Starting a small business is an exciting but sometimes daunting experience. If you are starting on your own, you have to wear a lot of hats. Product maker, accountant, marketer, the list goes on. In this article I am going to make the marketing part easier for you as we look at some ideas for marketing a small business.
1. Start a Blog
Get writing! From small businesses to global giants, everyone is doing Content Marketing. This helps you earn trust and respect within your industry. It’s also a great way to drive traffic to your website. An important content marketing strategy for any business is blogging. This is something you can do for no or little cost.
If you already have a website for your business then you can just add a blog page straight away and start posting great content. If not, then there are lots of free blogging platforms out there. I personally recommend WordPress which is used for 35% of all websites online today. WordPress is simple to pick and has everything you need to start publishing content.
The great part about writing content as a marketing strategy for your business is the low cost. But the difficult part is it can be very time consuming. Make sure you are writing something you are passionate about or at least have a big interest in. This will make it easier to put some articles together and build up a loyal base of followers. Keep in mind that content marketing isn’t about pushing your own business all the time. It’s about offering interesting engaging content related to your industry. This principle is true for all content marketing strategies from blogging to social media posting.
2. Give something away free
Everyone likes a freebie right? It may sound like a crazy idea at first but giving something away free is a widely used marketing tactic. A good example of this is offering an ebook or eguide as a free download on your website. Visitors are asked for their email address so the free download link can be sent to them.
This then allows you to build up a mailing list of potential customers who are clearly interested in your industry. You can begin to look at email marketing where you offer products or services to your mailing list. Online tools such as Mailchimp will help you get the most out of this strategy.
You may have heard of the term “freemium”. This is another example of where giving something away free can end up being very profitable. To begin, you give away a basic version of your product or services for free. You then offer a premium upgrade of your giveaway that has more features.
It’s important to offer a freebie that is useful to the customer. But also important to offer enough incentive for them to pay for an upgrade.
3. Be social on social media
Social Media Marketing is big business. The variety of social media channels grows every day. This offers you a great way to connect with your audience. Ultimately, you want to gain brand awareness and drive traffic back to your website. So don’t be pushy. People don’t want to hear how great your brand is. They want you to offer interesting and helpful content.
Try to engage across as many platforms as you can. But don’t copy and paste the same content on all of them. Each has its own functionality and audience type, so it’s important to tailor your content for each. After a while your stats will show which social media channels are providing you with the most engagement. Narrow your precious time down to posting on these channels.
4. Connect on Linkedin
This is of course another social media channel but aimed more at businesses. Linkedin gives you the opportunity to connect with people in your industry and make some potentially helpful friends. Look up and follow competitors and industry leaders in your niche to see how they are engaging with people on Linkedin. You can pick up a wealth of knowledge here.
Linkedin is also another great platform to build your brand and your professional reputation. Post some nice insights and interesting comments and people will start to follow you. With over 500 million users, Linkedin can be a rich resource for a start up business looking to grow.
5. Apply for grants
Government and other organisation grant schemes are available for start up businesses who require funding. These can be helpful in many ways. Some offer money for equipment, software, broadband, office space and much more. Search for business grants in your local area for more details.
Where grants may not be available you could still apply for a soft loan where repayments can be made at low rates.
6. Get free advice
There are also government and other schemes that offer advice to startups. Look up your local gov website and you will find a business start up section. These are often full of helpful resources covering all aspects of business. You will be able to find out about applying for grants, paying tax and much more.
Often you will also be able to find out about local startup networking events. This could include marketing for business workshops. These are a great way to mix with others who are at the same stage of the business journey as you. If it is one to one advice you are looking for then you should also be able to arrange a consultation with a business expert. These government websites and services have been set up just for people like you. So take full advantage of these excellent free resources.
7. Write on other blogs
A lot of blogs offer you the opportunity to be a guest blogger on their site. This can benefit both parties. The blog owner can gain valuable content added to their site for free. Meanwhile, the guest writer has the chance to to obtain a backlink for their own site.
This also helps you get your name out there. You can be seen as an expert in your industry. The key here is to write something interesting and helpful. Don’t push your own business too hard. One link back to your website is enough. Make sure the blog you write for has decent traffic, is relevant to your business and has a good reputation. Otherwise it may not be worthwhile.
8. Make an Infographic
Us humans are highly visual beings. 90% of the information that comes to the brain is visual. It is widely known that website users scan information. A visual representation of figures, stats or facts is much easier to consume than lots of words and numbers on a page.
An infographic uses text, images and design to communicate important information to the user. They have therefore become a vital content marketing tool for businesses. As an image they can be easily shared on social media and blogs. Good infographics can go viral, building your brand and increasing your traffic.
9. Look at your competition
You may look upon your business competitors enviously as a startup. Particularly if they have been around for a while and have cornered the market. How are they marketing their business? you may ask. Well the good news is you can find out exactly how they do it.
There are plenty of tools online that allow you to research other businesses. Websites like WooRank, SEMRush and UberSuggest are great for checking out any website’s traffic. You can find out which keywords they are using, their most viewed pages and how they advertise. Additionally, you can look at how they engage on social media and much more.
You can dig as deep as you want. And although these tools have paid plans you can still gather enough vital data with their free plans. These tools are also great for checking on your own stats once you are up and running.
10. Go to industry events
Networking is useful to anyone running or marketing a business. Industry events such as conferences give you the chance to discuss and swap ideas with others in the same boat as you. Industry leaders will provide talks and workshops at events. Small start up businesses need to soak up as much advice from others in their industry as possible.
Some people prefer to do business communication face to face. So this is an opportunity to meet people you may not connect with online. Many of these events are free or inexpensive so keep an eye out for anything coming up close to you.
11. Make videos
YouTube has over 1.9 billion logged in monthly users. This tells us that people love watching videos. It’s the perfect way to show demos of your products or services. Or you could just post reviews or tutorials for products related to your industry. This could earn you a lot of followers and build your brand further.
Making videos is now easier to do than ever. You can make a good go of it straight from your smartphone. Tonnes of great video editing apps are available to download to help you on your way. Or make one straight from your laptop or computer webcam. Uploading your video to YouTube couldn’t be simpler. So open a YouTube account for your business and start posting some great video content.
12. Join forums
Forums have been around since the beginning of the web. They are essentially online communities for specific topics or groups of topics. You can find a forum for pretty much anything from hobbies to holidays. Therefore, finding a forum for your niche shouldn’t be a problem at all.
Sign up to relevant forums and get involved. Answer questions and ask questions. Make sure you leave a link back to your website in your signature which will be shown below each of your posts. Not only can this provide direct traffic but it can also count as a backlink giving you a search engine results boost.
A popular forum for small businesses and a good place to start is Warrior Forum. Not only will you find some nice tips and tricks for marketing your business here, you can also mix with like minded entrepreneurs.
13. Make a podcast
According to recent stats 22% of the US population listen to podcasts weekly. People can listen to them on their smartphones while traveling, working or relaxing. With over 850,000 active podcasts available it’s a fair assumption that somebody somewhere is talking about a subject related to your business.
It may sound a bit out of your comfort zone if you are not a great talker. But if you are talking about a subject close to your heart, which your business should be, then you should give it a go. Setting up is simpler and cheaper than you think. There are lots of guides out there to help you set everything up. The benefits are you are offering more of a personal connection with potential customers. In effect, a podcast can help you build your brand and make you a leader in your field.
14. Use Fiverr
Start up businesses often have to go it alone. Spreading yourself too thin is counterproductive. You know what you are good at and what you are not good at. As businesses grow they can fill the gaps by hiring employees. But as a start up this is probably not something you can afford.
Fiverr is an online community of people offering their services at a low rate. Initially it literally was only $5 for a gig. But the community has grown and now has some pretty talented people who righty charge a bit more for their skills. Most are still very affordable though. You can find someone to do almost anything on Fiverr! For marketing a startup business the most popular gigs are for voice overs, translations, logo design and blog writing.
Be sure to check out gig reviews before you dive in. And also communicate clearly what your expectations are before the gig starts.
15. Use free tools
There are a lot of tools out there that can help you analyze your data. Google Analytics is an excellent free tool that tells you all about your website traffic. You can find out where they come from in the world, which website they came from, how long they spent on your pages, the technology they are using and much more.
If you want a more in depth look at what people are searching for to get to your website then Google Search Console has all the answers. Google has a lot of other helpful free tools including Google Docs, Google Pagespeed Insights, Google My Business, Google Drive and Google Forms. Each tool can play an essential role in your marketing plan.
16. Encourage satisfied customers to write a review
I can’t remember the last time I made an online purchase without checking out a review for it first. It’s so easy to do and so many people do it that it would be madness not to. When someone purchases something from you, leave a polite message asking for them to write a review. It obviously depends on your industry but give them a link to one that is relevant.
Some of the bigger sites that offer reviews are TripAdvisor, Trustpilot, Yahoo Listings, Google my business and Yelp. Keep an eye on these to see if people are leaving reviews about your business. Where possible interact with satisfied and unsatisfied customers to help if necessary.
17. Sign up to Google My Business
You should sign up to as many business directories as you can. By and large, most offer a free submission. Probably the best one of all is Google. Sign up for Google My Business and you will be able to manage how your business appears on Google search results. You can add all of your vital contact details, hours of business, location and much more.
When someone searches for a business in your industry and in your part of the world, your listing will appear with the details you have added and a map showing where you are. This is a great way to get ahead of your local competition. You can also add photos, allow customers to leave reviews and get stats on customer engagement.
18. Set up an affiliate program
An affiliate program is where you offer others the opportunity to sell your products or services on their website. In return you offer them a percentage of every sale they make. So for example they might have a popular blog related to your niche. They advertise your products on their websites with banner ads, reviews or content links. Every time someone clicks on the link they go through to your website. If they make a purchase then the affiliate gets a percentage of the amount paid.
Starting your own affiliate program has numerous benefits to your business. You will have more sales channels with more eyes looking at your business. This will also give you a rise in targeted traffic. As a result you will ultimately see an increase in sales.
19. Answer questions on Quora
Quora is a large online community that allows users to ask and answer questions on any subject. The answers are of course only as reliable as the person answering but the majority are very helpful. With over 300 million monthly active users there is a good chance people will be asking and answering subjects related to your business.
This is where you step in. Join the community and be as helpful as possible. Most questions are pretty straight forward and provide you with the chance to not only be helpful but to also be seen as an expert in your field. Build up your reputation with good answers and people will follow you on Quora. Make sure you leave a link back to your business on your profile page. Also drop links back to your blog posts or products into your answers if you feel they are relevant.
20. Analyze ALL of your data
We already looked at lots of brilliant free tools that help you analyze your data including Google Analytics and Google Console. But when marketing your business you should look beyond just your own website and analyze ALL of your data. This includes all of your social media channels. Each has its own reporting section where you can find out how users interact with that channel. This can help you understand which social media sites are working better for you. Ultimately you want to invest your time on them rather than spreading yourself thin over multiple channels.
SEMrush is a great tool for analyzing a lot of your data in one place. You can look at your backlinks, keywords, social media performance and also monitor your brand name. You can get a lot of this data free but if you want to dig even deeper then they have some paid plans as well.
If you run an email campaign through a tool like Mailchimp, keep on eye on those stats as well. Also keep an eye on affiliate stats if you are running an affiliate program. Remember that every tool you use will have its own set of data that you can tap into.
Marketing a small business is vital to your overall strategy. It’s also an exciting and interesting part of the journey. As explained in this article, it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. A vast amount of tools and online resources are available to you and often free. Use these resources to build up and execute your marketing plan. In the long run the benefits will be there for you to see.