Simple Yet Brilliant Marketing Ideas for Small Business Owners

Marketing your business doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.
Face-­to-face interaction can go a long way when it comes to marketing your small business. (Photo: woaiss/Shutterstock)

The majority of small businesses don’t have a ton of time or resources to dedicate to their marketing strategy. But the truth is, you don’t need to be a marketing guru or have a heavyweight PR firm behind you to get the word out about your business. Heed Mark Twain’s advice: “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”

Valorie Luther, founder and executive director of Creative Concepts LLC, says that small business owners just launching their business should do all of their own PR and social media. “Not only does this save money, but also no one can represent a new business or get others excited more than the founder themselves,” says Luther. “And if the idea or service is a new concept, it’s still the founder who can best represent the company initially.”

Here are time-­tested techniques you can start today that will help generate the buzz you’re looking for to grow your business.

Pitch your business yourself

How, you ask, does an insanely busy business owner without PR expertise find the time for such an important part of building up the business? Luther says it’s simple.

“For public relations, create a plan and stick to it. If you don’t have much time, designate one hour per week to reaching out to the media, whether it be a TV contact or an editor at a trade magazine, for example. And, remember, add that one hour to your calendar. In time, you’ll slowly but surely reach all of your media contacts.”

You can also subscribe to services like Help a Reporter Out that connects journalists looking for story ideas and sources with experts like you, the small business owner, who knows your field better than anyone out there.

Be focused on social media

Some 2 billion people – nearly a third of the planet’s population – are social media users, and it’s estimated that three­-quarters of consumers say social media influences their buying decisions. Luther says it’s important to first consider where your customers are. Is it Facebook? Pinterest? Instagram? Maybe a trade­specific social network? Regardless of the channel, you can streamline your time by choosing one social network initially and doing it well.

“Post three to five business days per week and watch to see what content and approach works and what doesn’t,” Luther says. After that, expand to other social-­media channels.

“If need be, follow the plan you created for your PR and schedule one hour per week to create the social messaging,” Luther says. “Then, all you’ll have to do the rest of the week is respond to comments.”

A business owner will also find efficiencies with tools like Hootsuite, which will allow you to schedule social-­media posts in advance so you can reach your customer base when they’re online and engaged.

Engage with your community, offline

At a time when society and business culture are more digitized than ever, a little face-­to-face interaction can go a long way. Being active and engaged in your community can make you the first person someone thinks of when looking for an expert who does what you do. But be sure you’re selective and strategic about where you’re spending your time. Get to know your ideal customer, and think about how and where they spend their time. Then search for unique opportunities to get in front of your customers with your marketing message.

Provide value through e-­blasts

Email marketing is an oldie but a goodie. If you want to build strong relationships with your customers and keep your business in their hearts and minds, there is nothing simpler than creating a biweekly email that provides something of value to your readers. To succeed with an e­-blast, offer sign-­up incentives and smart, thoughtful content that your customers will want to share. It’s all about being honest and authentic in your email communications.

Generate word­-of­-mouth referrals via LinkedIn

You’re likely already on LinkedIn, but you may not be leveraging this network to the best of your ability. Since satisfied customers are the best gateway to new customers, connect with your customers on LinkedIn and then be diligent about asking your clients to write you a recommendation, which will be published on your LinkedIn profile and then broadcast to their entire LinkedIn network.

You can also use LinkedIn to build up your online industry network. For example, search LinkedIn’s Groups directory to find industry associations and networks to join. These groups are a powerful way to find peers in your respective industry to network with and share referrals that could lead to repeat business.

These simple marketing strategies will help you engage with your customers and build relationships over time. Luther says it’s important for small business owners to remember not to get burnt out by trying to do it all. “Baby steps can lead to increased exposure and ultimately higher sales,” says Luther. Slow and steady, after all, wins the race.

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