You don’t need to spend a fortune to market your small business. Marketing doesn’t have to be hard or expensive and sometimes the simplest ideas can yield the greatest results. Check out the below list of 20 surefire small business marketing tactics that you can use to grow your business
1. Establish A Web Presence
Your website is the hub of your online marketing. Even if you are listed in local directories, having a website will give your business added credibility. Even if you traditionally get customers from word of mouth, those customers are likely to go online and check you out. This is your opportunity to tell your story and show your personality. Websites also do not have to be an expensive endeavor and there are a lot of great tools out there where you can build a website for free or for a few dollars per month. Wix is a great tool for creating websites, as they let you start for free and have several great looking templates that you can customize. Wordpress is another great option for creating a website. There are a lot of free themes available or premium themes for under $50. Themeforest.com is a great resource for premium themes, or you can check out search on Google for Free WordPress Themes.
2. Join Your Local Chamber
Becoming a member of your local chamber has several benefits. While membership fees can run anywhere from $200 to $500 per year they should provide a great deal of value to your business if you are just starting out. Most chambers will have a website where you can put a listing and link back to your existing website. Since chambers are organizations, they provide a great deal of authority and having this link can actually improve your rankings in Google. Chambers also have monthly networking events where you can introduce yourself to other local business owners. If you provide a service to other business owners this a great place to find new opportunities, or if you provide services to consumers it is a great place to find partnership opportunities. One piece of advice is to avoid the “hard sell” at these events and focus on building relationships. Once you are a member you can also join different boards within the chamber. If you are a technology company for example. you can join the technology board of your local chamber. This is a great way to meet others in your industry and become perceived as an expert in your field.
3. Claim Your Google Plus Local Listing
If you provide any type of local service having a Google Places listing is critical for your business. Local search when combined with mobile is an incredibly powerful tool for small businesses. It is estimated that 95% of local searches result in an action on the part of a consumer and you need your business to show up for your service when someone is performing a local search. To claim your listing go http://www.google.com/places/ and click “Get Started.” You will then be asked to fill in your business information and verify you are the owner. Google will send you a postcard in the mail to your business address with a verification PIN. Once the PIN comes in the mail you just need to log back on and enter. You should fill up your profile with a brief description, images, and the categories that are relevant to your business. The categories you select are important because this will determine the types of searches you will come up for. You want to put in categories that you think other people will use when searching for your business.
4. Create Listings on Local Directories
Once you have a Google Places listing you should also seek out other local directories and create a profile on their site. If you are restaurant owner you should have a listing on Yelp, but other businesses can list their as well. One of the factors that Google uses to determine where you rank in local listings is based on the number citations you have online. Being listed in other local directories helps you to increase the number of citations. A citation is basically a mention of your business on another webpage or directory. Make sure that your NAP information (Name, Address, Phone Number) are the same on every directory. Reviews are another critical ranking factor used by Google. By being listed in several directories you can give your customers more options to place online reviews. These reviews from around the web are tied back to your Google Places page and help you rank higher in the local search results.
5. Ask Your Customers For Online Reviews
Since reviews are so important for local search you need to find ways to get your customers to go online and give you a review. The best way is to be awesome to your customers, which you are already doing. Now you just need to get them to go online and submit the review. One thing you do not want to do is pay for reviews or be overly solicitous in asking for reviews. If a company offers to get online reviews for you for a specified fee immediately turn around and start running in the other direction. Just this past month the NY Attorney General citing several “SEO” companies for doing this very thing, and several business owners were also fined with fines totaling $375,000. Some helpful ways is to provide gentle reminders to your clients either through email, on your website ,on your local listing description, or through physical cards that you can hand out to customers to remind them to write a review. If you are a restaurant owner you can invite bloggers or food critics to a tasting and then ask them to talk about their experience by writing an online review. Lastly, plant your flag is as many local listings as possible as this will give clients more options when it comes time to give you a review.
6. Optimize Your Site For Mobile Websites
If a customer finds your business online through a Google search on their mobile phone, you want to provide them with the same information and experience that a customer would receive if they were looking at your site on a desktop computer. Most sites that do not have a mobile website design are difficult to navigate. If your site is unusable on a mobile phone, potential customers will simply leave and go on to the next result, which means you are losing out on potential customers. More customers are moving to mobile when searching, especially those customers who are ready to take action. It’s expected that by 2016 mobile search will surpass desktop search in overall search volume. By having a mobile optimized website experience you can take advantage of this trend and stay one step ahead of your competition. When creating a mobile version of your website you want to make sure it loads quickly as mobile users have even less patience then desktop users and mobile networks tend be slower. Think about the type of interactions that are most important for a mobile user and make sure those are highlighted and easy to use. Navigation should be larger since people will need to click navigation items with their fingers in order to move through the site.
7. Attend Networking Events
Similar to joining a Chamber of Commerce, there are most likely other organizations in your area that have networking events. Meetup.com is a good place to find local events in your area or in your niche. College Alumni Associations also have periodic networking events and are a good place to reconnect with former classmates. If you have minority-owned business you may find diversity networking groups are a good option for you to find partnerships and network with other business owners. You can also attend conferences in your industry where you can learn about the latest trends, or sponsor an exhibit to display your products and services. This is a great way to generate leads if you are in the B2B space, or if you are looking for venture capital in the B2C space. You can even create your own networking event where you can invite potential clients to learn about a particular subject relevant to the product or service you are selling. This is a great way to get yourself in front of your target market and position yourself as a leader your local community.
8. Join A Business Incubator
If you are just starting out a business incubator can be a great way to get your business off the ground quickly. Incubators generally offer subsidized office space where you will be around other business who are also just starting out. When I started my first business we joined a technology incubator and it helped us grow the business rapidly within the first few months of joining. Having the office space and conference room gave our business more credibility than if we were operating out of our home and it also put us around other businesses who needed our services. The leadership of the incubator also had connections with other businesses and government agencies, which helped us to secure contracts for development services with larger businesses. We also used the conference room to conduct networking sessions with local businesses and other businesses in the incubator. Not only will the incubator help you gain credibility and connect with new clients, but they also provide training on how to run your business and give you access to grants or help with acquiring capital.
9. Start A Blog
Content is still king online, and starting a blog is one of the best ways to reach new potential customers, stay connected to existing customers, and improve your search rankings. Blogging can seem like a daunting task especially when you have so many other responsibilities to attend to when running your own business. Start off small and commit to writing one article per month. More important than the quantity of your writing is the quality and the consistent frequency. When creating a blog think about the audience you are writing for and write content that you think will be interesting or useful. You can talk about the latest trends in your industry, or about a topic that is relevant to your business and where you have a lot of expertise to share. You should also include photos or other rich media. A great source for free photos is photopin.com or flickr.com. These site will let you use photos for non-commercial use so long as you give attribution back to the original creator. Once your article is written you should also share it on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. Avoid direct selling on your blog and start building an audience.
10. Leverage YouTube And Create Videos
Do you know what the second largest search engine in the world is next to Google? YouTube. The second most searches of any platform are done on YouTube, but to capitalize on this you will need to create a YouTube channel and start posting videos there. Similar to blogging, you can start off slow with a goal to create one video per month. You can even turn your blog posts into a video. If you would prefer not to be in front of a camera you can turn your blog post into a PowerPoint presentation. Once you have the PowerPoint created you can then record audio and video of the presentation and then post on YouTube. When you post the video you should also create a description and add a link back to your website. YouTube has “no-follow” links which means they do not pass any value in terms of search engine rankings, however other video sites do. You do not have to stop at YouTube when it comes to video marketing and can post your video to additional sites like Vimeo and DailyMotion. These sites will allow you to create a “do-follow” link which does have search ranking value. If you are not sure of the difference between the two keep an eye out for a future blog post where I will explain the difference between these two types of links.
11. Comment on Blogs
Networking online is just as important as networking in your local community. Find other sites in your niche and start interacting with other people in your industry. This will help you to build relationships and an audience online. When commenting make sure you are adding useful information. It is OK to link back to your own website in comments if you have an article that you feel is relevant to the blog post you are commenting on and will add to the discussion. Avoid hard selling in the comments or linking back to product pages on your website. To find blogs in your industry you can conduct a search in Google using “allintitle: [your industry or topic]” and then search the results for relevant blogs. Technorati or AllTop are blog directory sites that list the best blogs on the web. You can search blogs by categories in the directory. Forums or groups are also good places to make online connections. LinkedIn has groups for just about every industry. This can also be a good place to add an article back to your site when relevant.
12. Create An Email Opt-in
Readers of your articles will not likely convert directly into a customer and you will need to establish a relationship over time. Email marketing can help you stay top of mind with prospective customers and increase loyalty for existing customers. On your blog you should include an email opt-in that allows readers to sign-up for your Newsletter. There are several tools out there that allow you to use this and if you are using WordPress for your website these services offer plug-ins to easily add a newsletter sign-up form and manage your email list. Two of the more popular services are AWeber and MailChimp, and you can start for free. As your list grows these services may charge you a small monthly fee, but the value you get from a highly targeted email list is well worth the effort.
13. Give Away Free Stuff
Offering free stuff is a great way to draw attention to your site or business. This can also help with building an email list. You can create an e-book or free tool and then induce readers to sign-up to your email list in order to gain access. See above for tools to create an email opt-in.
14. Establish A Presence in Social Media
People spend more time on Facebook than any other site online. The power of social media and it’s impact on small business marketing cannot be understated. The best part is that all of these sites are free to join. There are many social media sites out there and you do not need to be a part of all as it depends on the type of business you are in or the customers you want to reach. If you are trying to reach consumers Facebook is a good place to start, or if you are trying to connect with businesses LinkedIn is a great resource. Twitter can work for either B2C or B2B. Pinterest is also one of the fastest growing social media platforms built around users pinning their favorite posts. The site is heavily driven by imagery, so things like infographics or images of your products can work well here. The key to social media is being authentic and sharing content that is interesting or useful to your audience. Social platforms also allow you to create ads which can either be suggested posts that show up in a users feed, or display ads which will be shown on the side banner. One of the most powerful aspects of social media is the ability to target by specific demographics or interests. Say you are selling football jerseys, you can target fans of the NY Jets between 18 and 35 who live in NY or NJ and are fans of a NY Jets related page.
15. Optimize Your Website For Search Engines
Besides showing up in the local listings you should work to have your website appear in the natural search results. Natural search results are those that show under the sponsored ads in the center of the search results. Paid search ads appear as the top three sponsored results, in the sidebar, or at the bottom of the search results page. The reason ranking in natural search is that this is traffic to your site that you do not need to pay for and the user most likely has intent or interest in your product or service if they are entering relevant keywords. Once you have your site up and running think about the way people understand or talk about your product or service and use those keywords the heading of your page and in the content. Also, don’t overdo and put your keyword or keyword phrase all over your page. A good rule of thumb is to only use your keyword for about 5-6% of your content. The most important on-page factor is the Page Title in your meta-data. The meta page title is what shows up as the title in the search result and one of the key factors that Google uses to understand what your page is all about. Your page title should contain your target keyword at the beginning of the title followed by your brand name. The page title should not exceed 70 characters, as anything more than that is cut-off by the search engines. You should also create a description of your page and add it to the meta-description. This is what shows up underneath the page title in the search results. The meta-description will not affect your ranking as much as the page title, but should be used in a way to get users to click on the search result. You can think of these two elements together as an ad in the search result that you don’t have to pay for, so you want to get users to click on your result. In addition, to on-page optimization you should be creating high quality content that other people will want to link to. These links are seen by Google as votes for your site because if people think you are important enough to link to, then Google will see you as an authority for the keyword you are trying to rank for.
16. Conduct A Free Webinar
You can conduct an online Webinar on a subject that is relevant to your industry. Think of something pressing in your industry that you have insight into and that people will really want to know about. You can create a sign-up on your website where people can register for the Webinar at the specified date and time. Let people know about the Webinar by including in your monthly newsletter, writing a blog article on the topic with information about the Webinar, and try posting teasers in social media with increasing frequency as the date approaches. There are several different services to choose from when it comes to conducting online Webinars with most having a monthly subscription fee and a few allowing a per user fee. The per user may be a better option if you do not plan to conduct them often. SmallBiz trends has a post that reviews 26 Webinar Tools. I’ve used Intercall in the past which has a fee of $39 month for unlimited users and Webinars. For the Webinar, create an engaging PowerPoint that you can narrate during the call and conduct a Q&A after. Not only does this position you as an expert in your niche, but also allows you to collect the email addresses. You can then send them an opt-in to join your mailing list for future communications.
17. Use QR Codes In Your Print Materials
QR Codes look similar to bar codes on the back of products, but people are able to scan them with their smartphones. The QR Code can then take a user who scans to your website or any other place where you want to send them to. You can even tie this in with a promotional page or mobile app. If you have a mobile app in multiple app stores you can use a free tool like http://onelink.to/ which allows you to create on QR code and then have links to each app store. Based on the device the user will be directed to the appropriate app store page. If you want to send the user to a website or landing page you can use http://goqr.me/, which is also free. You can then include the QR code on the back of your business card or in print brochures. For a business card you can direct users to your LinkedIn profile and for brochures you can direct users to a product page that has more information.
18. Setup Google Analytics on Your Website
Google Analytics is a free service from Google that lets you track traffic to your website and much more. You can track number of visits to your site, if they came from natural search, paid search, social media, or other specific channels. In addition, you can see how much time users are spending on your site or if they are leaving your site immediately upon entry (bounce rate). You can analyze this data at a site or page level to see how pages are performing. They also provide the ability to create events that allow you to track conversions. For example, if you are selling a product you can tag your thank-you page as an event. When a user reaches the thank-you page, Google will record the event and record it as a conversion. If your goal is to get users to sign-up to your email list, you can create an event that tracks how many users are signing-up and then analyze which page is driving the most sign-up. There are many other features available, but the important part is to setup the analytics and look at the data to further optimize your pages.
19. Start A Contest
Starting a contest can help with increasing engagement in social media and exposing your site to friends of your fans. For example, if you were selling website design services you can create a contest to create a free website and marketing makeover or a non-profit. People could nominate their favorite non-profit on Facebook and you list them on your Fan Page. People can then vote for their favorite non-profit to win the website makeover. Your fans will want to see their favorite non-profit, so they will be sharing your content with their friends and asking them to vote. Those friends can then share with their friends creating exponential potential to drive traffic to your Facebook page or website. Once the winner is decided you can create content around the prize and prize winner. Record the contest winner, write a blog post, do a live online or offline event to increase your exposure.
20. Cross-Promote Your Products With Other Businesses
If you are out in your community and networking you will come across other business owners who have related services that you can partner with to build each other’s business. This makes sense if you have audiences who be mutually interested in the product or service that you offer, but it does not make sense for one of you to provide directly. I used this tactic in a previous business when I was selling website design services. I partnered with another local company that sold IT services like setting up an office network or computer troubleshooting, two things I had no intention of providing myself. I was able to gain some of his existing IT customers and he was able to gain new clients from companies I had created websites for. I had a similar relationship with a designer who did not want to develop website. She would provide designs for her clients and then send the development work to my company to complete. The key to finding these opportunities is to network and build relationships.
I hope you found these small business marketing tips useful and can start putting them to use in your own marketing. What other marketing tactics have you used for your business?
This articles was originally posted at Brytewire.com: http://www.brytewire.com/20-small-business-marketing-tips/