Marketing your Small Business with Limited Time and Resources
Most small business owners need to be across every aspect of their business, including marketing. From marketing strategies and creative ideas to campaign implementations and customer data management, there’s a lot to fit into an already busy workload.
To help you make the most of the time you spend wearing the marketing hat, we’ve put together some tips and ideas.
The big picture
Let’s start with some important high-level marketing strategies for small business, before we dive into more detail on tactics like email marketing and social media.
Like anything in your business, you have to make a commitment to getting it done or it will never rise to the top of the pile. Make time to regularly improve and refresh your understanding of the latest marketing strategies for small businesses. Set aside a few hours every week to plan and create content before getting back to running your business.
Give your research and planning some structure by setting goals around what you want your marketing to achieve. Make sure they are smart goals – specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-related. An example might be to increase sales of a particular product by 10% before 31 July the following year.
Play the long game
Remember that improvement takes time. Focus on creating content your customers enjoy and value. Eventually your efforts will lead to repeat business and new customer referrals. Measure results as you go, learn what works and look for changing trends.
Target your efforts
In a small business, if you try to do it all, nothing gets done. So decide what tasks you can do and just do them well.
Begin by trying different small-scale approaches to see what works best with your customers. Decide whether you need to focus on growing your audience first or converting your already large audience to more sales. Think about whether your audience prefers factual or highly entertaining content, or something in between. Try different delivery channels, like letterbox drops, magazine advertorials, trade shows or markets, email and social media. Once you know which channels are most effective, choose one or two and go for it.
Tell your true story
Marketing is not only about the value of your products and services. It’s important for people to get to know you and the principles behind your business. British-American author Simon Sinek once said that ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy into why you do it’. The point is to spend some time identifying your business values and deeper purpose, beyond making money. Let this come through in everything you say and do. Whenever you communicate with customers, your true story will be there in the background, gradually building empathy and trust over time.
Email marketing for small business
It’s easy to have full control of email, which is one of the reasons it’s so great. You know exactly who it’s going to and when. This makes email a powerful and important marketing channel for small business.
Use an email marketing tool
Email tools like Mailchimp let you create, target and analyse email campaigns with ease. They also provide heaps of advice. If you’re running an e-commerce business, you can even connect your email tools to your online store to create deeper insights and more targeted messages.
Learn about people when they sign up
Use email signup forms to discover what your customers are interested in and the information they’d like to get from you. Website pop-up forms can be a very effective way of getting people to sign-up for email messages, just make sure they don’t pop up too soon.
Respect your customers’ trust
When customers sign up for email messages, they’re showing a lot of interest and trust in your business. You need to treat them like VIPs and respect their wishes, or they’ll unsubscribe in the blink of an eye. Let them tell you how they are feeling, with one-click feedback about things like the content and frequency of your messages.
Create compelling content
Well-designed signup forms let you segment your email database into groups based on their preferences for information about new products, special offers or useful tips.
Content can include news about your business or industry, upcoming events, articles and photos about earlier events, details of new products, special VIP-only offers, seasonal tips, stories about what you’ve been up to and so on. Whatever you write, keep it short and make sure it’s useful or interesting to the audience.
If you’re covering a few topics, you can put them in a different order for each group, opening with the ones of most interest to each group and leaving some out entirely if you don’t think they’ll value them.
Check before you send
Always get someone to check your marketing emails for typos and grammatical errors before you send them. Emails can also look different on different email programmes and devices, so send a test to yourself and to a friend or colleague if you can. Try to look at it on your phone, tablet, Mac and PC.
Learn as you go
Email marketing tools can let you track who opened the email and what they clicked on. Linking short email articles to more information on your website also boosts your website traffic. You can create two different versions and send each one to half of the same audience group to find out which approaches work best. It may be as simple as testing different subject lines, image types or content length.
Automate where you can
Email tools can also be used to automate specific communications. These can include welcoming new customers, following up after a purchase, providing order and delivery progress messages, scheduled service reminders and more. They’re a great way to stay in touch with your customers without taking up a lot of your valuable time.
Social media for small business
Social media can be a highly effective tool for boosting brand awareness and sales. As with email marketing, you need to set some specific goals and commit to doing it well. You have to remember it’s a social channel, so keep it real, show your passion for the topic and engage in the two-way conversation with people. Here are some high-level tips to get your thinking started.
Commit and set goals
Do you want to boost awareness measures like traffic to your website, likes or comments? Or are you more focused on increasing specific sales figures.
Learn from others
Look at what your competitors are doing. Follow others with a strong social media presence inside and outside your industry. Check on the best of them every week to see what they are saying and how they are communicating. You’ll find a wealth of inspiration for content that might work for you.
Choose one channel
Being successful on social media takes time, so restrict yourself to one channel like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Build your skills and knowledge before trying any others.
Use the right tools
There are a huge number of social media tools that can save time and boost your success. Most are designed for one or two core purposes, so get to know what’s out there and which ones could help your business.
Stick to what you know and love
Choose a topic you understand well and love to talk about, as long as it’s related to the wider sphere of your business. Let your passion for the topic come through. When it’s a subject you enjoy, it’s much easier to spend time finding relevant stories and creating original content.
People are on social media to connect with others and find inspiration. Let them see who you are and communicate things that are human, engaging and real. Make sure your content is always relevant and useful, so people will return to your channel time and time again.
Engage with your audience
Listen to your customers and respond, rather than simply pushing your ideas. Social media lets you communicate one-on-one with customers, which is rare, so make the most of it. Follow your customers to see what they are interested in and the questions they raise in their own blogs and posts. Maybe start a closed Facebook group and invite loyal customers to join, so they can share ideas and form stronger bonds with you and each other. Reward your closed group with early-bird specials or invitations to special events.
Create a schedule
Regular, consistent posts work well on social media. Create a calendar of opportunities, like events, product launches and public holidays. Make sure it’s manageable and prepare your content well in advance. Experiment to learn the best time to post for your customers.
Video is rapidly becoming the preferred way to receive information, especially with younger people. Learn about the best size, orientation and length for videos that will be viewed on phones.
Get help if you need it
If you’re struggling to find the time to create amazing content, think about hiring an expert for a few hours a week. You can still create the raw content. They’ll simply whisk up interesting words, compelling graphics and short videos while you get on with running your business.
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