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As a small business owner or marketing professional, you likely don’t have the resources of a mega-brand to market your service or product as aggressively or with the same reach. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make a strong impact with targeted and creative ideas that will both help you to get your small business in front of a new audience, and retain and engage the customers you already have.
Here’s 5 of our favorite small business marketing ideas to help you re-think your size advantage and the potential power of your marketing efforts.
1. Optimize your virtual presence
Let’s assume you already have a website. Your website should be more than a simple telephone-book listing of your location and hours. It should be the most powerful of your marketing tools, especially if you’re able to deliver value above and beyond simply promoting your business. The best small business websites are those that offer real content and serve as a resource for your industry. Consider starting a frequently-updated blog that offers both updates about your small business and other interesting content, such as industry news and observations. Use your writing and images to establish a unique point-of-view and creative voice, further clarifying the tone of your brand. Once you have strong content, distribution platforms like Outbrain Amplify can help you find a wider network for your work, even without a massive marketing budget.
Additionally, make sure to include clear calls to action on the heels of good content, such as inviting readers to sign up for your email distribution list or to find you on social media. And be sure your site is mobile enabled. More and more readers are accessing information on the go, and small businesses that aren’t optimized for mobile formats risk falling behind the curve.
Learn more about how to promote your content on premium websites like CNN, ESPN, TIME, and thousands more.
2. Reach out
Explore customer discovery tools like Groupon, LivingSocial, or Scoutmob. These deal-of-the-day platforms, which discount your products or services, can offer you the chance to target a whole new customer base. While they do entail a momentary cut in profits, this will hopefully be offset by customers who become loyal followers – that’s where your relationship-building skills come in!
Additionally, make sure your business is enabled for review and check-in services like Yelp and Foursquare, and be sure to respond to reviews – both positive AND negative. Reaching out after negative feedback demonstrates responsiveness and a commitment to customer service that many larger companies can’t deliver.
3. Be social
Create and maintain innovative and original social media accounts that don’t only promote your small business, but establish your personality. The precision of social media is exactly what makes the medium such a great way to hone your brand message and to get clear about exactly who you are and what you offer. Most small businesses now have at the very least a Facebook or Twitter account, but why not expand to Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ to reach a new customer base and further show your creativity and vision? When used correctly, a Google+ page can be highly effective for your local business as it enables special local features on Google search. You can also use these profiles to become active in social communities that are relevant to your service or product.
Social media also offers a great way to engage your customer base by offering perks like discounts or giveaways. And, ultimately, your voice here reinforces the sense that there is a real person behind the marketing.
4. Build relationships
Rather than focusing on the ways in which you don’t have the same reach or power as a large business, think about what makes your small business particularly effective – for example, the opportunity to form close, meaningful relationships with your customers. Small businesses aren’t stuck behind the layers of professional firewalls that stymie the efforts of big companies to make themselves seem friendly and approachable.
Cultivate a voice for your marketing efforts that is personable and unique, and use that presence to build your online relationships, such as through an email newsletter and strong social media groups. Start a loyalty program (online or in-store) that gives preference to repeat customers, and consider a referral program that honors customers who tell their friends about you. Invite repeat customers to special events such as a pre-sale exclusive, or offer them a membership discount. These close customer relationships are the best way to ensure your longevity.
5. Think local
Whatever the intended reach of your small business, mobilizing your immediate community is still one of the best ways to create buzz. If you are a brick and mortar store, think about ways you can connect with your neighbors and show your investment in the strength of your community. Consider having custom hats or shirts screen-printed to spread your logo and identity.
Collaborate with other local business – especially those who aren’t direct competitors – to cross-promote or to pair your services as part of local packages. Target local media to respond to community issues and for publicity opportunities. Participate in local craft or food fairs or be a sponsor at a community event. Make sure you have a killer elevator pitch and get networking!
Once you get to know the rhythms of your neighborhood, you’ll be able to craft your brand to more directly meet the needs of the people you’re serving and be able to meet your customers with your marketing message. And above all, you’ll demonstrate a real commitment to making your business integral to the growth of your neighborhood.