You know that small business marketing is crucial. That you need to be doing more to attract new customers and connect with existing ones. So you sit down at your computer and . . . what? Send out a few tweets? Start up a newsletter? Cold email some potential customers? What are you going to do?
Small business marketing is intimidating. If you’re on your own or have a small (maybe even part-time) marketing team, you need to make the most of what limited resources you have. Setting aside the time to do it is hard. Knowing what to do is even harder.
That’s why we’ve collected these 20 proven small business marketing tips. Don’t spend your time figuring out what to do. Pick a few of these and get started today.
1. Be authentic
Today’s consumer is savvy. They want to not only buy a product, but feel like they’re part of a brand. They want to connect with you on a personal level. How can you do that? Tell your story. Offer a look inside your company. Explain what you value. In short, be human.
Public relations agency Cohn and Wolf has surveyed consumers every year since 2012 on corporate authenticity. In the most recent survey, 55% of American consumers said they’d refer their friends and family to an authentic company. The same study found that Disney, BMW, and Microsoft were seen as the most authentic companies in the world.
But you don’t need to be a global corporation to tap into an audience connection. Businesses of any size can be honest and transparent. One of the ways we try to be transparent at Hubstaff is by using Baremetrics and sharing things like our monthly recurring revenue and customer churn.
Any company can use these principles—and it doesn’t cost you a dime. Just be open with your customers. If you choose a single small business marketing principle from this article, let it be this one.
For more on being authentic, check out “A Beginner’s Guide to Authentic Marketing in 2016.”
2. Create videos
Everyone is competing to grab your potential customers’ attention. As a result, it’s getting harder to market to your audience. Creative videos offer a quick impression, and the research says that they work:
- Emails that include video receive a 96% higher click-through rate
- By 2019, video will account for 80% of the world’s internet traffic
- Pages with videos are significantly more likely to rank highly on Google searches (in 2009, they were 50 times more likely, but that number is likely different now)
Keep videos short and to the point, and remember customers’ desire to connect with your company. Show the personal side of what you’re doing. Artifact Uprising‘s “On Legacy” video is a great example. The photo book company uses a single customer testimonial to show the emotions that go into creating a custom photo book:
Crisp Video Group’s “5 Steps to Video Marketing Success: A Beginner’s Guide” is a great place to start.
3. Reach out to influencers
Influencer marketing is simple: have someone tell your story for you. It could be something as big as having a well-known actor to sell your product or promote your service. But it could also be as simple as getting a tweet from someone your potential customers respect. Joe Sinkwitz is a leader in influence marketing, and he identifies three types of influencers you should think about:
- Aspirational: someone your potential customers aspire to be like
- Authoritative: an expert on what you are selling
- Peer: someone who your potential customers will see as “like them”
You might not have Coca-Cola’s budget for influencer marketing. You probably can’t hire Angelina Jolie to sell your product. But small businesses can benefit from this approach, too. You might figure out which blogs your core audience is reading and reach out to those bloggers. Send them a sample of your product or get them to try your service.
Influencer marketing can have huge benefits. Just look at the results that Koby Conrad reported on the Agency Advantage podcast.
For the basics, check out FameBit’s “The Dos and Don’ts of Influencer Marketing.”
4. Create infographics
In the modern digital age, information is thrown at us left and right. And there’s only so much text we can read and retain. Enter the infographic. Simply put, infographics take facts and figures and compile the information into an attractive visual format. It’s eye-catching, interesting, and useful.
If you don’t have the resources to hire a graphic designer to whip up a fantastic infographic, there are some simple templates you can use to create your designs. Companies like Vengage and Piktochart offer free plans with a few included templates. You can even create one in PowerPoint.
Once you create your infographic, don’t forget to promote it. Add it to your blog posts, post it on social media, and reach out to others who might be interested. Send them to journalists and bloggers within your industry for some free promotion.
Not convinced? Check out “9 Awesome Reasons to Use Infographics in Your Content Marketing” from Jeff Bullas.
5. Connect on social media
Social media can be intimidating. But it’s nearly indispensable for modern marketing. Getting started from scratch might seem like a monumental task, but if you break it down into manageable steps, it’s not too bad at all.
Here are the six things that Nicole Reisberg, an experienced social media marketer, recommends:
- Choose (or hire) an experienced team member
- Develop a strategy
- Check out your competitors
- Reserve your company name right away
- Solidify your messaging
- Commit the time
If you take them one at a time, you can quickly start developing a connection with your customers on social media. That connection can be extremely valuable, so don’t pass up this opportunity.
For more tips on getting started, check out Entrepreneur’s “10 Steps to Getting Started in Social Media Marketing.”
6. Automate to save time
Automation is all about accomplishing more in less time. With the right marketing automation software, you can stay in touch with your potential and current customers without lifting a finger. It’s easy to get started with social media and email automation—there are plenty of apps out there that will let you get started for free.
Back in 2013, Salesforce reported that marketing automation had some phenomenal results. Companies that used automation, for example, had a 53% higher conversion rate from response to qualified leads. And a 20% increase in sales opportunities. That’s a huge number of potential customers that you can’t afford to pass up.
Entrepreneur put together a great list in their article “5 Top Marketing Automation Tools for SMBs.” Check it out.
7. Be ready to pitch
Whether you bump into a potential customer while you’re out with your family or you’re crafting new marketing materials, you have a short window to sell your company. How do you win against your competitors? A compelling elevator pitch is the first step.
An elevator pitch is a 30-second description that tells a customer who you are and what you can do for them. It might sound easy, but standing out from the crowd in 30 seconds can be very difficult. Here are some tips to keep in mind while crafting your pitch:
- Offer a solution to your customer’s problem
- Give a quick snapshot of what you do. You want your pitch to be enticing and your prospects to want to learn more
- Include a call to action. You want a prospect as a customer so you want them to take action upon your pitch conclusion
- Work with a coach or practice in front of peers. You want this pitch to sound conversational and approachable , even if it’s a written one
You might not think that you’ll ever need an elevator pitch, but it’s not just for selling in person. Understanding what you’re offering and being able to state it concisely is hugely useful for written materials, too.
For everything you need to prepare your elevator speech, check out “The 7 Key Components of a Perfect Elevator Pitch.”
8. Give things away
Giving away free products, services, or information seems like the opposite of doing business. But by giving potential customers a chance to sample what your company is selling, you build relationships. And if they like what you’re selling, there’s a good chance they’ll buy.
It might not seem like you have anything to give away, but every company has something they can give away for free. Westwood Virtual Associates‘ great list includes things like checklists, PDFs, audio content, memberships, spreadsheets, and lots of other great stuff. We give away our software for free (for a limited time, of course).
Remember, though, that what you’re giving away only seems free. You want the prospect to provide you their email address or other information in exchange for this freebie.
See some great examples in Time’s “5 Ways Companies Win by Giving Stuff Away.”
9. Email your customers
Emailing your customer base on a regular basis is a great way to build a relationship and communicate new offerings. Here are some steps to take build up your email marketing:
- Get email addresses. You need to have a customer list in order to reach out. A simple way is to ask for an email address in return for a PDF download or a free trial.
- Get into inboxes. Prevent getting caught in spam filters by asking people to add you to their address book or whitelist.
- Outline a plan and communicate it. Make sure subscribers know what they can expect and how often they’ll receive emails.
- Segment your list. Consider dividing your list into groups. New customers may want to learn more about products or services. Long-standing ones are likely looking for something else.
- Use an email service. Email services provide scheduling, analytics, and great templates, all of which will help your email marketing.
Not sure what service to use? WP Beginner has some suggestions in “7 Best Email Marketing Services for Small Businesses (2017).”
10. Have a plan
As a business owner, you certainly have a business plan, but do you have a separate marketing plan? If not, it’s time to write one. Your small business marketing plan should focus on overall goals, objectives, and the tactics you’ll employ to accomplish them. Basic sections should include these types of things:
- Who is your company? Write down what makes you stand out from the competition.
- Who is your audience? Who are you selling to? What are their likes and dislikes?
- What are you trying to achieve? Write down a list of goals and timelines associated with them.
- What tactics will help you reach these goals? These are the marketing vehicles to reach your audience. Blogs? Social media? Direct mail?
- What is your budget? Even if you’re a small business owner, marketing doesn’t need to break the bank. Put your money where you’ll get the most from it.
If you need help getting started, check out MPlans’ sample marketing plans. There are many available for a wide variety of industries.
11. Hire a marketing agency
As a small business owner, you may not have the resources to carry out your marketing plan. It’s important to know when to outsource your marketing efforts.
Although it will cost more upfront, outsourcing can save you time in implementing. And just like an accountant is up on the latest tax write-offs, marketing agencies have knowledge of the newest marketing vehicles.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering hiring a marketing agency:
- Do I have the skill set to carry out my marketing efforts?
- Do I have the budget to hire an agency?
- Am I satisfied with my customer base?
- Are my sales where I want them to be?
- Do I have a system for measuring my marketing efforts?
If you’re thinking about hiring an agency, read over Figmints’ “15 Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Marketing Agency.”
12. Follow industry trends
Knowing what’s going on in your industry is an important part of marketing. What are other companies doing? Does it seem to be working? How is the industry itself changing? Knowing the answers to these questions can make a big difference in your marketing.
VerticalResponse details these ten sources you should follow, subscribe to, and read:
- Trade journals
- Consumer magazines
- Discussion forums
- Websites and blogs
- Newspapers and news sites
- Podcasts and videos
- Network with industry experts
- Listen to your customers
- Observe competitors
- Track your company’s trends
Want more ways to stay up-to-date? Check out Square’s “8 Easy Ways to Stay on Top of Industry Trends.”
13. Get creative
Your marketing efforts shouldn’t be stamped from an industry template. What works for one company might not work for you. The best way to develop and implement your marketing tactics is to think outside of the box.
Take Magnolia, for example. It was a small photography company that expanded to sell electronics, but couldn’t afford traditional advertising. So they developed “Buyer’s Guide Place,” a mini-magazine that educated shoppers on electronics. This increased their sales, expanded into new markets, and eventually inked a profitable deal with Best Buy.
One of our favorite examples of creative marketing, which we’ve mentioned before, is this video marketing campaign from Dollar Shave Club:
It’s irreverent, personable, funny, and very memorable. If you can come up with a creative way to get in touch with your customers, they’ll remember you.
Want to see how the experts come up with creative marketing ideas? Check out Adweek’s article, “Genius or Process? How Top Creative Directors Come Up with Great Ideas.”
14. Tell stories
People don’t connect with products. And they generally don’t care about features, either. What drives connection is stories. Take advantage of this by telling compelling stories in your marketing materials. You could tell a story about how your product changed someone’s life. Or a story about how subscribing to your service will help someone become the person they’ve always wanted to be.
Stories are so powerful because they have emotional appeal. No one feels emotionally affected by a statement like “our service will get you more customers.” Opening with something like “Jason was tired. Tired of not making money. Tired of not seeing his family. And especially tired of putting in 50 hours a week without getting anything for it. Now, with our service, Jason’s company is pulling in $250,000 of revenue every year. And his family gets to see him again.”
Which of those would get you to keep reading?
Susan Gunelius has some great ideas about brand storytelling, and you can find them in Forbes’ article, “5 Secrets to Use Storytelling for Brand Marketing Success.”
15. Step up your content marketing
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 89% of companies are using content marketing. If you’re using content marketing, are you getting the most out of it? Anyone can create content and stick it on social media. To really be successful, you need to take your content marketing up a notch.
Consider incorporating these factors into your content marketing:
- Backlinks. Reach out to people who you talk about in your blog posts and invite them to link back to you.
- Internal linking. Don’t forget to link to previous blogs or other useful information on your site.
- Repurposing. If a piece of written content performed well, turn it into an infographic or a video. If your podcast is well-received, write related articles.
- Curation. If you’re staying up on industry trends, you’re probably reading a lot of great stuff that your customers might like. Share it with them on social media or in your newsletter.
Want the low-down on content marketing? Check out Moz’s “Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing.”
16. Think about public relations
PR might sound intimidating, but the underlying principles are simple. Effective public relations manages the relationship between you and the public. When you think of it that way, PR is just an extension of what you’re already doing. But if you spend a bit more time on it, you might see some significant benefits.
Here are a couple examples of what you could do to boost your PR:
- Pitch to the media. If you’re an expert on something, write an article for a newspaper, magazine, or website. It gets your name out there, provides people with useful information, and makes you a useful contact.
- Sign up for HARO. Help A Reporter Out connects journalists with potential sources. If someone in your company could be a useful source for a story, you’ll get some exposure to potential customers and possibly become a regular contributor to a journalist’s stories.
- Set up Google Alerts. Set up Google Alerts for your company’s name, your competitors’ names, and topics related to your field. Keep an eye out for news that’s relevant to your field; you might be able to comment on it in a publication, write a blog post about it, or share it with your readers.
If PR sounds terrifying, check out Accion’s “Small Business Public Relations 101.”
17. Learn from growth hackers
“Growth hacking” is a major buzzword in online marketing right now. Many businesses consider growth to be one of their goals, but few know exactly how to pursue it. Growth hacking is a mindset and a collection of tools and techniques that place a strong emphasis on business growth. If you’re not familiar with the idea, Quick Sprout’s definitive guide is a great place to start.
Even if you’re not ready to hire a growth hacker or start using other marketing buzzwords, adopting a few techniques quickly can boost your marketing.
- A/B test your marketing. A/B testing is simply testing one thing against another. It could be the subject line of your newsletter. Or the time you publish your blog post. We A/B test things like the call-to-action banners we use on our site (you can see one below). You can test anything—and growth hackers test everything.
- Get serious about analytics. Measure everything. How much is every first-time customer worth, on average? How many of your newsletter recipients are buying your product? What are the chances s a first-time visitor to your blog will share your infographic? All of these pieces of information can tell you more about what’s working and what’s not.
- Make sure your marketing and technical teams are working together. This is what growth hacking is all about: combining traditional and digital marketing with high-powered technological tools. If people in your organization could be working together, they should be.
For more great resources, check out Kissmetrics’ “Learn Growth Hacking: 35 Resources to Help You Become a Growth Hacker.”
18. Perfect your call-to-actions
Call-to-actions are a crucial part of online marketing. If your customer isn’t encouraged to do something—sign up for your newsletter, check out your free offer, buy your products—your marketing isn’t going to do you much good. Gone are the days of buttons that say “click here to buy.” Here are a few tips from Power Digital Marketing on how to rock your call-to-actions:
- Be specific. Instead of saying “click here,” cater to your audience. If you sell recipes, your call-to-action could be something like “Stay in the loop on the latest recipes.”
- Emphasize action. Lead with an action verb to inspire your customer to want to click on your call- to-action. “Subscribe to get actionable advice” is more enticing than “Get advice.”
- Try out first person. Instead of using, “Download your copy,” try “Download my copy.”
- Play with colors. Research shows that green and orange perform best. But try different colors based on emotions you’re trying to elicit or your website theme.
- Foster urgency. If your customer feels they’ll lose out if they don’t act quickly, you may get a response faster. Try a countdown clock or a limited offer as part of your call-to-action.
For lots of great examples, check out Crazy Egg’s “21 Call to Action Examples and 3 Rules for Effective CTAs.”
19. Level up your keyword research
You know keyword research is important to your business. But your background isn’t in SEO. The truth is anyone can and should be doing keyword research. You can take a few simple steps to rank higher in Google, attract more buyers, and convert these into increased sales.
Here are a few easy steps that will boost your keyword research:
- Use a free keyword tool to get a better idea of which keywords will convert.
- Don’t neglect long-tail keywords. Try Ubersuggest.io to see which longer phrases people are searching for.
- Use Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s a hugely useful tool.
For more detailed information on keyword research, read Ahrefs’ article, “This 19 Step Keyword Research Process will SKYROCKET your Organic Search Traffic.”
20. Hire freelancers
There’s no shame in asking for help. And by hiring a freelancer, you can tap into experience and knowledge without adding an entire salary to your payroll. Whether you need someone to develop a marketing plan, an infographic designer, a copywriter, or just an assistant to help out, you can find a great freelancer for the role.
If you want to get an idea of how to go about hiring a small business marketing freelancer, checking out our article, “Looking to Hire Writers? Here’s Everything You Need to Know.” And be sure to check out Hubstaff Talent, where you can find talented freelancers without paying any fees.
Become a small business marketing master today
Small business marketing isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely necessary for success. Getting started—or taking it to the next level—might seem intimidating, but if you can take just one step in the right direction, you’ll be making progress. Pick out one or two of the above tips and start on it today. Even taking 15 minutes will be a big help.
You don’t need to be a marketing expert to improve the marketing of your small business. All you need is some direction and the willingness to start.
Have you used any of the above strategies? Which work best for you? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments below!