Summary: Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or you’re just starting out, we’re here to help take your small business to the next level. From defining your audience to investing in your website, here are some of our favorite small business marketing strategies.
You’ve decided to take the plunge and launch your own business — or take your existing business to the next level. That’s an amazing goal! So, we’re offering up our best tips and tricks to make it an achievable one — and ramp up your small business marketing.
How to Define Your Target Audience
Before you can do almost anything else, you need to define your audience. If you’ve decided to launch a business, you probably already have at least one customer — so look at who’s responding to your current marketing efforts and break your audience down. Make sure to consider anything that could impact a client’s choice about your product or service. Being deliberate and thorough about your target audience will both save you money in the long run and make your existing efforts more effective.
Bottom line? Meet your audience where they are — and you can only do that if you know who they are.
How to Choose Your Social Media Platforms
So you know who your audience is, but how do you find them? If you’re selecting a social media platform, use Google to learn about the demographic usage of each and what time of day is most active. Keep in mind that social media isn’t an exact science, so trial-and-error is still your friend.
When you’re starting out, think about what you see in your own social media feeds. Are there specific types of content you’re more likely to engage with? Instagram tends to work well for highly-visual businesses, while Facebook may be a better choice for services.
Why You Should Invest in Your Website
No matter what, you need to have an effective site. All roads lead back to your website. What does that mean in practice? Your site needs to be easy to use and navigate. That way, when an interested customer arrives at your site, they can easily find what they are looking for. There should be nothing preventing them from making a purchase or signing up for your services.
An effective website has a lot of moving pieces: it needs to look good, have clear calls to action, load quickly on mobile and desktop, and be ADA-compliant — just to name a few. While there are free templated options you can use (like Wix, WordPress, or Squarespace), they’re often less customizable. WordPress websites have really become the gold standard.
All roads lead back to your website.
An upfront investment in your website design will more than pay for itself over time — especially when designed with a classic, timeless style. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, find a student studying web development: they’ll get real-world experience and you’ll get a solid website that you can afford. That’s a win-win.
How to Test Your Marketing Campaign
You’ve diligently researched your target audience, chosen your social media platform, and designed your website. Now you get to tell the world about what you do.
If you’re creating a pay-per-click (also known as PPC) or social media ad campaign, use a small portion of your budget. Run it for a short amount of time (for example, one week), and see who responds. Testing different keywords and demographic targets on a small scale will save you money in the long run and make your full campaign more effective.
A “good” click-through rate — the number of people who click on your link, not just see the ad — varies by industry and type of advertising. On a basic level, a 3-5% return on impressions is a success. If you’re using a PPC campaign, a good rule of thumb is you should return at least $2 for every $1 spent. Until you reach that point, keep tweaking your ad campaign.
Once you’ve nailed down an effective campaign, you can typically run it for about six months, assuming it’s evergreen and continues to perform well. Of course, all campaigns will reach a plateau — that’s your indicator to start testing new strategies.
How to Effectively Use Your Business Budget
Investing in infrastructure will make your marketing more effective and give you a more manageable workload. Here are three of our favorites.
- Email Marketing: Building a great email campaign comes down to your message, design, and a good email marketing platform. But they don’t have to break the bank. In fact, most platforms have a free version (or an inexpensive one) and built-in templates to get you started. MailChimp and Constant Contact have multiple products and price points to help manage interactions with existing and prospective customers. Whatever general email address you’re sending emails from — or offering up on your site or business cards — needs to be straightforward and professional, like [email protected]. But choose wisely since some email platforms will bounce emails from addresses they see as spammy.
- Social Media Scheduling Tools: If you create social media profiles, invest in a way to schedule your posts out and track analytics. With tons of options to choose from, you can find one that works best for you. Social media management tools allow you to be deliberate and consistent with posting, rather than racing against the clock to post in real-time. They’ll also help you spot when the best time is to post based on interactions and engagement.
- High-Quality Collateral: There’s also something to be said for high-quality collateral or “leave behinds” — those tangible pieces that help make a memory and give interested customers something to hold onto. These can be anything from postcards to brochures that you can share with prospects at meetings or events or send out digitally.
How to Get Your Business Noticed Online
Part of your business’s online presence is your brand’s reputation including any media coverage and reviews. Work to gather good, real reviews on your business. You may be able to encourage customers to leave a review by asking for them in your email campaigns or rewarding reviewers — or prompting site visitors to complete a survey. Once you start getting reviews, respond to both the good and the bad — how you respond is half the battle. Make sure you’re set up with Google My Business (which lets you promote your business profile and site on Google Search and Maps, as well as post updates), GlassDoor, Yelp, and other platforms that your audience might be searching on. Keep a list of your profiles to easily keep all your pages up to date.
Stay Ahead of the Trends
Another change in the algorithm on Facebook or Google? Keeping up is half the battle. For Google rankings and search engine optimization (SEO), you want to create genuinely helpful content. Bonus points if it’s question-and-answer based. Whatever content you’re adding, it always needs to be more than an SEO grab since the search engine prefers to rank articles that are truly helpful to users rather than those that are stuffed full of keywords.
Social media has trended towards video in the last few years, and that will likely continue. Most algorithms promote video, meaning your static image might get lost in the shuffle. But for businesses starting out, video can feel expensive and time consuming. If you’re working on a limited budget, think about how you can get more bang for your buck by breaking one video up into smaller clips that you can distribute over time, or splice together in different ways to serve a variety of purposes.
Curious about other small business tools? Let us help. EarthLink offers everything from high-speed small business internet to free business listings to brand reputation management. It’s all part of making the right connection.