Deciding to start a small business can be a liberating experience. You’re no longer shackled to the whims of an incompetent boss or stuck working into the evening for the sake of somebody else’s profit margins. Every decision you take, and every ounce of sweat that you put in, is for you.
Therefore, it can be extremely disheartening when things are not going well. No matter how hard you work, or even how much money you invest, if you’re not attracting customers and making sales, it’s all for nothing. This is why following the right marketing strategies is so important.
Before we discuss the best tactics and methods, it’s worth pointing out that there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone. The key is in finding the right one for your business – the one that is most likely to align with your target audience. Always remember that what might work for one startup doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you.
With that in mind, there are numerous inexpensive ways to start getting your brand out there. Here are the 12 best marketing strategies for small businesses.
1. Google My Business
The importance of being visible on Google has long been established, but Google My Business (GMB) is a relatively new development. To put it simply: if you are a local business, then GMB is absolutely vital.
When people search for businesses, Google’s algorithm determines their location and provides options that are local to that person; think ‘exhaust repair shops near me’ or ‘flower shops in Cardiff’. If you’re not appearing in the top listings for your local niche, then it goes without saying that you’re missing out on a lot of potential customers.
Claiming your business is a free and simple process and, once you build up reviews and credibility, GMB will prioritise your listing, giving you huge exposure to new clients.
2. Offline Marketing
It’s tempting to assume that with the power of Google and social media, offline marketing is dead – but it isn’t. Getting out there and putting a face to your business can be a great way of building trust with customers and showing what you’re all about.
Attend local events or fairs in your niche and set up a stand. Network with other businesses and see if there’s the potential to collaborate. In other words, be proactive.
Meanwhile, handing out well-designed flyers is a proven and effective way of generating leads, as is offering free samples of your product – don’t be afraid to try new things and see what works.
3. Content Marketing
As mentioned previously, appearing in Google’s search results is important for your business. But how do you actually get found organically? Through content marketing, of course.
Content marketing is about producing engaging, unique and informative content that will draw people to your page. Google’s software (known as ‘spiders’) then ‘crawls’ through the content you and everybody else is producing and ranks it based on numerous factors (such as quality, authority and a whole host of other SEO tricks). The higher you are, the more likely it is that people will click on your page.
Traditionally, most content is in written format, but other mediums such as video, infographics and images are now becoming increasingly popular, so make sure you engage your (or a freelancer’s) creative side.
4. Social Media
It’s safe to say that, in 2019, most people are active on some form of social media, which means that it’s another potential platform for you to target customers. Indeed, if you’re smart and savvy about it, social media can work wonders for your business.
The key is to identify firstly where your target demographic spends most of its time; many young people prefer to use Snapchat, for instance, while older audiences may prefer Facebook. Do your research and find out which platform aligns with your brand.
Consider how you can market your product, too. If you run a tattoo parlour or a cake shop, then sharing images of your work on a visual platform like Instagram can be far more beneficial than, say, tweeting about your business hours.
5. Social Media Advertising
Of course, the downside to social media is that the chances of your post being seen are entirely dependent upon the algorithms of the platform; therefore, if you have a budget to play with, it can be worth investing in social media ads.
Sponsored or promoted posts have increased visibility, and they guarantee that they will be seen by more people, although you’ll need to test heavily in order to find parameters that provide a return. Once you get it right, though, you could be onto a potential goldmine.
6. Google Advertising
Google ads are another paid form of promotion that, again, might require some extensive testing on your part but which can reap lucrative rewards when done right.
You’ll need to be careful with your keyword research, too, as certain search queries can be very expensive. Trying to compete as a small business for a broad and highly competitive term is likely to see you blow through your budget in quick time with unpredictable results. Instead, be smart and identify less expensive niche keywords that will attract high-quality targeted traffic.
7. Endorsement / Influencer Marketing
For some businesses, influencer marketing is a highly effective strategy. You are taking an audience that somebody else has worked hard to build and utilising that person/company’s position of influence to market your product to said audience – a tried and tested formula that has been part of traditional advertising for years.
Of course, people don’t do this for free, and it’s unlikely that Kylie Jenner will promote your lipstick for $50. This is where you really need to do your research on the right kinds of influencers for your business, as well as get creative in terms of what you can offer them (think: free products and commissions on sales). When it works, influencer marketing can be a great strategy, but if you get it wrong, it can also be a huge waste of time and money.
8. Sponsored Posting
Also sometimes known as guest posting, sponsored posting is not a particularly new technique – but it still works. Essentially, it’s about getting good-quality backlinks and driving traffic to your own site by contributing to other company’s blogs – as long as, of course, you offer value to that site’s readers.
Spend some time researching blogs and websites that possess high authority in your niche and construct a pitch detailing what you can offer them and their readers, as well as what you can provide in return.
9. Print Advertising
As mentioned previously, you don’t have to do everything online. There is still a market for traditional offline strategies, such as taking out advertisements in newspapers and magazines.
In fact, due to the digital marketing explosion, many print publications have lowered their advertising fees, making it more affordable for small businesses to get featured. Again, it’s all about doing your research and identifying which publications are typically read by your target audience.
The advertising world might have evolved, but don’t underestimate the power of one well-placed print advert, either. Under Armour, for example, was a struggling startup operating out of founder Kevin Plank’s basement until he spent his entire budget on taking out an advert in ESPN magazine; the rest, as they say, is history.
10. Referral / Incentive Programmes
When you’re just starting out, one of your biggest challenges is getting the word out that you even exist as a business, let alone establishing credibility; a great way to do both, however, is through word of mouth.
You can devise various referral programmes that encourage customers (or even employees, if you have them) to recommend you to others, such as offering discounts or rewards. Not only does this attract new customers which, in turn, repeats the cycle, but you also start building a base of repeat customers.
It can also be a good idea to offer rewards and discounts on coupon sites like Groupon, but this approach should be taken with extreme caution as a fledgeling enterprise. Indeed, you can easily overstep your capabilities and struggle to keep up with orders, ruining your reputation in the process, while it’s also possible to even end up losing money if you get the calculations wrong.
Remember: these suggestions are intended to be feasible for you as a small operation as opposed to strategies that are intended for larger organisations (who have the time, manpower and financial resources to implement them effectively). Once you’ve found some success and you want to scale, it’s worth building on these ideas and trying out different tactics, too.
What small business marketing strategies would you recommend ? Let us know in the comments section below!