Taking the Plunge: Marketing Your Small Business
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The following is a post from my lovely wife – Mrs. Frugal Rules who talks about her experience marketing our business as part of my Taking the Plunge series.
At its core, marketing is about attracting and retaining a large base of satisfied clients. Marketing puts the customer on center stage and emphasizes the value of the customer to a given business. As a veteran of the marketing, communication and now advertising industries, I can say with confidence that all marketing activities must come down to satisfying customer needs and driving profitable sales volume. Especially for small businesses, quality sales driven by frugal marketing activities trumps sheer sales volume driven by big marketing spend.
Where do I start?
All marketing starts with knowing your prospects and clients. What do they want? What makes them tick? What are their needs – met and unmet? What products or services do you have that meet those needs? Marketing acts on the answers to those questions with relevant, cost-effective, engaging, targeted and consistent communication. As we’ve written about before in the Taking the Plunge series, Mr. Frugal Rules and I run a copywriting business. Many of our clients are advertising agencies; a few are medium-sized companies and a few are other freelancers or small, local businesses. Every week, we work on marketing campaign copy that results in TV and radio commercials, billboard and online banner ads, magazine and newspaper ads, and social media content. But many of these campaigns are funded by companies with deep pockets. What is the small business owner to do to successfully market his or her business and brand?
Small Changes That Make a Big Difference
Marketing doesn’t have to involve a print, online, direct mail and social media-focused campaign to be successful. Few small businesses can afford such efforts. Don’t be discouraged. There are some small, simple changes you can implement that will make a big impact in your marketing efforts and will spread the word about your small business, which is the point of marketing, after all. Here are four quick tips that I recommend implementing.
Edit Your Email Signature. Add you blog address and Twitter handle to your email signature, on all your accounts. Doing so ensures that everyone you email has an opportunity to discover your small business.
Create or Update Your LinkedIn Profile. Of all the social media platforms, LinkedIn and Twitter are the most powerful for small business (in my opinion). Facebook can be helpful as long as you are committed to making regular, engaging posts. I recommend starting with LinkedIn as it’s a natural place that employers, freelancers and other business owners go to look for qualified professionals. Spend time adding testimonials and experience to your profile so that visitors get a full picture of what your small business has to offer. Two of our most reliable clients found our small business through LinkedIn.
Turn the Back of Your Business Card Into a Billboard. Put your tagline or a list of services on the back of your business card. Keep your copy brief and powerful. If you haven’t discovered it already, check out VistaPrint for affordable business card, postcard, brochure and flyer printing. They run regular specials and sometimes you can get free swag with your company name and logo on it.
Consider a Vanity Phone Number for Your Small Business. 1-800-WRITERS for example. If you can think of a way to shorten your main service, product or identity to seven characters, it can be an easy way to generate passive leads and awareness about your small business.
Ask for Help
As Steve Strauss points out in this USA Today article, there is plenty of free or low-cost help out there for small business owners to take advantage of, including marketing help. Check out your local chamber of commerce, the SBA website, your local SCORE chapter, trade organizations, Meetup Groups and online forums for advice and networking opportunities.
I live in Omaha where we have more than half a dozen Chambers of Commerce. I spent some time exploring a few of them, attending their meetings and expos and even joined a leads generation group, looking for ways to market our small business. In the end, I discovered that the best way for me to market our copywriting business and gain exposure to new prospects and clients was by joining the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation, because it put me directly in contact with the professionals who were most likely to use our services. I also found Meetup Groups, which were free and were a great way to expand my exposure to freelance and employed web designers and UX/IX programmers, who sometimes have a need for a copywriter to provide website content. I learned the hard way that leads groups geared toward brick and mortar small businesses weren’t profitable for our business. We may still join a Chamber at some point, but as many small business owners can attest, money is precious when you are running a fledging small business. Every dollar counts so we do our best to spend our resources where we think we will get the most bang for our buck, so to speak.
A Final Word about Branding Your Small Business
As you start to put yourself and your small business out there in person and in print (or online), be consistent in how you present yourself. Invest in a professionally-designed logo and add it tastefully along with your tagline and contact information on every communication you put out for your business. Decide on a simple color palate and perhaps, font, and stick within that range. If you sell insurance for example, don’t plaster one of your brochures with dragonflies and others with geometric shapes. Have a consistent look and feel so prospects and customers can easily recognize you.
Do you run your own business? What marketing questions do you have? We’ll do our best to answer them in the comments!
Photo courtesy of: MDGovPics