Where Small Businesses Should Spend, and Save, Marketing Money
Owners of small businesses are generally strapped for time and money. They have to pick and choose carefully where to spend both. Setting marketing priorities is the key to making the most of small business budgets and time management. Here is a look at some small business marketing tactics to embrace or avoid:
Do: Include your company in online directories. The more legitimate sites you have linking back to your company, the better. This will improve your search engine rankings and also ensure that potential customers are able to find you, both physically and digitally. There are plenty of free directories, but you may also find that you get better results with directories that charge a reasonable fee.
Don't: Spend a lot on outbound marketing. The pre-internet traditional marketing tactics like mailing out coupons or taking out print ads simply do not have the same impact they once did. There is no way to measure their effectiveness either. You may find that certain traditional ad campaigns do help improve business, especially if you are a local establishment. Definitely stick with these initiatives, but avoid others that have unknown results.
Do: Have a company blog. A website is simply not enough. If you want to attract the attention of people with a vested interest in your industry, you need to have a blog with quality content. Clearly label the blog as part of your business but avoid "selling" things on it. Instead, provide expert content for free and build credibility that will lead to future sales.
Don't: Rely on social media. Yes, social media is a great place to foster relationships with your current and future customers, but it is not enough. You want to put your small business information in as many places as possible and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter represent just a small portion of what is available out there for digital marketing.
Do: Partner with others. A great way to stretch your marketing budget is to collaborate and co-market with other small businesses. Look for inexpensive, or even free, ways to promote your business that is mutually beneficial to another one. The simplest example would be allowing each other to leave business cards in the lobby of each other's offices. A more advanced partnership could include link building through each other's sites or allowing free advertising on each other's websites.
Don't: Discount the power of word-of-mouth advertising. You can have the most advanced, strategically relevant marketing plan in place but without actual customers recommending you, it will not work. Obviously you want to avoid bad reviews, especially online, but you also want to encourage happy customers to take the time to praise you in cyberspace. Consider giving incentives to customers and clients that are willing to write a positive, genuine review for you. Let potential customers know a little bit about you before they email you, call you or show up at your location.
Every small business will have to customize a marketing plan that best fits its needs and target audience. Remember that just because a tactic works for others or is all the rage, it may not be a good choice for you. Keep your own business goals in mind and spend your money and time on the most effective marketing for your company needs.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.