If you’re one of over 600,000 new businesses that opened this year, congratulations! Starting a small business is exciting, terrifying, satisfying and overwhelming all at the same time but as a new small business owner, you’ve likely already experienced all the emotions as you pursued your dream. Now that you’ve got your new business started, it’s time to bring in those customers! Here are five marketing musts for every new small business to get you on the path to success.
Start your marketing with a plan
Hopefully when you were creating your small business, you started with a business plan. Within that plan, there was likely a component that addressed marketing. Now is the time to expand upon that brief marketing overview from your business plan into a more fleshed out small business marketing strategy. While a more detailed and fleshed out the plan is ideal, even starting with a few basics will lay the foundation for a good marketing effort. Take the time to identify the following so you know who you’re marketing to, what you should say, and where you should say it:
- Target audience – take a moment to describe the audience you’re looking for (B2B or B2C, big company or small, etc.)
- Ideal customer – envision your dream customer (budget, demographic, title, etc.)
- Your unique value proposition – what makes you different or better than your competition? Why should people do business with you?
- Your top three competitors – who offers something similar to you in your industry? Who will you be competing against?
- Where your customers are – list out social platforms, industry groups, associations, etc. where your customers are likely found.
If you want a more substantial marketing strategy, definitely do so but if you nothing more than sketch out details from the five items above, you’re most likely ahead of most of your competitors out there. In a world where the vast majority of small businesses fail, it’s vital that you do everything possible to set yourself up for success. Offering a quality product or service is important, but it won’t do you much good if you don’t have enough people aware of it. Don’t start a small business without a marketing plan! Not sure where to start? Find a marketing pro who can help you create a plan. It’s OK to start simple and revisit later to make the plan more robust. Marketing plans are living, breathing documents.
Get a website
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have. Nowadays, you need a website. When it comes to having a presence in front of possible clients, the internet is a great way to allow small businesses to compete with their larger competitors. Even having a basic, informative, easy to navigate website can put your business on equal ground with companies much larger than you. The internet is the great equalizer of marketing; company size doesn’t matter nearly as much online, so as a new business owner, take advantage of this! Small businesses need a website! There are several website options out there depending on your budget and expertise, include WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace and GoDaddy website builder. You’ll need a domain first, then a website needs to be created that will reside on that domain. Last, you’ll need a place where that site is hosted. Domains are usually purchased and renewed annually. Hosting plans such as GoDaddy, Host Gator, etc. usually have annual plans or you can pay monthly. Again, reach out to a small business marketing professional if you need help with this.
Take advantage of social media
There are so many ways to market your new business! It can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive, which is why social media is a great place to start marketing. It’s a marketing must, really. To start, social media marketing is free; sure, it’ll cost you time but until you start running ads, etc., social media marketing won’t cost your company anything and you can immediately start engaging with your target audience. The first question is, which platform(s) to choose? Do yourself a favor: look at that marketing plan you created, and based on your target audience and ideal client, pick two or three platforms to start. It’s better to do a few platforms well rather than try to have a presence everywhere. Only market where you believe your target audience (prospects) are likely to be! Chances are, you’ll start with one or more of the following:
Yes, there are many, many, many more, but these are the ones most businesses start with. Find small business resources that help guide you through social media set up, and start slow. Most small businesses see social media as the best way to gain brand awareness, and it will open up opportunities to reach new business.
Build an email list
The phrase, “the money is in the list” is commonly used in marketing and for good reason! The more robust of an email list you have, the more ways you’ll be able to engage past, current and future customers. The key to a good list is to ONLY have people on that list that want to hear from you. While there’s big temptation to buy lists as a quick way to build your list, don’t do it. It’s better to have a smaller, quality list than a robust list full of useless names and email addresses. You can build a list in several ways:
- Add a signup form on your website
- Add a signup link in your email signature
- Add a signup tab on your social media channels
- Offer email-only specials so people WANT to be on your list
You can manage your email marketing efforts through such platforms as VerticalResponse, Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Some platforms are free while other have a monthly subscription. Those with costs usually provide helpful tools that give you open rates, bounce rates, and tell you where you can improve your emails. Most give you a free trial to start with so test out a couple until you find the right one for you.
Be your biggest advocate, then find others
Small businesses owners often struggle with asking for referrals, but this is one of THE most critical marketing musts for your new business! The power of referrals for small business owners can’t be emphasized enough: referrals are one of the best ways small business owners can grow their business. There’s no cost involved in asking for referrals, the leads that come your way already have a connection to you (by way of the referrer), and referrals that turn into customers can in turn become referrers themselves. It’s a big win all the way around. We write about referrals often and for good reason: they work!
As time goes on, you’ll likely expand your marketing efforts into other tactics like paid search, video marketing, PR, etc. These five marketing musts are a great way to get started and will help you ultimately build a robust, effective marketing effort to grow your business.
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