All small businesses engage in some form of marketing activities: advertising, promotions, and public relations. But marketing your small business well can set you apart from the pack.
Ultimately, the success of a small business depends on their ability to ‘market’ their products and services effectively. You may have an amazing product and world-class customer service, but if people don’t actually buy what you’re selling, it’s impossible to run a viable business.
There are countless marketing tools your small business could use, but if you try to do everything, you will effectively do nothing. So which marketing tools should you use? We’ve put together 6 effective marketing tools that you can start using immediately to market your business, build your brand, connect to potential customers, and increase the number of paying customers your business serves.
Take advantage of email marketing
Email marketing is one of the most effective strategies to stay in touch with your customers (and potential customers). Emails go right into your subscriber’s inbox, so you don’t have to try ‘outsmart’ the algorithms on social platforms.
You also don’t have to worry about consistency as much as with other platforms. Unlike a social feed, no one sees how often you send emails, and frequency doesn’t impact how often your campaign arrives in your subscriber’s inbox. If you don’t have time to send an email one week (or 2 or 3 or 32), it doesn’t really matter. Your mailing list is always there for you when you’re ready to use it.
You can set up a welcome email with information on all of your services and offerings when people sign up. It’s also a good idea to offer an incentive for people who sign up for the newsletter. For example, you can share a discount code for a service or product, or offer a free download when people sign up. This is relatively simple to set up on email marketing platforms like Mailchimp and can help you grow your list fast.
Don’t over-complicate things. You can spend hours and hours putting together emails, but there is a fine line between perfectionism and procrastination. Just do it. A simple email with a few sentences explaining a new product, along with some photos and a call to action (CTA – always include a CTA) that leads the client to the site where they can actually make the purchase, and voila!
Keep in mind that you can overdo it with email marketing campaigns. If subscribers are trusting you with their email address, be sure not to inundate them with emails. Use email campaigns to share new products and offerings, discounts and specials, new blog posts, media appearances, and other content that will provide value to your subscribers.
Set up a Google My Business Listing
Over 90% of searches worldwide are on Google search engine. That’s a lot. One of the first places a consumer will go in search of a service or product they need is Google. If it’s not the first place, there’s a really good chance they are checking out reviews of your business on line before making a choice to purchase or not.
Google My Business is essentially a business ‘profile’ on Google that allows you to convey detailed information about your business, including contact details, your website, location, hours, and photos. Customers can leave reviews for your business and the more 5-star reviews means your business ranks higher (shows up higher up on the page) when people are doing a search. Additionally, your Google My Business page will let you stay in touch, get feedback and address any negative feedback your customers might have, so it can be used a customer relationship tool as well.
If possible, be sure to add a physical location for your business. That way you will appear when people search for a business near them. This is especially important if you have a brick and mortar business – if someone searches ‘yoga studio downtown Calgary’ and you are a yoga studio located in downtown Calgary, it’s a very good thing if you show up on the map, for obvious reasons.
A blog can seem daunting, but there are several reasons a blog can be a powerful marketing tool for your small business. Blogging helps in establishing yourself as an expert, or giving your business credibility. It can also increase traffic to your website, where you can further use tools like promotional pop-ups, to direct visitors’ attention. When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), things can get complicated, but blogging is a simple way to improve SEO on your website. Be sure to include your business’s keywords throughout the blog and make sure it’s long enough (ideally 1000 words or more).
If blogging seems like a huge undertaking, know that you can start small, keep things simple, and still be effective. Just start writing and it will get easier. You can also connect with other small business owners or experts for guest blog posts, posting their content on your site. The reverse is also true, writing content to be published on other websites is a great way to increase your reach, drive traffic to your site, and improve SEO by creating backlinks.
Try to include a call-to-action (CTA) that prompts readers to take an action like sign up for your newsletter, view your ‘services’ or ‘shop’ page, or take some other action that takes them one step closer to making a purchase.
Work with other businesses
Who you know matters. Connect with other small businesses that you develop strategic partnerships with. You can establish referral agreements with another company to direct customers to your product or service and vice versa. Other forms of partnerships include co-branding, like the placement of McDonald’s inside of Wal-Mart, or integrating another company’s products into your offerings. An example of this is using ‘white labelled’ products: your business sells the product of another company but the product is sold and marketed under the marketing and brand of your company. Partnerships can be used to reach a wider audience and to build your brand.
Get out of your comfort zone
Many small business owners are amazing at what they do but cringe at the ‘sales’ part of what they need to do to run a business that actually makes money. Self-promotion and increasing your profile is critical to the success of your small business. Talk to people about your business, hand out your business cards, go to events and join groups that allow you to grow your network, and seek opportunities for media coverage or speaking opportunities. It will feel uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. Digital marketing is important but relationships and trust are still important foundations to business success.
Be strategic about social media
Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat. Twitter. LinkedIn. There are a lot of social media marketing channels you can use for your small business but it’s important to focus your attention on the most valuable platform for connecting with your ideal customer/client.
Who is your target market? Are you selling to other businesses (B2B), or are you selling directly to consumers? If you’re a B2B business, LinkedIn would be a good platform to use while investing your time and resources heavily on Instagram could be a colossal waste of time.
Find out what platform your target market uses and engage with them. For example, you likely won’t find mom’s who want to purchase your amazing handmade baby toys on LinkedIn, so it’s not essential for you to be on every platform.
Beyond just posting content that is relevant to your audience (we recommend a good mix of educational content, sales-oriented posts, ‘behind-the-scenes’ posts and light or fun content), join the discussion on social. Engage with potential customers without giving them the hard sell. Ensure your business profiles are up to date with contact info, website links, and a succinct bio. If you already have an established social media presence but things are feeling stagnant, try these Five Minute Freshups.
Use analytics to determine which platforms and marketing tools you’re getting the most ROI and focus your attention on those. Analytics on posts and stories can also give you insight as to what content is landing with customers and clients, which should guide your content development. You can have a pretty Instagram feed but if followers aren’t converting to paying customers, it’s more like a time-consuming hobby than a marketing tool for your business.