Marketing is perhaps the most misunderstood and often most overlooked element of running a business. Why is this?
Because—unless you run a marketing business—it is difficult to know and understand all the nuances that go into marketing a small business. Chances are, you opened a restaurant, health practice, auto repair shop, doggie day care, or other company because you love the core activities of that business, not because you enjoy marketing. As a business owner, providing services to your clients is the heart and soul of your what you do. Because that’s your priority, allotting time for nurturing and promoting your company gets relegated low on the to-do list.
However, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of marketing and how essential it is to every small business. The days where you could rely on your neighbors spreading the word are over. Relying on word-of-mouth is a poor strategy, anyway, as it has little reach. If you say, “I have all the customers I need,” that’s great — for today. What about tomorrow? You should continually be expanding your customer base, or in an economic downturn or in unforeseen circumstances, you might find yourself closing shop.
Here are a few marketing goals for small businesses to adopt, both online and IRL (in real life).
Establish an online presence
This is job number one. Every business should be accessible online via various formats. You should have a robust Google Business Profile with accurate information, and a professional and easy-to-navigate website. Your website should use search engine optimization (SEO), which will help customers find you more easily than they find your competitors.
In addition, add your business information to free online directories including Yelp, Bing, Foursquare, Yellow Pages, Chamber of Commerce or MerchantCircle to name a few. If you do a couple of listings a week, it won’t be daunting, and it will pay off in building your company’s credibility online.
If you are not comfortable with using technology, this may seem daunting. Don’t sweat it. For a reasonable price, qualified professionals can build a smart website, do occasional updates as needed, and help keep your Google profile updated.
Use social media wisely
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Yelp, and others are used by millions of businesses to connect with customers. Research which platforms attract the demographics of your business. If you are marketing to millennials, then find which platforms they use the most and focus your main efforts there.
Setting up accounts on multiple sites is useful for SEO, but that also means you must post customized content to each platform, and monitor the platforms regularly. Most small business owners have neither the time nor the staff to do this. (Think about it. If you are on one platform just 10 minutes a day, that’s an average of 300 minutes per month—or 6 hours! Multiply that for 3-4 platforms and that’s hours and hours of time away from your core business.)
Engagement, however, is key to growing your number of followers and keeping them interested in what you have to say. You cannot use only posts that are ads for your company or products. People turn off to that very quickly. You must interact with fans in a friendly, authentic, and authoritative manner. Otherwise, you could be doing more harm than good.
Respond to comments, whether the person is a customer or not, even if it’s a quick “like.” Answer questions politely and thoughtfully. Also, take the time to visit other pages and interact as your company profile.
Email marketing is a successful route to landing new business. At AZ Media Maven, we’ve seen the benefits for our own company as well as for our clients. Compile email addresses by offering incentives (we’ve all seen those pop-ups on websites that offer 10 or 15 percent off an order if we provide our email) and send emails that offer useful, timely, appropriate, interesting content.
Nearly all point of sales software has an option to export email addresses as well. These customers who’ve already purchased from you are ideal for sending reminders about upcoming sales, special events or discounts. Organize your content into a template using any of the many email platforms such as Constant Contact, MailChimp, Sendinblue, Campaign Monitor, and others.
Invest in digital advertising
Like it or not, eyeballs have drifted from the printed page to the computer or phone screen, so that’s where you need to spend your advertising budget. Whether you buy Google ads, pay for memes that go viral, shell out for sponsored ads on Facebook, or explore online other avenues, you have a lot to consider in this realm.
This article on Hubspot gives an introduction to digital marketing. The ins and outs can be complicated even for the smartest business owner to navigate. Again, companies like AZ Media Maven are experienced at guiding business owners in this space.
Choosing which advertising option works best for your business means having a deep understanding of your target audience, their interests and how they navigate the web. We’re sure you’ve asked Google or Siri to “find the best seafood near me.” And then you are provided with never-ending ads about seafood restaurants in your newsfeeds or any time you log into your computer. We want your ad to be the one everyone sees over and over, based on how your potential customers shop online.
Be part of your community
We’ve mentioned this topic before and emphasized the importance of being a committed corporate citizen in your community. Business owners who give back to their communities foster goodwill, and make connections with other businesses and community members. These are the people most likely to use your services and recommend them.
Set up a booth at a local festival, offer to sponsor events, donate an item to a silent auction, join a board or chamber—whenever possible, pitch in.
Related to this subject, but in a slightly different manner is networking. Networking is also about being part of the community, but specifically the business community. During the pandemic, many networking groups popped up nationwide. You now can join a variety of different networking organizations, whether they are local or of broader scope.
There are groups that include specialties. You could join a real estate focused group, for example, and learn more about marketing from others in your field. There are leads groups that focus on generating new business leads for their members, and groups that bring together all types of business owners. Networking is no longer solely about convincing others in your group to use your services. It is about connecting with other business owners, sharing services, and offering support and assistance.
Develop media contacts
One of the most underutilized and yet most effective ways to attract new customers is by being featured in local media. Articles on local news websites or TV news segments are seen by sometimes hundreds of thousands of people. Many of them rightly believe the business must be special if they got attention from the media.
However, getting media attention isn’t easy. It involves pitching numerous media members on a regular basis and being available at the spur of the moment to accommodate a reporter’s deadline. You also might need to set up interviews in advance, prepare beforehand for visuals that a television reporter might need.
There is also follow-up after the interview with requests for photos or videos, references to your customers for their quotes, and more. You might even want to invest in “media training” to understand how to best convey your message when you are interviewed.
But “earned media,” as this is called, is far more valuable than advertising and can help establish you as an expert and lead to more publicity.
Marketing can bring numerous benefits to small business owners, including:
- Increased Awareness: Marketing helps small business owners reach a wider audience, raise awareness about their products or services, and build a strong brand identity.
- Attracting New Customers: Effective marketing strategies can help small business owners attract new customers and expand their customer base.
- Building Customer Loyalty: Marketing can be used to build customer loyalty and repeat business by maintaining regular communication with customers and delivering excellent customer service.
- Competitive Advantage: Marketing can give small business owners a competitive advantage by differentiating them from their competitors and positioning them as leaders in their industry.
- Better Understanding of Customers: Marketing can help small business owners gain a better understanding of their customers and their needs, which can inform product development and improve the customer experience.
- Increased Sales: The ultimate goal of marketing is to increase sales and revenue, and effective marketing strategies can help small business owners achieve this.
- Improved Reputation: A well-executed marketing campaign can also help improve a small business’s reputation, building trust and credibility with customers and stakeholders.
Overall, marketing is an essential tool for small business owners looking to grow their business and succeed in a competitive marketplace.
AZ Media Maven is based in Laveen, AZ, a suburban village in the greater Phoenix area. Owner Rose Tring has more than 30 years of journalism experience as an editor and writer, many of those years in business news. She created AZ Media Maven in 2012 to help other business owners succeed by effectively telling their stories through public relations and social media. Reach AZ Media Maven at email@example.com or call (602) 373-8371.