Small business owners and start-ups often don’t have a particularly large budget for marketing and advertising, and as such they may be unsure about how they can spread the word about their goods or services. However, even with the most modest of marketing budgets, there are plenty of things that an entrepreneur can do to attract customers and get their business off the ground.
Here we’ve come up with seven simple low-cost ways in which you can market your business…
Set up a website
The internet is a powerful medium, and if you don’t have a presence on there then you may struggle to find enough business to keep you going. Whatever type of business you run, whether you’re a plumber, hairdresser, or yoga instructor, having a website will always set you above the competition who don’t have a website.
We’re in the digital age, and people don’t want to have to call you up to find out what areas you cover, or how much you charge for your services; they want to have this information at their fingertips with very little effort, and a website is the way to do that. Setting up and running a website is not as expensive as you think, and there are a variety of affordable website solutions out there specifically aimed at small business owners.
The main things you need on your website are as follows:
- Information about the business, i.e. what you do
- Your contact information, including telephone and email
- A list of your services, and prices where applicable
- A Google-powered map highlighting your location
If you provide these key pieces of information, your potential customers can decide if they want to use your services, without you or them having to waste time on the phone discussing quotes etc unnecessarily.
Start a blog
Adding a blog page to your website serves several purposes. First of all, it gives you a simple way of adding fresh content to your website on a regular basis. When Google crawl websites to index them, they tend to rank a regularly-updated, active website higher than a site that hasn’t had any fresh content added for years. Obviously there are other factors involved in Google’s page ranking process, but a blog will usually work wonders for your site.
Secondly, a blog page on your website gives you a space in which you can communicate with your customer base and potential clients. If you have a special offer running you can add a blog post, and anyone who has subscribed to your blog will be notified of the new post. You can also use your blog page to produce informative articles and tips and tricks for your readers, which will position you as an authority within your industry.
Use social media
Millions of people log on to Facebook, Twitter, and a whole host of other social media sites every day, and more and more people are choosing to communicate with businesses via this medium. Facebook allows business owners to create a business page, separate from their personal profile, and it allows you to view statistics and analytics on the usage of and interaction with the page.
Other good sites to create a business profile on are Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, and Storify. Twitter is good for interacting with customers, as many people like to tag companies in their tweets as a means of providing feedback. If you feel that your customers would benefit from visual images, for example before and after work, product ranges etc, then Pinterest and Instagram would be good sites to use to build up your following.
Tumblr and Storify are good to use from an SEO (search engine optimisation) point of view as they provide very strong links to your website. Be sure to put your website’s URL in your profile, and regularly create posts containing the link. When Google is crawling the internet to index websites, it will look for links that point back to your website as a good indicator of your authority. Higher authority in Google’s eyes means higher rankings in their search results, meaning more potential customers exposed to your website.
Use Google AdWords
Google’s AdWords is a great way of advertising your business on a small budget. The beauty of AdWords is that you can control exactly how much or how little you spend on advertising this way. The way in which AdWords works is that you select the keywords that you want your advert to show for, for example ‘hairdresser in Swanage’ and when someone searches for that key phrase, your advert may be shown to them. If they click on your advert you will be charged at the cost per click that you have pre-set in your AdWords account.
If that all sounds too time-consuming and complex, then you may want to consider a managed AdWords service. An experienced pay-per-click expert can help you to manage your account and get the maximum amount of exposure for your adverts, with the minimum amount of spend. As you can see, no matter how big or small your budget may be, you can make AdWords work for you.
Run an email marketing campaign
Email marketing may seem dated to some people, especially in this age of instant communication via social media. However, it is still a very effective means of marketing yourself to existing and potential customers. First of all you’ll need to choose an email marketing application, for example MailChimp. Next you’ll need to establish your database, and the best way to do this is by asking people to opt in to receiving mail from you via a form on your website.
Once you’ve established your database of email recipients you can continue to expand on it as your customer base grows, and you’ll need to keep your audience engaged with regular emails. Keep your emails relevant and informative, and send out a variety including promotional offers, helpful tips, and information about new products or changes to your prices, for example.
Most email marketing campaign software allows you to track analytics and see how many leads have been generated or sales have been made as a result of your campaign. If a particular campaign hasn’t worked, use it as constructive feedback and consider what you can change in the next campaign to make things work better for you.
Do some networking
In most cities throughout the UK you should be able to find regular networking events for your business type, or for general business owners in the area. Aim to regularly attend these events and always make sure you are armed with a stack of business cards to hand out to the contacts you make.
The basis of networking is establishing how you and another business owner may be able to help each other in your endeavours, either now or in the future. For example, if you run a small accountancy firm it can be useful to attend networking events and introduce yourself to the other small business owners from the area, and perhaps offer them a complementary tax review in exchange for them taking some of your flyers or business cards to leave at the reception desk in their premises.
Give good customer service
This should go without saying really, but if you want your business to succeed and grow, you need customers. On average if a person receives good customer service they will tell around three people; whilst if they receive bad service they are likely to tell around twelve people! The best way to grow your business via word of mouth is to provide an outstanding service, going above and beyond your customers’ expectations.
As much as social media can help you to engage with your customers, it can also be used against you if you have given bad customer service. Just a couple of shares of a post on Facebook, or a couple of retweets on Twitter can suddenly lead to a post going viral, and if the media pick up on it things can escalate beyond belief.
Don’t give your customers any reason to complain about you in the first place. But if they do happen to have a complaint which they voice on social media, make sure you’re quick off the mark to respond to them and resolve the issue before it snowballs into a huge debacle.