Marketing is vital for every business, small or large: It helps you to reach out to potential customers or clients, tell people what you can do for them or their business and, most importantly, why they should choose you over your competitors.
But we also know what the reality looks like, especially for small business owners like us: With all our responsibilities as accountants, marketers, HR managers, sales people, customer service managers, product managers, receptionists and managing directors – it’s hard to keep it all up, especially in busy times.
So, next time you don’t know what to add to your marketing mix in order to attract new customers or clients, have a look at my top ten marketing ideas:
After all these years of working with small businesses (and promoting my own marketing consultancy), networking has been the most effective way of generating new business.
And it is not just about walking into a room of strangers and sell your products or services to them. It is about building up a network of like-minded people, meeting future customers/clients as well as potential suppliers, friends, business partners or employees.
Trade shows and conferences are ideal to get in front of your ideal clients or customers. No matter if you are looking at small local events or large international shows, targeting individuals or businesses – being an exhibitor gives you the opportunity to meet as many people as possible.
Schedule meetings at your stand with existing or potential clients or business partners, hold a raffle to collect contacts for your mailing list and make sure to have your social media and up-to-date marketing material at the ready.
3) Promotional items
Another great way to increase your exposure is branded promotional items. You can either use them all year round like pens, key rings or notepads or prepare them for a special campaign, for example table or wall calendars as a Christmas give-away.
Make sure that the items you use are relevant to your target group and of good quality so they make a lasting (and positive) impression on your audience.
4) Vehicle branding
If you have a company car, use lorries or vans or if your staff uses bikes at work – branding your company vehicles is a great way to spread the word about your small business.
You can either use removable magnet signs or have them permanently wrapped. Just make sure that all your drivers and cyclists behave properly in traffic as that is what people will remember when encountering them on their way to work.
Submitting your company for relevant business awards gives you the opportunity to prove your expertise and excellence to the world and benefit from the PR and marketing opportunities that go along with them.
When successful, you can use “shortlisted at” or “award-winning business” in your marketing for years to come and use the award ceremony to celebrate with your team and thank them for their great work.
6) Content marketing
A good company website is indispensable these days and a great way to drive web traffic as well as improve your Google page ranking is content marketing.
No matter what medium you choose (e.g. a blog, videos, podcasts) and what social media channel works best to reach out to your audience – showing your expertise, helping your target group with relevant tips and advice and engaging your followers takes time, but is absolutely worth it.
Do you know a business that is targeting the same audience as yours but has a different product or service? How about teaming up to advertise your businesses to each other’s contacts?
There is no better way to expand your reach than to work with other small businesses. You can for example hold an event together; advertise in your respective newsletters or guest blog on each other’s websites. The opportunities are endless.
8) Referral/Loyalty scheme
Depending on the nature of your business, it might be worth considering to thank your existing clients when recommending you to their friends and family and/or to find a way to encourage repeat business.
If you have a referral scheme in place, referrers get a special thank you for their efforts and you encourage existing clients to spread the word about your small business. A loyalty scheme awards prizes or discounts to customers or clients for repeatedly choosing you over your competition.
Where is your target group looking for your products or services? Do they use Google, Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn, TripAdvisor or Yelp?
Online reviews written by happy clients or customers are the best marketing: It’s not you telling them how awesome you are, it’s their peers giving them their opinion on your business. Have a strategy in place to encourage reviews from your existing clients/customers and watch your business grow.
Have a look at your target group(s) – are there any clubs, events or organisations that they are often part of or support? Then sponsoring is definitely an option for you.
It could be your local football club, an international charity or a renowned trade show that gives you extra exposure by being their sponsor. From full sponsorships to the support of specific activities or events, there are many ways to get yourself out there.
By Denise Strohsahl from sandstonecastles marketing consultancy
Sandstonecastles is an Edinburgh-based marketing consultancy, specialising in helping small, local businesses make the best of their size and their marketing. Follow Denise on Twitter, Facebook or connect with her on LinkedIn. You can find her own blog with helpful marketing tips and advice at www.sandstonecastles.co.uk/blog.html.