Marketing can often seem an essential but expensive call on the finite funds of a small business. Small business owners often build up their marketing efforts piecemeal, investing in different elements as revenue increases and more cash becomes available. This is fine if the marketing effort is consistent in approach and stems from an on-going strategy. If it isn’t though, business owners can actually make it harder for customers to find them… or even confuse and put customers off altogether.
The noise created by the sheer volume of today’s media channels and the numerous promotional options means it can be tough to get your business offering heard. Unable to invest masses of marketing budget to boost their visibility the savvy entrepreneur needs to find more affordable ways to get in front of customers and remain on their radar. Here are some simple marketing techniques that won’t break the bank, but will help customers to find you.
Manageable customer chunks
You will probably struggle to find the resources to market well to a broad market, so draw up a list of niche groups you can target one at a time. Spread this targeting over a couple of years to make the best use of the marketing budget you’ve got available. Once you’ve established your business offering in one market (and sales are coming in) consider moving on to the next and so forth.
In terms of which groups to prioritise, go for quick wins by opting for those where you either have a number of good quality customers already, or the group represents customers more likely to engage quickly with your offering. Get visible in the channels where they congregate and build word of mouth/ recommendations through special offers, taster sessions/events, recommend a friend campaigns and PR. Don’t be afraid to tailor your marketing messages or offers to appeal more to that group’s nuances. It will help you to stand out more to them and get a better return on your marketing efforts. You might also want to buddy up with a business in that market who complements your own, or has some synergy with your business offering. If so, consider joint promotions or special offers and packages which the market will be drawn to.
Is your website too cryptic?
These days, people haven’t got time to read through a wordy website to find what they’re looking for. They also haven’t got time to work out how you describe your products/services when searching for them. So make sure your website attracts and helps visitors to convert into customers by:
1. Having a url that mirrors your company or main brand name. If people know your company name or have had it recommended to them they will type this into the search engines. So avoid acronyms, hyphens or choosing urls that are completely different. Ensure the url for your website and email is the same as this will demonstrate added credibility and avoid people sending emails to the wrong address.
2. Having an easy to skim read home page that signposts very quickly what you do and how well you do it. Opt for images over words but have links to other pages in the site where people can find out more.
3. Making sure your site performs well in mobile and tablet formats too. Mobile internet browsing is on the rise and you need to make sure your site doesn’t lose visitors in this environment.
4. Listing your services/products on your home page. People will want to see the breadth you offer in a matter of seconds so put a concise list in the footer or to one side of your home page. Don’t go for a list of long descriptions and instead opt for names customers will immediately recognise. Make each a clickable link to a page where people can read about a specific service/product they’re interested in in more detail.
5. Investing in a search box on your site. This also helps people quickly find what they’re looking for without too much searching on their part.
6. Describing your products and services using words that your customers use or are likely to use. If you can replicate their phrases and words in your site’s content and online ad campaigns, you’re more likely to appear in related search results.
7. Considering the territories you best serve. If you focus on your local market, ensure relevant place names or territories are included in your site’s search engine optimisation, online ads, facebook and Google+ profile etc.
8. Having a clear call to action on every web page. Don’t leave these to the contact us page of your site. Put your phone number, email or whatever contact points you have in the header or footer of your site, so it’s always visible to customers
The power of your email signature
Don’t forget to put your contact details in your business email signature. People will often cut and paste content from an email signature when recommending one contact to another. They’ll also often refer back to this signature when trying to access your phone number, address etc. Your signature should therefore signpost your address, phone number, website and also your url in the different social networks you participate in (so the contact/customer can interact with you in their network of choice). Be careful though of using lots of graphics in your email signature as some email browser settings will screen this out.
Be consistent in all your channels
As your business grows you are more likely to try different marketing channels to promote your offering. The key here is to be consistent in your choice of message as well as the marketing’s look and feel. You can build tremendous strength and reassure customers if everything is co-ordinated and signposts the same benefits/messages in your business offering. So, whether your marketing is built around traditional advertising, social media, promotional offers, your website, direct mail, online advertising or PR make sure it is obvious it’s all from the same business… not several. Tailoring certain messages to specific markets is fine, but ensure everything looks as if it’s from you. Test with a customer or friend if the message you want to convey is clear to them. If it isn’t, then rework your campaign accordingly.
Each person has their own preferred communication channel and so it’s wise to make it easy for customers to contact you by aligning your business with them. This means being available across a wide range of channels – eg phone, mobile, email, contact form, social media, Skype etc. Ensure these contact points are visible on your site and in your email signature so they can reach you via whichever channel they want.
Like your website’s url, make sure your LinkedIn and Twitter urls clearly point to your business. And if you are out of the office a lot, consider investing in a call handling service so people aren’t continually getting your answerphone. Good quality human interaction will help them to continue to want to engage with you and buy from you.
Be current not dormant
The core components of your products and services may not change but that doesn’t stop you creating fresh noise about them, or showcasing different aspects of them. Having an area on your site which shows you being ‘current’ is a nice way to convince customers yours is an active business, not a dormant one. It also helps your performance with the search engines, so schedule in fresh content to appear on your site on a regular basis. If you are on twitter for business, consider bringing in a twitter feed to your site. Feature your blog and also guest write on other people’s if possible. Be active in the social networks your customers favour with and ensure your updates are scheduled for the times when they are most likely to be interacting with that channel. Test out different time frames to work out which gets you seen in people’s time-lines and generates the most responses.
The more relevant fresh content you can create that points to you, the more likely your site and profile will get showcased over others.
With so much competition, multiple media channels and a whole host of ways to market their business many entrepreneurs find showcasing their business to potential customers tough. The trick is not spread yourself too thinly and instead to concentrate on pockets of customers at a time. Having a joined up approach between all the marketing activities you employ will certainly help you to build a stronger presence.
Always talk in the terms your customers use to ensure you appear against the phrases and search terms they key in on the likes of Google. Also don’t underestimate the value of the goodwill in your existing customer base. If your customers are impressed and happy with the quality of your service/product range then explore ways to motivate them to recommend you (eg through special offers and events). Keep in touch with them and make it easy for people to recommend you and pass on your contact details. These need to be easily accessible. If you’re in any doubt, run a simple search on Google and see how easy it is to find you, your business and also your products/services.