22 Smart Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
Whether you are a new business owner or you have owned your own company for a while, finding ways to stimulate business is a universal and ongoing challenge. Here are 22 ideas that can stimulate growth in a variety of small businesses.
Establish and broadcast your brand. It is important to make your business and its offerings easily recognizable.
1. Get a logo. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a professional designer to have one made but you do need to put very careful thought into one. A well thought out logo well make your company easy to recognize and can stay with your company for decades.
2. If you are a brick and mortar operation, brand your physical presence. This may be the front of the building, or it could be the reception desk of the co-working space in which you operate. How can you express your brand from this point on? This could be signage, a brochure holder with copies of a marketing collateral stocked in it, or your business cards in prominently displayed in a key location.
3. If you are a virtual company, make sure all your “virtual signage” is consistently branded. This includes your own website, social media channels, banner ads you purchase and any other avenue you use to reach your market.
4. If you are both brick/mortar and virtual, get #2 and #3 nailed. Make sure you are recognizable and easily contactable wherever your company shows up.
5. Invest in branded apparel for all employees. People sporting your logo on a shirt are the equivalent of human billboards.
6. Put signage on all your vehicles. Be sure to include a way for people to find you, like a web address or phone number.
7. Give away swag with your company’s name and logo on it. Get creative with the type of swag you buy and where/how you give it away, the next section speaks to this.
Give prospects a taste of your offerings. Giving away some of your products or expertise is a great way to attract new business.
8. Offer free samples. This is probably first nature to small business owners in the food and beverage industry, for everyone else this may be a novel strategy. An apparel business, for example, can take what is readily available to engage customers by using extra fabric to make reusable bags, coasters or koozies and giving them away for free (or for free with a particular kind of purchase).
9. Hold a raffle or giveaway. The prizes can either be your own products/services or branded gift cards and swag.
10. Donate your products or services to charitable fundraising efforts. Many charities have raffles or silent auctions as part of their fundraising campaigns. Donating prizes for these activities can be a great way for your market to see you.
Network in your community. No matter how new or old your company is, you need to stay connected and interacting with your market.
11. Join a networking group. Attending networking events is a productive and cost-effective way to keep your business top of mind. If you are a brand new business, this is a great way to meet other business owners and learn tips and tricks while at the same time spreading the word about your own business and offerings.
12. Attend trade shows/conferences in your market area. Taking part in events like business conferences or trade shows is a great way to meet peers and prospects. There are even virtual conferences in which you can participate.
13. Sponsor something. What you sponsor depends on what business you’re in. It could be a local Little League team, a local 10K run, a youth science fair or a business event. Match your sponsorship to the persona of your ideal prospect.
14. Host a Meetup. Meetup.com allows you to join or host a casual, free event that anyone can attend. A Meetup is a great opportunity to grow your customer base and boost awareness about your company. You can even use one of these events to host your own grand opening, company anniversaries, or fun ways to celebrate national holidays. (To increase attendance consider having food trucks and other vendors set up at your event, many of them will usually do this free of charge as they will have the opportunity to sell/promote their own products.)
Build an email database and use it for business building. When you get permission from interested prospects to communicate with them, make sure you follow through with good offers and conversation starters.
15. Get set up with an email marketing system. There are many options for building your email database and creating communications to send to all or part of it. Just a few examples include Aweber, Mailchimp and Constant Contact, and there are a number of others from which to select.
16. Make subscribing easy. Capture email addresses from customers in the store with a mailing list signup sheet. Put a subscription widget on your website, and include a subscription link in the signature line of your emails.
17. Send out a periodic newsletter. Use your newsletter as a relationship builder. Focus more on providing information and encouraging conversation rather than on selling.
18. Create your own email marketing campaigns. Email marketing campaigns can be more about selling than newsletters. Promote a new product, announce a sale, send a discount coupon—there are many options for these campaigns.
19. Set up a loyalty program. Acknowledge your most frequent customers with extra benefits and offers. Use a punch card for purchases or attendance (be sure to get an email address) or offer an incentive to pass the word about your business through a referral program. (Note: branded gift cards are a great reward.)
Create a strong online presence. Whether you are a brick and mortar business, a 100% virtual business, or a hybrid of the two, your company’s presence on the internet is a significant player in the business development arena.
20. Optimize your web site for search engines. Search engine optimization is absolutely necessary in today’s world to increase traffic to your website. There are entire books written on this topic and much more information is available online.
21. Claim your online listings. There are online listings for every kind of business now. Claim your online listing on sites like Google Maps, Yelp, Yellow Pages and the Better Business Bureau (and check listings in your local area as well). Monitor, daily if possible, to check and be responsive to customer feedback and reviews. Claiming your online listings and participating in customer feedback lets visitors know that you are a real business that cares about its customers.
22. Participate in the right social media channels. Figure out which social media sites your target market uses most and jump in. Develop marketing strategies appropriate to each site and make sure you are interacting at least on a weekly basis in some form, daily is best.
Finally, don’t be afraid to get help. Running a company is time consuming, so finding a marketing partner to help build business can be a big payoff. The right marketing partner will in fact give you a very good return on your investment by way of new business and increased revenues. Check out and meet with a number of marketing consultants and agencies in order to find one that fits your business and budget and with which you can have a lasting relationship.