For many business owners, bringing in new customers and closing the deals can be the hardest part of the venture. Especially in a marketing business, it can feel uncomfortably personal.
Fortunately, there are a few simple rules that you can follow that will help make small business marketing easier and more effective. Invest wisely in your efforts and you’ll be sure to see your business take off.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:
1. Know yourself
This may sound like something that happens automatically but it's easy to lose sight of yourself when you feel like you’re fighting to stay afloat. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is the first step in marketing yourself well. You need to know what sets you apart.
What do you offer that your competition doesn’t? It can be something as simple as being conveniently located for a particular metro area or as complex as niche expertise or high-end customer service. The flip side of this may be that you can't take on large projects or that you don't do rush jobs.
Once you know this, you’ll be able to focus on attracting the kinds of clients that will most appreciate your strengths and don't need services you can’t offer.
2. Know your clientele
This takes imagination and a lot of legwork. Your goal is to find the people who already need what you have to offer and are waiting for you to come along, instead of convincing people who don't need you that they do. This involves talking to a lot of people. Reach out to people who provide complementary services as well as potential customers. Ask them when they use your product or service, how, and what problem it solves for them. Figure out their demographic information, interests, and price points. Most importantly though: listen. Clear your mind of whatever assumptions you have and try to really hear what your customers need and want.
3. Understand what's out there
In the last 20 years, the internet has created a long list of new marketing outlets for you to consider. Learn about the different options, including social media for small business advertising, social media networking, content marketing, and SEO. But don't forget about the more traditional methods: print, radio, or TV advertising, local sponsorships, and good old fashioned in-person networking. Before you decide on any of these, understand the costs involved. Some of them can be free to do yourself but take a lot of time and effort. Also, understand the effectiveness of each. A radio commercial may let you reach a lot of people at once, but most of them will ignore you.
4. Focus your efforts
Don't try to use every possible marketing channel. Unless you have a huge marketing budget, you’'l probably just end up burning through your resources. Instead, figure out which one is the most effective for you and focus there. This means you’ll have to know which has the best cost-benefit ratio. And don't be afraid to consider your own discomfort as a cost. In-person networking may be a great way of marketing your business, but it's not going to work if you’re always looking for excuses to avoid doing it.
5. Go where your customers are
This is the most important question to answer before you decide on a marketing plan. Where are your customers hanging out? Let's say your customers are parents of young children. You can find them in daycares or toy stores, but once they're in those places they’re probably in a rush or have already made purchasing decisions. Instead, find out where they are when they’re thinking about their purchases. Maybe they're doing price comparisons online or asking other parents for recommendations at the park or on parenting-focused Facebook groups. This is why getting to know your customers is so important. The better you know them, the better you can catch them at just the right moment.
6. Don't stop when you've closed the deal
In the world of marketing, this is called customer retention. You don't just want to get customers, you want to keep them. That means that the products and services you provide have to make them want to come back again next time. Your quality and customer support should be great and working with you should be a nice experience.
After that, start looking for ways to keep in touch with your customers in between purchases. You can use promotions, a newsletter or Facebook page, or even a personal email or phone call to follow-up and make sure the work you did or product you provided is working out as planned. Not only will this keep them coming back, it will also keep your name fresh in their mind so that they’re more likely to spread the word.
7. Try new things
Keep in mind there are many different ways you can market yourself. None of them work overnight so don’t switch back and forth between them too often. However, you'll also need to make sure you don't get stuck in a rut. There are small ways you can test what works best: in online advertising, for example, professional marketers will often run two different ads with slightly different colors or headlines. If you run a print ad in a local newspaper every Christmas, make sure you do something different every year. If you've always run ads in the same local magazine, try a different one. Or you can get more creative by sponsoring a little league team or partnering with other local businesses.
8. Be honest
Throughout all of this, make sure that your marketing reflects the truth about who you are and what you offer your customers. Besides the fact that it's the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. If you're upfront about what you can do, you won’t waste time on customers who won't buy from you in the end. Customers who get what they expect, leave happy and go on to spread the word for you.