Thursday, April 11, 2013

Marketing for Small Businesses


Most small business owners find themselves in a marketing role and don’t necessarily feel qualified or confident in making decisions. Before investing in marketing you need to have an understanding of what features are important, otherwise you can waste money.

Here are a few basics to get you started:

Social Media
The world of social media can appear daunting to some, but it doesn’t take long to get up to speed.

Social media allows you to engage with clients and prospects on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can provide updates on your activities, current newsletters or client projects. You can highlight your accomplishments in digestible segments.

It offers a great insight into business and markets and allows you to engage with clients without being intrusive. To encourage engagement you have to interact so make sure you follow relevant and interesting people so you can engage easily and offer advice where appropriate.

With any social media platform it takes time to build up a presence however you need patience and commitment. Don’t expect a decent following for at least 4-6 months.


Twitter
Twitter gives you the opportunity to interact with individuals who you might not normally come into contact with. If you are keen to connect with someone you can retweet their content before you introduce yourself.

Facebook
The benefit of Facebook is that you have more space for content and photos; therefore this platform is more suitable for larger content pieces.

LinkedIn
LinkedIn enables you to interact with individuals and companies. You can join groups and engage with discussions and polls.

Top Tips for Social Media
Make sure your social media profile is on brand so you are identifiable to your existing customers;
  • Search for keywords to find relevant information and conversations. You can also see who is talking about you or your company and engage where necessary, even if the comments are positive or negative;
  • Plan ahead and set goals, know what you want to achieve and prepare content ahead of time – even if it is for tomorrow or next week it’s always good to plan;
  • To encourage engagement and followers you can post competitions on your social media sites to win your services;
  • Engage with the key influencers in your industry;

Events
Events can be large or small depending on your budget, whatever your capabilities there is an option.
  • Set up contra deals with local businesses and co-host events;
  • Sponsor larger events to maximize publicity;
  • Plan ahead by putting together an events calendar;
  • Host educational events for SMEs (live or by webinar).


Website
Never underestimate the value your website can bring. Your online presence is a powerful expression of your capabilities and success.  Potential clients will be comparing you to your competitors and first impressions count.

The business card is dying out as the world becomes digital. The first place people go to check you out is your website. It is an influential sales tool so should be utilized.

Your website is a great place to feature case studies and customer feedback.

The website should highlight how approachable you are so make it easy for people to contact you. Include information on your team and highlight their experience and capabilities.

To encourage engagement with potential customers offer free advice through your website on smaller issues where possible. This service can be promoted through your social media platforms.

Prospecting
To gain prospects outside of your immediate circle you can look to purchase list from various sources:
  • Companies House;
  • The Electoral Roll;
  • BT’s OSIS database;
  • The Times Top 1,000 companies;
  • Newsletter recipients;
  • Consider swapping lists or doing joint ventures with complementary firms. 

Engagement
There are many ways of engaging with clients other than social media. Again, the important thing is to plan ahead to ensure you are not bombarding clients with too much information. Space out your contact so as not to annoy anyone! 
  • Newsletters;
  • Contact local publications/blogs and offer to write a guest post for them;
  • Promote client case studies and encourage referrals;
  • Surveys;
  • Polls;
  • Recommend a friend offers in exchange for your services;
  • Online knowledge hub with “how-to-guides” in downloadable formats;
  • Engage with editors of trade magazines to encourage media coverage. 
Merchandise
Finally, we come to the more fun aspect of marketing – the free giveaways! The key is to produce something people don’t just throw away. You want them to talk about it and you want their colleagues to ask questions. Here are some ideas:
  • Pens
  • Mugs
  • Key rings
  • Stress toys
  • Notepads
  • Post-It Notes
  • USB sticks
  • Umbrella
  • Refillable mints tins or cards
  • Diary (request sponsorship from clients) 

Or better yet combine a few ideas into one product a key ring, USB stick and a torch!