Listen up, small business owners! We see you out there: trying to run your business while balancing the books, networking, selling, delivering products or services, reporting, staying on top of industry trends, hiring…the list is endless and it can be overwhelming. We get it. So why are we adding yet another to-do to your ever-growing list?  If you’re not yet in the position to outsource your small business marketing to a professional, then you need to make sure you’re limited marketing time is spent on tactics that will get you results. Here are 5 must-do marketing efforts every small business should do.

Do competitive research

Do you have any idea what your competitors are up to?  If not, you should!  Why?  Because you can learn from everything they’re doing right and take advantage of everything they’re doing wrong. Knowing your competition is important for marketing!  It can help you with who you market to, how you market to them, and how you formulate your unique value proposition. While your competitive analysis doesn’t need to be extremely detailed, it’s good to have a fairly good overview so you can quickly understand who they are and how you compare. Knowing who your competitors are, and what they are offering, can help you to make your products, services and marketing stand out. It will enable you to set your prices competitively and help you to respond to rival marketing campaigns with your own initiatives. You can use this knowledge to create marketing strategies that take advantage of your competitors’ weaknesses, and improve your own business performance.

Create a strong, compelling online presence

Every small business needs a website. If you don’t yet have one, get one, and make it a good one. The internet is a great equalizer between small and large businesses. Your small business CAN compete with the big companies if you do it right. Entrepreneur magazine lists a few reasons why any businesses will benefit from a Web presence:

  1. Visibility
  2. Reach
  3. Customer service and engagement
  4. Credibility

But don’t stop with a website. You need a way to get people TO your site. That’s where a solid social media presence comes in. You don’t have to do them all (nor should you) but figure out a few social media channels that align with your target audience and build a compelling network. Even if you’re a local business, having a solid social media presence is going to attract people to your local business. Are you an online-only business?  Social media is a great way to attract people to your website. Once there, you’ve already won half the battle!  They’re now on YOUR website and you can communicate directly with them.

Build a good email list

“Build it and they will come” does NOT apply to your website. You need ways to go out to where your potential clients are at. In addition to social media, another crucial marketing effort is email marketing. It’s a great way to get and stay connected with past, present and future customers. As a matter of fact, most consumers actually prefer to communicate with brands through email. In fact, one study from Marketing Sherpa reports that 72% of consumers prefer to receive promotional messages through email. Always make an effort to build a legitimate email list. Add an easy way to opt in on your website. Promote it on your social media channels. Email platforms by Constant Contact even give you more list building tools. Don’t overlook email marketing.

Ask for referrals, always

Getting referrals from customers is one of the easiest yet most overlooked marketing tactic out there. The power of referrals for small business owners can’t be overstated. It’s free (except for your time), your close ratio will be higher from referred prospects than cold prospects, and if you make them happy, they’ll refer others to you…..the gift that keeps giving! You can spiff people who refer new business to you, or simply acknowledge their referral with a sincere “thank you”.

Nurture “brand advocates”

Whether they’re happy customers, colleagues, or vendors, the more people out there promoting your business or service, the better.  Turn your best customers into brand advocates who will market for you by praising your business to others. In fact, word-of-mouth is 10 times as effective as traditional forms of marketing and advertising.

Are there more than five marketing activities you could be doing?  Sure, but as a small business owner with limited time, budget and resources, there are 5 must-do marketing efforts every small business should do now.

Patty Hughes
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