Looking for Great Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Small Business without Breaking the Bank?
Of course you are. You know marketing is incredibly important but you also know money doesn’t grow on trees. Every week small business owners ask me about marketing ideas for small businesses. What works and what’s a waste of time and/or money? How can I make the biggest impact with the smallest investment. In my business, I teach my marketing folks that they should imagine their marketing expenses are coming right out of their wallets. If they wouldn’t spend the money out of their own wallet on something, they shouldn’t spend the company’s money on it.
If you’re a small business owner, the idea of marketing expenses coming right out of your wallet may not be far from the truth. Yet you know you need to market your business to grow and serve your community. How do you do that? Here are three great ways:
- Publish Great Content. I know it’s cliche at this point, yet so few small business owners really take this to heart. If you want to capture someone’s attention, you can do it by interrupting them (think radio and television commercials or annoying pop-up ads on websites). The better way, and the way that will make people not want to change the channel or shut down your website or hate you, is by publishing great content. Great content is stuff people actually want to experience. If what you’re producing doesn’t grab my attention, I delete it or ignore it unless I’m doing research on bad marketing. On the other hand, I love to engage with commericals, ads, popups, etc. that are actually interesting to me. This weekend, for example, I looked up a music video on Youtube and ended up spending more than two minutes watching an ad by Revlon. I wasn’t the target market (directly), but the ad was about relationships and the way a woman’s sense of her own beauty affects the relationship. It was brilliant. I even wanted to share it with a friend! Interesting is in the eye of the beholder, so you need to know your market, but the more interesting and relevant you make your content the more likely you are to gain readers, viewers, audience and fans. I once heard a world famous copywriter say, “Make the advertisement itself valuable.” That should go for all your content.
- Hold a Contest. I was at a conference recently where a small business owner shared how he was able to cut his Google AdWords spending from more than $4000 per month to $200 per month while improving his site traffic and increasing his sales. His secret? Hold a contest. Engage people and get them to share with their circle of friends. The gentleman who spoke started doing monthly contests and increased his customer engagement, sales, and bottom line while spending 1/20th of his previous spend on Google advertising. What sort of contest should you hold? The sky’s the limit. Consider a contest that makes sense given your business, that is cost-effective and engaging. Be sure to track your metrics, figure out where people are coming from and what they’re spending. Run a series of small tests and, when you find something that gives you a big bang for your buck, repeat and refine. Tweak the contest through multiple iterations to see what works best. Be careful not to find something that works once then run it again and again without paying attention to your metrics. You could turn a winner into a loser through neglect.
- Build and Email List and Stay in Touch with Customers. If you are consistently publishing great content and holding contests that grab your audience’s attention and keep them engaged, you will have plenty of opportunities to build an email list. Be sure to get your audience’s permission for you to send them relevant communications, then do. What kind of communications? You can tell stories of people that love your product. You can tell stories about how your product helps people. You can share new ideas about how your service can save people time and money. You can share testimonials. You can ask your audience to complete surveys so you know how to serve them better. If you are reaching out to them in ways that people appreciate and don’t ask the world of them, most people are happy to receive your emails (or at least not be cranky about receiving them). Two bits of advice about emails: use a service such as Aweber to manage your email accounts. With all the laws and regulations out there right now, you don’t want to get your email efforts wrong and end up paying a huge fine. For very little money, Aweber and similar services can and will keep you compliant and out of trouble with the Feds. Once you have an email service, be smart about what you send. Always be thinking, what do my customers really want? What makes sense to share? Would I be happy to be getting this email? I am on some lists where all they do is pound me with offers to buy stuff. They use formulaic headlines and false scarcity to try to get me to open their emails. You know what I do instead? Delete. Delete. Unsubscribe. Delete. If you wouldn’t send that email to your mom or your best friend, don’t send it to your email audience.
Those are three inexpensive ways to market your small business without blowing your budget. They all take some time and none of them are “set it and forget it” tactics, but they will work. And if the shoe were on the other foot and someone was trying to establish and maintain a relationship with you as a customer, would you prefer honest interaction with that person/business or would you like to be the recipient of a “set it and forget it” campaign designed by marketers from the home office? When it comes to establishing relationships with small businesses, I’ll pick personal over impersonal relationships every time. I may not care about having a relationship with Exxon, but I want to know my butcher. And my massage therapist. And the guy who runs the gift shop downtown.
What other ideas do you have to market your small business without blowing your budget? Please share in the comments or email me.