As a small business owner, you're likely to have a smaller budget for marketing in comparison to your larger competitors. This means learning how to become resourceful, purposeful and creative in the ways you promote your business.
Embrace Social Media
One of the best promotional tools that small business owners have at their fingertips is social media. It's convenient, it's free and it can do wonders for your business – if you know how to use it properly. Utilize channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to supplement traditional advertising avenues and provide valuable content for your fans and followers.
Facebook is great for sharing links to your blog posts, content on your website or other articles that are relevant to your business. You can also share photos from behind the scenes of your operation, or of your latest event/product release. This is a medium to show off your fun side and brand personality. Posts here and there about special deals are ok, but save most of the heavy advertising for Facebook ads. Starting with a few posts a week is a good way to not burn you or your fans out.
Twitter can be used for similar content, but you have to be choosier in your words, as you'll only have 140 characters per message. Whereas you'll to be more reserved in your Facebook posts, the quick-hitting nature of Twitter allows for you to post more frequently without appearing "spammy." Best practices say around 4-6 tweets per day is acceptable, but you can also start smaller if you so choose.
Instagram is perhaps the most visual of the social channels. It's filled with artistic amateur photography and videos that are a max 15 seconds. If you don't have an attractive product or vibrant service that lends itself well to photography or video, it may be best to not even play the Instagram game.
Through channels like these, you can give those who are unfamiliar with your business a snapshot of what you're all about. Use them to share your expertise on the industry you're in. Take a look at some successful competitors' pages to get an idea of what works with their fans, then start to build your own editorial calendar.
Consider starting a blog to provide some insight into common problems people in your industry face and how you've gone about addressing them. If you're new to the world of blogging, going with a hosted solution from a provider will probably be your best bet. There are free and paid solutions, depending on how much support you'd like to have. Do a search for "free blog host" and you'll find a number of credible and user-friendly options.
Whether it's a traditional blog post, infographic, a podcast or a how-to video, this digital content is not only valuable to your customers, it's valuable to you as well. Good content will rank higher in search results – ultimately driving people back to your own site where it's hosted. Think of how people search for solutions to the problems you're addressing and include those keywords in the body and title of your content. When this content is finished, you can utilize social media to promote it. Include the content in your email blasts and encourage your employees to share it as well. (Note: When doing this, Federal Trade Commission guidelines require employees to disclose that they are employees in the body of the post).
Set aside some time every week to write blog content and social posts. Often times, too many small business owners create a Facebook page, run it for a couple weeks and then forget about it completely. A strong social presence is the pulse of a thriving business. As it grows, you'll want to be sure you continue to engage with your fans. If they take the time to tweet a picture of your product and tag you in it, give them a retweet and engage in conversation back with them.
Being social also means thinking about how to elicit social conversations in addition to starting them. What would make someone want to share a personal experience they've had with your company on social media? Take a step back and analyze the different aspects of your business. Have you created a customer experience that entices people to want to share that experience with others? It could be the incredible product, the atmosphere of your business, or the above-and-beyond customer service you provide in a given situation. Give these things the attention they deserve, because digital word-of-mouth marketing can give your business an incredible edge on your competitors.
Optimize Your Website
In tandem with social media, you'll want to employ the use of other digital channels to help market your business. Perhaps the most important of which is a solid website. Think of the most commonly asked questions you receive either in person or by phone. Are your days/hours of operation listed? Is your menu online? Is your location easily findable? Are your current specials listed? Make sure the answers to these are prominently visible.
Your site can also serve as a funnel for email leads with a simple form that allows people to sign up. If you have a brick and mortar store, keep a physical email sign-up sheet by the register that previews the types of discounts and content customers can expect to receive.
For small businesses, a strong digital presence is important now more than ever. Forget the mindset that having a website, social media channels and an email list is something you have to do. Technology is allowing new customers to find you in new ways and is giving you the ability to speak to them directly. Embrace these opportunities and use them to your advantage.