Running a small business is no small feat. Unlike the big guys, small businesses have a much smaller margin of error. If a half-a-million-dollar initiative falls flat at a large company, there will be a lot of head shaking. If that happens at a small business, it can mean game over.
On the plus side, small businesses have more agility to take risks and try new things when it comes to marketing. There’s just not as much red tape and oversight to hold your business back. That increased freedom and flexibility can create a lot of opportunity.
In today’s post, we’ll provide five practical and proven ideas to help your small business reach more people and grow your customer base.
What Are the Biggest Marketing Hurdles for Small Businesses?
The two biggest challenges facing most small business owners when it comes to marketing are:
Resources/Costs – Most small businesses don’t have the luxury of a full in-house marketing team working for them. Nor do they have the financial resources for a big agency or expensive marketing campaigns.
Attention/Brand Awareness – The two main goals of small business marketing are (1) increasing the amount of people who actually know about the business; and (2) convincing them to give the business a chance.
Five Ways Your Small Business Can Reach More People
Whereas big businesses work in bulk and scope, small businesses have to use creativity and ingenuity to grab the attention of customers and build brand awareness. Here are some smart and effective ways you can get more from your small business marketing…
1. Use Data to Better Target Potential Customers
Data can be an amazing marketing asset for small businesses. You can use data to identify individuals with the greatest potential to become customers—and then tailor your message to meet their needs.
Here are some of the ways you can use data to better connect with potential customers (learn more about them here):
- Customer Profiling – What do your customers “look like”
- Predictive Modeling – What other people look like your customers
- List Enhancement – How can you identify more prospects with similar traits
- Customer Mapping – Where are your customers located
Partnering with an expert data team that can give you the information you need and help you put it to work will come with a cost (which varies based on the company and services they provide). But if it helps you acquire a good amount of new customers it can be well worth the investment.
2. Update Your Website to Generate More Online Leads
If you’ve ever searched for a business via Google, you know how important the first impression a website makes can be. A good website (in terms of both design and content) will draw people in and increase your online leads. While an outdated, poorly designed website will send people running for the exit.
Just because you’re a small business doesn’t need you mean to look like it online. One of the best things about the Web is it’s the great equalizer—closing the gap between small businesses and big businesses.
By updating your website to give it a current, polished, and professional look and present your products/services in the most beneficial way possible, you will create a strong perception of your brand. Using SEO and paid search (more on that below) will help draw people to your site too.
Again, there will be a cost to have a professional team update your website. But the importance websites hold for small businesses cannot be overstated. If you can make your website a regular source of online leads, it will more than justify the one-time cost of a website redesign.
3. Create Shareable Content to Expand Your Audience and Awareness
Commonly called “content marketing”, creating informative online content is a powerful way to reach people and raise awareness of your company. By providing people with information they will find interesting or valuable, you can also showcase your expertise in your field.
Online content today can take many different forms, including:
- Blog posts
They key is to make whatever form of content you produce useful to the audience you want to reach. You can publish your content on your website or on sites like YouTube, Tumblr or Instagram, and you’ll want to share links to it on your social media pages.
Technically speaking, creating online content is free. There’s no charge for posting blogs or infographics on your websites, or putting videos up on YouTube. But unless you or someone on your team has a lot of time available to do those things, you may want to look for outside help.
4. Focus on Email to Strengthen Relationships with Existing Customers
Email is particularly effective as a tool to reach your existing customers, and present them with additional sales opportunities, upgrades, or cross-sells. It’s a non-invasive way to stay connected and build relationships with people who already know your brand.
The DMA 2015 Fact Book reveals 80.1% of subscribers sign up to receive emails from a company because they want discounts. That’s definitely something to keep in mind.
The more personal you can make the email experience for your customers and speak to their individual needs, the better. One of the best ways to do this is by segmenting your email list according to things like past purchases, demographics, or other relevant data points.
Unlike direct mail, which comes with the cost of designing, printing and mailing pieces, email marketing requires much less upfront investment. According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), for every dollar spent on email marketing the return is $44.25.
You can get a good email marketing service for a fairly decent monthly or yearly price. View a list of top email marketing solutions for small business here.
5. Test Out Paid Search to Get Found by More Potential Customers
Paid search can be a good way to drive more potential customers to your website. This form of advertising helps you connect with Web searchers as they are searching. So if someone is searching for “Ohio grocery delivery service” and you’re an Ohio grocery delivery service you could make your ad appear at the top of the page. Learn more about paid search here.
Now, paid search can be tricky for small businesses. Because ads are purchased through a bidding system (whoever bids the most for a keyword gets the top spot), if you’re competing with big businesses on broad keywords like “grocery delivery” you’re probably going to lose.
A few smart paid search practices for small businesses:
- Keep it local – Focus you keyword bidding on terms specific to your local area—with names of local cities, towns, counties, along with what your business does (ex. “Akron grocery delivery”).
- Don’t overbid – Develop a reasonable budget for your campaign and stick with it. If you’re seeing good results and grabbing new leads as a result then increase your budget.
- Tweak your campaign – You’ll want to pay regular attention to your campaign to see if it’s working and make adjustments as needed to get the most for your paid search dollar.
The key with Google AdWords is tracking. You have to monitor your campaign constantly to make sure it’s worth the investment. If you’re not seeing a return after a few months, don’t be afraid to pull the plug. Here are some additional tips for small businesses using paid search.
Other Useful Resources for Small Business Owners
Beyond marketing, here are a few other resources that may be useful as you look to grow and expand your small business….
U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions, and other forms of assistance to small businesses. There’s a lot of resources on their website. If you have small business questions, this is a good place to start looking for answers.
As a supporter of the spirit of entrepreneurship, Kabbage is a great resource for small business owners. Kabbage is an online provider of small business loans. They offer loans ranging from $2,000 to $100,000. Entrepreneurs can use this working capital loan to grow your business in many ways.
From websites and online marketing to paid search and Web analytics, Google partnered with the Small Business Administration to create this Tools for Online Success resource page filled with video tips to help small businesses succeed online.
Free Stock Images
You need great images on the Web today to grab peoples’ attention. But quality images can be costly. Fortunately, more and more free stock image sites are emerging. If you’re looking for some eye-catching free images, here’s a list of 20 sites to check out.