19 Jan 14 simple marketing tips for small businesses
It’s no good being the best at what you do if no one knows about it. That’s where marketing comes in. Getting started with some simple marketing doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. It can actually be quite fun. We’ve compiled a few simple ideas that might inspire you to have a go.
1) Give something away
If you produce something tangible, can you give a little bit away to whet people’s appetites? Think about those little tasters you sometimes get at food markets. Once people have experienced your product, they can really understand it and may well want more. If it’s a service you offer, what about a free trial for a limited time?
2) Meet other local businesses
Go to some networking events. But don’t just go there and stand in the shadows clutching a questionable cup of tea hoping someone will come and talk to you. Go there with purpose. And lots of business cards. Networking doesn’t come naturally to a lot of people but the more you do, the easier it gets. “Hello. I’m Emma. What do you do?” is a good opener if you see someone standing on their own (and if your name’s Emma). “Mind if I join you?” works if you’re approaching a group. The key is to find out what someone else does, let them know what you do and think about whether you can help each other out. I’ve written before about working with your competition, so don’t squirm awkwardly if, on the surface, the person you’ve just approached appears to do the same as you. This could be a great opportunity. You might be surprised to discover just how many like-minded business people there are out there and where work might come from once you start connecting with them.
3) Start a blog
I will admit, it can be hard to find the time to write on a regular basis. This blog is a case in point. But if you can get into the habit, a blog can be a great way to let people know you’re there and that you really know your stuff. It’ll help people find you online, give you a way to connect with potential customers, and give you a platform to tell people about your latest developments. You can always ask colleagues or other industry experts to contribute posts.
4) Be helpful
Linked to the first idea about giving something away, giving away a little bit of knowledge can go a long way. If someone mentions a problem they have that you can help with, help them. I don’t mean that you should start giving away your services for free, but proving you know what you’re talking about will bring people back. Depending on your business, offering a free one hour consultation could fall under this bracket.
5) Send out a regular marketing emails
If you have the means of collecting email addresses for customers, or potential customers, and the permission to use them for marketing, why not send out a regular email to let them know what’s going on with your business? Use a free email marketing service like MailChimp. It’ll help you create the email, look after your lists for you and give you stats on how popular your emails are. Just remember to always include a call to action to let people know what you want them to do as a result of reading your email (call you, redeem an offer, look at your website…).
6) Support a cause
Charities are often really good at promoting what they’re up to through social media, the local press and to their own supporters. Choose a charity close to your heart and do something for them from time to time. They’ll help get your name out there by telling people about it, you’ll have done something good, so you feel good, and your customers feel good about you.
7) Connect with people on Twitter
I’m very careful not to recommend that all businesses should get on social media. It takes a lot of effort to do it well, and doing it badly can damage your brand. But if you have a bit of time and a bit of inclination, Twitter could be a good bet, particularly if you want to connect with other local businesses. Here in Norfolk #Norfolkhour runs three times a week at a set time (a handy guide from EggCup Web Design here), providing a great opportunity to connect with other local businesses, tell people what you’re up to and get support and advice. There are loads of other local variations, so just find the best one for you and give it a go. Don’t be afraid to ask people to Retweet an offer or promotion – lots of people will!
8) Write a press release
Writing a press release is a bit of an art, but if your business has something to shout about, like a new location, service or success, it’s worth having a go and sending something to the news desk at your local newspapers and industry press. You might just get some free coverage out of it.
9) Create brand ambassadors
Loyal customers will often tell people about you without much prompting, but you could consider rewarding these customers with some kind of incentive for them to spread to word. ‘Tell a friend’ discounts are easy to do and can reward both your current customers and attract new ones if you offer both parties something for getting involved.
10) Offer loyalty discounts
In a similar vein to the last point, rewarding loyalty is a nice way to thank people who stick with you, and to keep them with you a bit longer. Collecting rewards towards something free (think coffee stamps) is an easy way to keep people coming back.
11) Run a competition
Who doesn’t love a competition? For a business, they can be great for awareness, and also for collecting data for future marketing. Depending on your audience and the platforms available to you, this could be a ‘business card in a bowl for a bottle of bubbly’ type competition at an event, or something much larger on social media. Just make sure you know what you want to get out of it before giving things away willy nilly!
12) Get happy customers to tell you
Testimonials from real customers can be used in your marketing to add a level of reassurance about the quality of your service. There’s a whole host of ways to collect them. A simple feedback form, social media, Google reviews, Trip Advisor…encourage customers to tell you what they think and make sure other people will see what they have to say. If you do have some negative feedback left in a public place, don’t despair. But don’t delete it and don’t ignore it. Try to respond in as positive a way as possible. People respect that.
13) Enter industry awards
Some award applications can take a bit of effort, but it’s usually just your time that’s needed. Make sure you identify appropriate awards and then use them as an opportunity to shout about the great things you’ve been up to. If you win, or even get shortlisted, your business can get some really great exposure.
14) Give people your business card
How many business people out there had some business cards printed when they started and still have most of them in a box? They’re not doing any good there. Always have a bunch with you, and give them to as many people as you can! Sure, they may end up putting it in the bin, but they may end up putting it on their desk, or passing it on to someone else and business might come back to you as a result.