low cost marketing courses for business owners that are particularly useful. You can also visit the websites of popular email marketing software vendors, such as MailChimp, for up-to-date email marketing tips.
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Virtually every business needs a website. If you start a small business without a storefront, you have an even more compelling reason to invest in your online presence. People form a first impression of a business very quickly. If your website loads too slowly or is poor quality, they may simply click to the next option.
Choose written content that aligns with your own style. Make sure it speaks to your audience in the right way and is free from errors. The same applies to images; where possible, try to use original images, not stock pictures. People want to see the authentic team behind the business, and they like to get to know the personality of the company.
#4 Search engine optimization
Although it can be daunting to compete against companies that already have a mature online presence, it is possible to attract new customers online. With search engine optimization (SEO), you can increase your chances of appearing in search engine results when potential customers look for products and services similar to yours.
Although it isn’t something you can do overnight, you need to work on short- and long-term SEO strategies to help boost your visibility online. You can either pay money for display ads or opt to increase your SEO organically by writing business blogs, publishing press releases, listing your business in online directories, and taking other targeted actions.
#5 Direct mail
Direct mail campaigns are not particularly low-cost, but if you find a targeted list and send your recipients a desirable offer, such campaigns can still be effective – particularly if you are marketing a small business in a local area. According to research published by the SBA, direct marketing has taken off again in 2019.
Designing a direct-mail piece gives you the opportunity to really get creative, as you can send letters and postcards in eye-catching colors and attention-grabbing shapes to capture the attention of a target demographic. With so many businesses opting to go with lower-costing email marketing campaigns, direct marketing presents an opportunity to stand out and be different. Also, fulfilment and postal charges for campaigns are now lower than they’ve ever been.
#6 Incentives and offers
People love to get a good discount. If something is being offered for free, even better! As a small business owner, you can capitalize on this by offering coupons and discounts, or running online competitions to help you market your small business. Create a customer loyalty program, a refer-a-friend program, discounts for returning customers, contests, or an affiliate program. There many ways you can offer your customers something in exchange for their support.
Beyond these six core marketing activities, there are lots of creative ways to market your business and help it reach as broad an audience as possible. Marketing is about standing out, getting attention, and helping people find the best solutions for the challenges they face or needs they have.