By Miko Levy, VP, Customer Acquisitions, Outbrain
As a small business owner or marketing professional, it’s likely that you do not have the resources of a big household brand to market your products or services as aggressively or with the same reach. But that does not mean that you cannot still make a strong impact with targeted and creative ideas that will help you to get your small business in front of a new (and relevant) audience, while retaining and engaging the customers you already have.
I’ve chosen 5 of my favourite small business marketing ideas to help you re-think your size advantage and the potential power of your marketing efforts.
1. Optimise your virtual presence
Let’s assume you already have a website and start thinking about ways it can be optimised. It goes without saying that your website should be more than a simple telephone-book listing of your location and hours. It can and should be the most powerful of your marketing tools, especially if you’re able to deliver value above and beyond simply promoting your business. The best small business websites are those that offer real content and serve as a useful general resource for users in your industry.
To ensure that your website is providing useful content, asides from day to day information about the company, consider starting a frequently-updated blog that offers both updates about your small business and other interesting content, such as industry news and observations. Use your writing and images to establish a unique point-of-view and creative voice, further clarifying the tone of your brand. Once you have strong content, distribution platforms (like Outbrain Amplify DIY Dashboard) can help you find a wider network for your content regardless of your budget.
Additionally, make sure to include clear calls to action on the heels of good content, such as inviting readers to sign up for your email distribution list or to find you on social media. And be sure your site is mobile enabled. More and more readers are accessing information on the go, and small businesses that are not optimised for mobile formats risk falling behind the curve.
2. Reach out
Explore customer discovery tools like Groupon, LivingSocial, or Wowcher. These deal-of-the-day platforms, which discount your products or services, can offer you the chance to target a whole new customer base. While they do entail a momentary cut in profits, this will hopefully be offset by customers who become loyal followers - that’s where your relationship-building skills come in!
Additionally, make sure your business is enabled for review and check-in services like Yelp and Foursquare, and be sure to respond to reviews - both positive AND negative. Actively engaging with customers after negative feedback demonstrates responsiveness and a commitment to customer service that many larger companies cannot deliver.
3. Be social
Create and maintain innovative and original social media accounts that don’t only promote your small business, but establish your personality. The precision of social media is exactly what makes the medium such a great way to hone your brand message and to get clear about exactly who you are and what you offer. Most small businesses now have at the very least a Facebook or Twitter account, but why not expand to Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ to reach a new customer base and further show your creativity and vision? When used correctly, a Google+ page can be highly effective for your local business as it enables special local features on Google search. You can also use these profiles to become active in social communities that are relevant to your service or product.
Social media also offers a great way to engage your customer base by offering perks like discounts or giveaways. And, ultimately, your voice here reinforces the sense that there is a real person behind the marketing.
4. Build relationships
Rather than focusing on the ways in which you don’t have the same reach or power as a large business, think about what makes your small business particularly effective - for example, the opportunity to form close, meaningful relationships with your customers. Small businesses are not blockaded behind the layers of professional firewalls that stymie the efforts of larger companies to make themselves seem friendly and approachable. Cultivate a voice for your marketing efforts that is personable and unique, and use that presence to build your online relationships, such as through an email newsletter and strong social media groups. Start a loyalty program (online or in-store) that gives preference to repeat customers, and consider a referral program that honours customers who tell their friends about you. Invite repeat customers to special events such as a pre-sale exclusive, or offer them a membership discount. These close customer relationships are the best way to ensure your longevity.
5. Think local
Whatever the intended reach of your small business, mobilising your immediate community is still one of the best ways to create buzz. If you are a brick and mortar store, think about ways you can connect with your neighbours and show your investment in the strength of your community. Collaborate with other local business - especially those who aren’t direct competitors - to cross-promote or to pair your services as part of local packages. Target local media to respond to community issues and for publicity opportunities. Participate in local craft or food fairs or be a sponsor at a community event. Make sure you have a killer elevator pitch and get networking!
Once you get to know the rhythms of your neighbourhood, you’ll be able to craft your brand to more directly meet the needs of the people you’re serving and be able to meet your customers with your marketing message. And above all, you’ll demonstrate a real commitment to making your business integral to the growth of your neighbourhood.
These are just some of the small business marketing ideas and tools that can simply, efficiently, and inexpensively help you extend your reach. With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can attain the same results as a big marketing firm even without the big resources.
In addition to this creativity are low-cost digital marketing tools that help to amplify your voice online above the flood of content, to compete on par with the larger brands and their extensive budgets. For example, Outbrain’s Amplify DIY Dashboard offers the Google AdWords to content marketing, so content creators of any size can get heard by the right audience of online.