The process of running a small enterprise can slow down even the most energised owners. From maintaining stock to dealing with customer enquiries, managing staff and consulting with experts, the marketing aspect of the business can be left behind. There are emails that require responding, orders that have to be catered to and when it comes to expanding the scope of your business, it just feels too difficult.
This issue is heightened with a limited budget to work with, being unable to spend on those expensive billboards or world-class websites that your competitors have invested in. Sometimes the pecking order feels permanent.
The good news is that a smart strategy to promote your operation is readily available. By following a select group of guidelines that puts the emphasis on your target audience and showcases content that draws eyeballs, a modest enterprise can quickly build a head of steam and excel. Once the customer can see with his or her own eyes what you have to offer, the rest takes care of itself.
It might be a restaurant, café, barber, florist, pub, electronics store, fishing equipment, men’s clothing or chemist, the same principles apply. Marketing is never about waving a magic wand – it is ticking off important indicators that outline why you are an important presence within a given niche and communicating that to the consumer.
Yet marketing for small business is not a one size fits all practice. What will work for the local butcher in a regional area will not necessarily apply to a physiotherapist in an urban location. There are a variety of routines, personalities and geographies at play that will influence the final outcome and it is a matter for the business owner to identify and take advantage of these factors.
Growth will likely occur gradually as each item is ticked along the journey. So without further ado, here are 4 strategies that will help promote your small business.
Strategy #1: Lay out key objectives
Before you get started, you should be asking yourself where do you want to end up. This is the end game that has to run through every choice and implementation you make along the way. Forgetting this will leave the operation in dead space where nothing substantial is achieved.
There are crucial questions you have to address before you start:
- What do I offer?
- What makes my business unique?
- Who is my ideal customer?
- Where does this customer come from – are they local or domestic/international visitors?
- Does my location work for me?
- Should I be based somewhere else?
- What have I done well in marketing so far?
- What have I done poorly in marketing so far?
- What budget have I got to work with?
- What can I realistically afford today?
- What is my peak season of operation?
- Who is my competition?
- What have my competitors utilised successfully?
- What have my competitors failed at?
Once these have been written down and answered, it is time to formulate a marketing strategy. This should be consulted with partners, peers and trusted employees to know exactly where you want to be 6 months, 12 months, 24 months, 5 years and 10 years down the line.
Do you want to grow by 5%, 10%, or 200%? Perhaps it is not about growth at all but maintaining what you have or even downsizing. Are there other businesses you want to link under one banner? Is there an extension or piece of property that will be a strong investment for future operations?
It might appear arbitrary with this knowledge in your head, but having it down on paper will make the world of difference. Access Pinterest with their business planner application or utilise an Excel Calendar Planner to have a digital copy to pair with a physical copy.
Strategy #2: Showcase your assets
Your business might have a killer recipe that no one is using at the moment, a product that has unique value to the region or a service that is going for the best rate.
How is the consumer expected to know this is the case if you do not drive the point home? Executing on branding comes down to something that small to medium enterprises cannot get enough of and often pay highly for – exposure.
Yet all the regular channels through Facebook hits, newspaper advertisements, flyers, radio and television spots cannot compare to the consumer trying out or seeing what you have for themselves. There are a few methods you can utilise to showcase your assets.
Content through blogging
Heading online to publish your understanding and expertise of a given niche tells the customers two things – you know what you are selling and you are passionate about selling it. It opens up a line of communication where milestones can be broadcast to your marketplace as you portray the business in the manner in which you want it to be perceived.
The most widely accessible and used blogging platform on the planet today is WordPress, with plans ranging from free to platinum level. Zoho also offer free website hosting that is more geared towards sales and marketing of enterprises. To ensure your blog is receiving enough traffic, run the URL through SEO Site Checkup to see if the content is being noticed by Google.
Offer free trials or product
One of the best methods to hooking in those customers who are on the fence about your business is to give them a taste of what they could be getting. Whether it is:
- Free sample
- Free download
- Buy-one-get-one-free limited time offer
- Discount during a specific period
Studies have proven that consumers are more likely to become a regular if they gear their personal pattern of behaviour to engaging in your service. By linking with the global coupon site Groupon, you will become immediately visible to those shopping for a good deal.
Talk to those individuals who are on the sides of the great divide – those in the know and those who want to know. This method will illustrate to the customer that you are welcoming, knowledgeable, transparent and in touch with the local community, all important facets that small business owners usually hold an advantage over larger corporations.
It is as simple as it sounds. Perhaps it is a grand opening of a new location, a timely gathering around a Christmas, Easter or general holiday event, or a networking evening of surrounding businesses in the region.
Draw people into the community by putting yourself out there and put the brand name up in lights. Everyone wants to be associated with people and places that are warm, welcoming and give them something they cannot find anywhere else.
Strategy #3: Cash in on free opportunities
The old adage that you have to pay money to make money is still as true today as it ever was. Whether it comes in the form of print media or digital advertising through the means of Google AdWords or on Facebook, at some juncture your operation will need to dip the hand in the pocket and speculate to accumulate.
However, there are a few smart and inexpensive methods to engage in as well. Word of mouth is by far the best to engage in, but in large part that will be out of your control and a great intangible that only flows from a stellar reputation in the industry.
From creating a logo to tracking how your blogging, social media and website traffic is heading, these are some steps you can utilise without having to part with a single dollar. When you notice a free trial that promotes a listing or a means of asking questions or publishing a brand – always take advantage. You never know what it might lead to.
Strategy #4: Infiltrate your niche
It does not matter what you specialise in. From bait and tackle to VoIP installation, bottled water delivery, jewelry, go-karts or gardening equipment and landscaping. If you are a passionate small business owner, you will understand all the finer details about what is involved in your marketplace, what are the current trends, what are the challenges faced by insiders and what sells best.
Customers will always gravitate to experts, no matter what the circumstance. In order for them to do likewise with you, they must first come to know the local identity.
Advertise in niche publications
Find out where your customers go for their shopping. This will give you the Intel you require to find out patterns of behaviour. For example, if you were a car mechanic business, it would be a good idea to place an ad in Wheels Magazine.
Join a like-minded community
Whatever field you are involved in, there will be similar small businesses that are dealing with problems and experiencing what you are going through. Networking with these individuals will give you a greater grasp of the situation and developing relationships can only open up opportunities in the future. For those based in NSW, link in with the NSW Business Chamber to find others like yourself.
Assuming that you have adequate writing capabilities to illustrate your expertise, then inform the customers about your knowledge. Advertising these days can be blocked out online with the right software applications and marketers have to be more savvy and sensible when it comes to promoting their brand. So why not do so subtly?
Take the host of The Celebrity Apprentice Australia in Mark Bouris. An industry-leading figure for decades, the Wizard Home Loans and Yellow Brick Road founder has held a long-standing relationship with The Sydney Morning Herald to put forward his thoughts and opinions in the domain of wealth management. Customers then understand that the chairman has an up to date grasp of the issues. Follow that example.
When you boil down these strategies, it might just so happen that only one of these tactics pays off in the long run. What is important is trying out a number of different scenarios online and in the real world to ensure that you are maximising the potential of your business.
Sometimes it will take a gamble to stand out from the crowd by using your resources through alternative methods, but applying the practices of laying out your objectives, showcasing your assets, cashing in on free opportunities and infiltrating the niche that you are an expert in will make that process easier.
Any type of success requires a degree of patience to learn from mistakes. Errors and missteps will be made along the journey, but having the ability to adapt and venture forward without hesitation is the ultimate factor deciphering the success from the rest of the pack.
Stick to the target at hand and be diligent in your application. There will be no excuses left if that is the strategy you take into every decision made on behalf of your small business.
What do you think about these strategies? Have any of these been helpful in your past experiences? Continue the conversation in the comments section and put forward your thoughts on how a small business should promote themselves.