Finding new customers and generating buzz are the key to success for brands of any size, but particularly for small businesses. Without a big marketing budget to spend on traditional advertising and PR, getting your message out there may seem like an impossible task. Fear not, there are plenty of affordable ways to grow your audience, starting with these five.
1. Be a Social Media Maven
It's impossible to talk about small business marketing today without starting with social media. Instagram currently has over 800 million users, 500 million of which are active on a daily basis. That's a HUGE marketing channel, with massive potential for brand growth and reach. The key to Instagram-success is threefold: originality, consistency and interaction. People appreciate and respond to original content, so putting some money toward a social media photo shoot each month is probably a wise move. Posting on a consistent basis — but not too frequently or too much — keeps your followers engaged. The final piece of the social puzzle, which often is neglected, is that you need to spend time interacting with people — like, follow, comment, build relationships with people and brands you find interesting. It's a very powerful form of direct communication. Never before have the barriers to reaching your audience been lower. All it takes is dedication, time and effort. If you want to extend your reach even more, you can of course look into social media ads and promoted posts as well.
2. Cultivate Partnerships
No one succeeds in a vacuum. It's no fun to do everything alone. Small business owners often have to wear many hats, which makes it even more important to cultivate a support network. Connect with brands who share values similar to yours and figure out something you can collaborate on. The most powerful partnerships tend to be forged between companies who complement each other. For example, if you sell small batch coffee, partner with a bagel maker, a smoked salmon purveyor, and a local dairy to organize monthly breakfast salons. Pick a topic for each one and invite interesting speakers that will help draw people to your event. Each partnership will expand your reach and introduce you to a new set of potential customers.
3. Be There IRL
Although much brand building is done in the digital realm today, let's not forget about the real world. I think we can all agree that many companies make it way too hard to actually talk to a real person. Instead of contributing to this frustrating trend, go the other way. Make sure there is always someone at the other end of the line when a customer calls, be present on the online chat during all business hours, respond to emails and direct messages within minutes and [participate in local events, markets, etc]..(https://www.weebly.com/inspiration/why-your-business-needs-an-event-presence) This does require some personnel resources, but the potential payoff is huge. When people feel like they are being taken care of they remain loyal customers for life. Good customer service is the best customer loyalty program (a bit of) money can buy.
In terms of marketing, physical pieces like postcards and posters can also pack a big punch. The key is to make them less about the hard sell and more of a giveaway — something memorable that makes people smile and gets their attention.
4. Brand Yourself An Expert
Networking is an important part of business, no matter what you do. Instead of selling your brand offerings, try putting yourself out there next time. As an entrepreneur, chances are you are an expert in your field. Let the media know you are available for commentary, submit articles and op-eds to leading industry publications and set a small part of your budget aside to enter relevant awards. Make a list of topics you feel confident about and offer to speak at industry conferences and gatherings, or organize your own workshops. Do it well and soon enough people will start inviting you to be a speaker. Establishing yourself as an authority will not only add to your personal work satisfaction but can also help expand your network and increase your professional clout. You want to be to your business what Richard Branson is to Virgin.
5. Curate Your Web Presence
Even if you don't sell anything online, your website needs to make a good first impression. A great website ensures first-time visitors that your brand is legitimate, and should introduce them to your product(s) or service(s) in the best way possible. It should be user-friendly, informational and visually appealing in a way that accurately represents your brand, yes, but there should also be something there for people to interact with. Content is still king, and things like blogs can drive a surprising amount of traffic to your site. Establish your expertise in your field (as discussed above) by writing thoughtful blog posts that provide valuable insight and useful information, do a video series, inspire with beautiful visuals or do whatever else feels right for you. Always prioritize quality over quantity, and make sure the content you put out there is original and feels authentic to your brand.
There are many (cost) effective ways to market your small business — consider these a start. Think outside the box, but never lose sight of who your customers are and what they want. Try to capture statistics and metrics in order to learn what works and keep fine tuning your marketing efforts until you find the magic formula that works for your brand.
Dennis Imaan is a Global Citizen born and currently staying in Malawi. He loves to share his experiences and lessons with others. Travel, Tourism, Innovations, Media and Youth development are close to his heart.