Marketing a small business used to be straight forward in the past when business owners had just a few technologies to use. Depending on your advertizing budget, you advertized in the yellow pages and in magazines and newspapers, or radio and TV, and of course by word of mouth. All that changed with the internet. Today, glitzy advertising and elaborate marketing campaigns is on the wane; Google and social media rules, and word of mouth marketing or referral marketing is back in vogue…
Today’s customer trusts the recommendation of a friend, family member, colleague, or even a stranger on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest who has similar tastes, over anything thrust at them by a faceless company, or even you the small business owner at the corner store.
In this guide I will list a few of the most popular ways how to market a small business, look at the pros and cons and the return on investment, and lastly I will give you my recommendations on the best systems with the highest ROI – and how to implement them. The training is a little over 2,000 words. If you are in a bit of a hurry, you can download the pfd version here to read at leisure when you have the time.
But first… the days are long gone when a business owner could afford to start up a business and then sit back, and expect the business to grow without any marketing input on your side. If you are selling physical products, you have to compete against online giants such as Amazon. If you sell used stuff, there is EBay.
If you offer services, hundreds of other companies are just a click away as far as your prospects are concerned. This is why today a very high percentage of small businesses fail within months, and why small business marketing is so much more important.
Here’s what marketing legend, Dan Kennedy said:
Dan Kennedy is known as “the millionaire maker” in some circles, and he knows what he’s talking about…
Here’s why you want to get good at small business marketing:
When you learn how to market your business, you take control of your income (because you know what to do to ensure a steady flow of customers), which will enable you to live the lifestyle that you know you deserve. No longer will you be at the whim of economic downturns, bad reviews of your business, or the tough competition in today’s marketplace, all of which may have impacted your bottom line in the past.
If you put the information I’m showing you in this training to good use, when you’re finished you’ll be able to look at your bottom line, when you achieve the small business marketing success which is sure to come, and say to yourself…”yeah, I did it. I’m my own boss,” or “I’m a successful business owner.” The other option is to fork over a big chunk of your profits running ineffective marketing campaigns – and making the owners of websites such as Groupon, LivingSocial and GiveAwayOfTheDay.com or FatWallet.com rich.
Or you could become one of that obnoxious statistic that gets thrown around… you know, the massive percentage of small businesses that fail in their first year?
I for one, I’m counting on you! So, let’s get started…
Back to marketing, small business style, most small businesses can’t afford TV and radio advertising. Even advertizing in the newspaper classifieds is beyond the reach of most small business owners. Let’s look at some popular ways to market small businesses that most business owners can leverage for free or very cheaply.
Marketing and Small Business: Some Popular Marketing Methods
Facebook Marketing for Small Business: There is free Facebook marketing for the small business and then there is paid Facebook marketing. Free Facebook marketing is when you set up a Facebook page for your business or a fan page to promote your business. This is a good way to bring in more business, Facebook being such a traffic giant.
Pros of using Facebook to market your business – Once you have set up a profile for your business on Facebook, the customers you get from your Facebook pages are, shall we say, free? But there is a caveat…
Cons of using Facebook to market the small business – You have to work at keeping your Facebook properties up to date, you have to work at getting more and more followers, likes, etc so that your business ranks in the search results when people search for businesses like yours on Facebook. You also need to know that people don’t normally go to Facebook looking for businesses. They are on the platform to chat and catch up on the news about their friends, etc.
One workaround to this is to use targeted Facebook advertizing. This enables you to catch the attention of casual surfers who happen to need your service or product. But of course it costs money, and I can’t recommend it for everyone.
Search engine marketing for the small business – Search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc provide a great facility for the small business owner looking to advertize his or her business for free. There is Google My Business, Yahoo Local and Bing Business Portal, etc.
These services not only give you the small business owner the opportunity to list your local business free of charge, they also operate a rating system, because they also give your customers an opportunity to review and rate your business. This is a great opportunity if you know how to use it right. I have prepared a guide on how to get terrific reviews on Google for your business and drive new business and sales. The same information can be applied to Bing and Yahoo and indeed any other business search engine.
Pros of using search engine marketing for a small business – Most people today search online for reviews before making any buying decisions, and so, if you get your citations right and get good ratings in the search engines; this is free traffic (read customers and buyers) to your business for years. Great ROI!
Cons of search engine marketing for the small business – Anybody can make reviews about your business on the search engines, including people with malicious intent. And so you have to constantly respond to these reviews, both the good and bad. There’s an upside however to this – responding to these reviews gives you an insight into your processes and gives you the opportunity to take remedial action to provide a great customer experience. I have prepared another guide to show you how to respond to negative reviews of your business so that you can win over new customers who have read the bad reviews – and grow your Google listing at the same time.
The other downside to marketing your business through the search engines is that if you decide to do it yourself long-term you are going to have to learn how to do search engine optimization, SEO – and SEO is a constantly changing landscape. You have to learn the basics of small business search engine optimization because search engine marketing has more scope than simply optimizing your business listings, although that is a critical first step.
You can also market your small business through your website, your Google Plus pages, your profiles in niche directory sites, etc. Properly optimized, these too can bring in a steady flow of customers to your business.
The other option to doing heavy SEO for your small business is to resort to paid search engine advertizing, or PPC.
Paid Search Engine Marketing – Most search engines have pay-per-click or PPC marketing programs. Anybody can advertize on there, including businesses. PPC is highly effective, but if you are a small business owner there is a steep learning curve before you can get it to work for you. The best option if you decide to use PPC to market small businesses is to hire someone or a company that specializes in PPC advertizing. You have seen PPC ads… they look like this:
Social Media Marketing for the Small Business – I mentioned Facebook before, which is a social media network, because it is in a class of its own. There are many other social media platforms – far too many IMHO. Let’s see… you have Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, MeetUp, etc, as well as smaller, “niche” social platforms such as IBO Toolbox (the Independent Business Owners Tool Box), which is great for business owners.
My recommendation is that you shouldn’t waste too much valuable time signing up at any and all social media platforms. Get in there, explore and decide if the platform will work for you, and pick one or two of these platforms and specialize in making it work for your business.
IBOToolbox.com is great for networking with other business owners, as also is Meetup.com, which is great if you specialize in referral marketing. Twitter and the others are better suited to driving new business your way.
Social media marketing can get to be a big time suck, so tread with care… or you could outsource it on Fiverr. There are service providers on Fiverr who are available 24/7 to do all sorts of social media tasks for you for $5.
Word of mouth or referral marketing in small business
If you are getting dizzy and confused with all the marketing being done online, and all these hundreds of options, so are your customers… Research shows that more and more, customers prefer the recommendations of their friends – call it word of mouth, or referrals, or refer-a-friend marketing.
Science in fact has shown that people can’t help recommending products and services to their friends – it’s an instinct that’s wired deep in our brains. And as a smart business owner you can tap into that hardwired desire to set up a system that brings in new customers almost on autopilot.
This is by far the best ROI marketing for small businesses, marketing that harnesses the power of referrals to ensure a steady flow of new customers into your business. Because, if you can concentrate on keeping your customers happy (and being great at your business), your customers will refer your business to even more customers, who will also refer you to more customers – a virtuous cycle.
Pros of referral marketing for small businesses – It’s easy to set up, with zero or very little investment. You also end up attracting your ideal customers, who have been pre-sold on what you have to offer – hence no hassles with pricing, plus you get more qualified customers/clients for the products or services you offer.
Cons of referral marketing for business – You have to get good at customer relations, you have to educate your referral sources, you have to network with your referral partners, you have to do some marketing research for your small business, you have to provide great customer care, which invariably means among other things, motivating your employees (or yourself) to provide stellar service; and you have to get better as a person. Except that… none of these things is a negative in my opinion! J
Download this bonus guide, “How to Double Your Profits with Referral Marketing for Small Businesses,” but only if you are ready to get customers such as these:
Apple Inc has avid fans such as those in the picture, who will camp outside the retail stores to be among the first to buy Apple’s new releases. Want to learn their secret? Download our bonus referral marketing guide here.
In closing…. We have looked at 4 popular free or cheap marketing methods for a small business – Facebook, search engine marketing, social media marketing, and referral marketing or word of mouth. Each of the first three methods has its advantages and disadvantages, plus some of them work better for some businesses than for others.
Facebook marketing and marketing on other social networks, for example, works great for businesses with products/services that are “visual” – for example cake makers, florists, hairdressers, landscaping, fashion, and design. Facebook may not be all that great for say, plumbers and electricians.
Referral marketing and search engine marketing work well for any business. So, the take away here is you have to spend time and your efforts wisely, even with the free marketing options in this list, especially social media. See what is working well for small businesses like yours, and take it from there. I highly recommend referral marketing as it has the best ROI, and it offers the small business owner a cheap and reliable long-term marketing solution.