Marketing ideas for small business when properly used can boost your sales substantially. It takes a lot of courage to start and run a small business. Sometimes your hand is forced by a corporate layoff and difficulty finding another job. Sometimes you are pursuing a dream. And sometimes you get mad working for someone else and just aren’t going to take it any more.
Whatever your motivation, the second (maybe first) most important decision you can make is to focus on getting paying customers. Without paying customers, your new business idea is just an idea, not a real business. Many start-ups think all they have to do is just open for business and the customers will come. That rarely happens. The vast majority of new businesses fail – mostly for lack of income, caused by lack of marketing.
Here are 12 marketing ideas for small business on a tight budget, based on years of working with small businesses of all kinds in both start-up and growth modes:
Marketing Ideas For Small Business – Start With Targeting
- Develop a targeted marketing strategy. Whether you have a comprehensive business plan or not, planning your marketing instead of just jumping into it, is a wise path to take. In fact these 12 steps outlined in this article can work for your small business, but need to be customized for each unique situation. Key questions to be answered in a realistic marketing strategy are:
- Who exactly are my target customers (markets)?
- What are their needs that my business is going to address?
- How do I know that those needs are not being met by current providers?
- What am I going to offer that is clearly better than current providers?
- Do I have a sustainable competitive advantage which customers are willing to pay for?
- What is the best way to communicate with my target customers (markets)?
- Do I have the money to pay for that?
- Create a unique brand name. If your name is John Smith, don’t name your company after you. Come up with a name that is unique, so that when you Google it “in quotes” to be exact, nothing else comes up with that exact name. Such a unique name is more valuable than gold and vital in today’s Internet-driven marketplace. It also makes it much easier to rank right at the top when a potential customer searches for your business online.
- Reserve a dot-come domain name for your new brand. Get it cheap on Godaddy.com. If your business name is not available as a .com, come up with another business name. Seriously. All the great brands have .com domain names and this is what people expect automatically. Or maybe you can make it unique by adding your state abbreviation like mybusinessny.com or city or some other add-on that will not only give you a unique .com name but also make it easy for customers to remember it.
- Hire a graphic designer to create a unique logo and use it to get business cards printed as well as on your website. Do not do this yourself unless you are a trained designer. Include your domain name on your business cards. Get a logo version (EPS format) you can also use for your letterhead and future signage or mementos like pens, t-shirts or caps.
- Develop a website using your domain name. We recommend Hostgator.com but there are other good website hosts. Hostgator provides free software you can use to build your own website, including WordPress (also free and very popular). Plenty of how-to tutorials about creating your website and using WordPress can be found on YouTube and Hostgator. Of course if you have adequate funding a website designed by professionals is far better and will help your small business marketing far more than it costs.
- Get a simple flyer or brochure printed outlining what your business offers. Websites are essential but lots of prospects want something in their hands. Your handout can be as simple as a one-page Word document with your new logo at the top to start with. Again work with a professional designer if you can afford it. Ideally the right designer or small business marketing agency can do your logo, website and brochure cost-effectively by using the same words or concepts and images for both online and print.
- Begin Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get ever-higher rankings for your website. It does you little good to have a website if no one can find it. Hire an economical SEO firm or do it yourself. Google’s Guide to SEO is free, online, and a great starter. Click here to download it in PDF format. Google loves informative content like this article you are reading, and the best way to provide it is through a blog right on your website. Try to blog once a week by focusing on answering questions which your customers often ask. If you don’t have the time or skill to do that, you can hire a freelance writer or perhaps the same marketing agency that designed your website can also provide what is called “content marketing.”
- Advertise with Google Adwords to get page-1 Google listings immediately. Go to adwords.google.com to get started. Sign up for an account and use their online tools within Adwords to identify good search terms (keywords) and build effective ads. You can spend as little as $100 a month and get solid results from Google Adwords, depending on your industry. This will get immediate traffic to your website from potential customers. Later on, use Bing.com ads as well.
- Use social media including a blog, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter several times a week. LinkedIn is more effective if you are selling to business customers. Facebook works better for targeting consumers, but can also reach business people as more and more use Facebook. If possible use your own name, not your business name, with social media, because social media are personal. However you can and should also have a free business page on Facebook that uses your business name. Constantly reach out to potential customers or referral sources by following them via social media or asking them to connect. Search Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to locate social media users by city or area of interest. If your Twitter site already has 10 or more interesting tweets, when you follow someone else, there’s a good chance they will follow you back. Be interesting, not overtly selling, to pick up followers. A blog is an excellent core for publishing full articles which you link to via other shorter-form social media.
- Put out press releases about your start-up and any news like new employees, guest speaking opportunities, new products etc. Use an inexpensive PR firm or do it yourself. Email the press release in the email window (not as an attachment) to local newspaper and TV stations, and use free press release distribution services online to give them global distribution. This will also help raise your search rankings and brand dominance in the marketplace.
- Use YouTube videos to connect with potential customers, help your search engine rankings, and embed on your website. Record with your smartphone or camcorder for 90 seconds or so. If you are too uncomfortable with your appearance, create an informative slide show and convert it to video (PowerPoint will do this with one click). Create your own YouTube channel using your brand name or other cool identifier. Upload your video, check it out, and once you’re satisfied, tell your social network about it and embed it in your website. Be sure to include tags (using your keywords) with your video when uploading to YouTube. Put your slide show on Slideshare.com for added free exposure.
- Send email newsletters to potential customers, contacts and referral sources. This can include several recent blog posts. MailChimp.com lets you use its services for a small email list for free. Get in the habit of producing regular content for your blog and social media which you aggregate or elaborate for your email newsletter. If you don’t have an email list, you can purchase one and use it to send emails with a resource like enewscontacts.com. In today’s online marketplace, content is king, and content marketing is the most valuable form of small business marketing you can use.
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