Marketing is a double-edged sword: some strategies require a degree of capital the average business owner simply doesn’t possess, while others cost nothing and, if executed correctly, are just as effective. Even if you aren’t strapped for cash, everybody is worried about how to get the most out of their time. Smart marketing boils down to prioritizing. It would be illogical to launch a national campaign when you don’t have a functioning website, for example. I’ve compiled a half-dozen or so marketing activities, ranging from “essential” to “DIY luxuries.” These will be like oil to your outdated marketing machine, and they will prepare your business for serious marketing investments, if you choose to go that route. Interested in more non-traditional marketing techniques? Create effective marketing ideas through this guerilla marketing workshop.
This is a package deal. You need complete web coverage if you want to compete. For starters, you need an eye-popping website. If you work in a creative field—advertising, design, photography, etc.—this is beyond compromise. When I did marketing for a photography company, we wouldn’t even consider partnering with a company is their website wasn’t up to par. That might seem shallow, but it’s the cold hard truth. Having a sub-par website is kind of like showing up to a professional interview wearing cut-off jean shorts, because companies, like my previous employer, conduct behind the scenes interviews in just this fashion.
Social media, in all its beautiful diversity, must be maintained on a regular basis. Yes, it’s painstaking to create an account for the ever-increasing number of popular platforms, but it’s worth every second. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+. At least knock out the power players first. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Here’s a handy introduction to social media marketing.
While this includes various forms of print marketing, email marketing is really the focus here. Hopefully you’ve developed a healthy portion of regular customers, or even clients who turn to you in intermittent times of need. It would be foolish to think you can ignore them and yet still count on them to return time and time again. Show your customers some love, even if it’s emails they aren’t always ecstatic to receive. To avoid being tedious and over-bearing, try to make emails personal. A thank you note here, a birthday wish there, will work miracles for your business. You can introduce your new social media presences, too, which is totally appropriate. Everyone wants to connect on LinkedIn. Everyone wants mutual blog connections.
Yeah, newsletters are great, but they lack the personal touch. If you send out newsletters, at least make them interesting. Don’t just throw something together the first Monday of every month. Put some love into it. Make it fun, even interactive if possible. I wouldn’t count on loads of positive feedback, no matter what you do, but if you get a few replies out of a thousand along the lines of, “Sweet newsletter!” then you’re doing something right.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
If you’re in a specialized field, or even if you’re not, and someone enters relevant search terms and your business doesn’t appear until the fifth page, you’re in trouble. When people search for you, they need to be able to find your business as quickly as possible. There’s just something off-putting and cheap when your business is way down the Google-line. Think about it: how often do you even go to the second page on a search engine? Search engines are so good, that the assumption is if it isn’t on the first page, it isn’t worth looking at.
If you don’t have an employee who can help you out, either hire a professional or, at the very least, discover the practical ways to make sure your site ranks highly using SEO.
Don’t give yourself an ulcer stressing over the perfection of your print materials, but you should at least have a few simple, elegant business cards up your sleeve. If you meet a great contact in person, you don’t want to have to spell out your Twitter account or suggest a LinkedIn connection.
If you can’t afford high-quality books or pamphlets for every contact, it can be a nice touch to send these to your best clients. Avoid gimmicks, though. Anything you send needs to be representative of the professionalism you strive for. Sure, I’ll use a mug with your logo on it, but I’d rather have something more oriented around the goals of your business.
Never Content With Content
Content is like crack for marketers these days. Who would have thought the world would return to good old-fashioned content? Well, not too old. For starters, a blog is Content 101. This gives you a chance and platform to show some personality and voice your own ideas, not to mention the mind-bending knowledge you presumably possess on your market. Blogs can be informative, funny, satirical, news-based, etc.
You can also open-up something like a forum. This will allow you to get invaluable feedback for free. What do customers like? What do they dislike? Common questions? Suggestions? Compliments…anyone?
Again, you can use social media to spread your content like a wild fire. Anything you post one place can easily be posted in ten others. If people respond directly, you need to answer them. Don’t let potential clients’ questions go unanswered. That would be a waste of everything you’ve done. That said, it’s easy to get in over your head. If you start getting fifty replies on a half-dozen platforms, you’re going to be spending all your time on maintenance.
This is where your employees come in to play. Most of them are probably all over the internet as it is, and it would be in their best interests to help promote their company through their personal social media accounts. I would tread carefully here, but you can reach thousands of people a week with a little help from your friends. If you want some more tips along these lines, here are 11 ways to use content marketing to become known as an expert.