With so much competition from large corporations, it’s vital that small businesses use the resources they have to promote their products and services. Spreading the word doesn’t have to be a dreary door-to-door mission, no! Instead think fun glitzy grand opening to delight newcomers. Think free and effective strategies online! And think about doing such a good job at running your small business that your customers just can’t help but love you. Now that’s a powerful promotion equation!
In this article we’ll talk about all of these techniques to make sure you’re promoting your business right from the start. You know your product/service/store/website is amazing, but without promoting your business no one else will.
Promotion is a pillar in small business marketing
Small business marketing takes many forms but there are some basic concepts that form the foundation of success. The ‘4 Ps’ of marketing, which is often referred to as the ‘marketing mix’ is a concept that was first developed in the 1960s to define the most important aspects of solid marketing. The marketing mix includes:
Let’s break these down a bit…
Product/Service: What is your product or service, and what value does it bring? In order to effectively market your product or service, you need to understand the problems it solves, what differentiates it from your competition’s products and services, and what benefits it provides to buyers.
Price: The price of a product is an essential part of its marketing. For example, marketing and advertising for a luxury product might emphasize quality, guarantees, how long the product will last, etc. For a discount product, you’d generally emphasize the cost savings.
Place: This refers to where and how your product is sold – in other words, your distribution channels. For instance, you might sell to the local community in your store or sell to the whole world on your eCommerce website. B2B companies typically use salespeople to sell their product or service.
Promotion: The term promotion is often used interchangeably with advertising or marketing. However, in reality, promotion encompasses both of those activities, plus public relations, word-of-mouth and more. Essentially, promotion is everything you do to spread the word about your business.
Close Up on Promotion, The 4th P
Now that you understand how important promotion is to your small business success you’ll need to look at how you can effectively do just that. From social media to email marketing, here are four effective ways to get your promotion party started:
1. Generate Brand Awareness
Imagine a new restaurant is set to open in your town. More than likely, you will hear about the grand opening of the new location in your local newspaper, on social media, in online ads, and maybe even through direct mail marketing (like coupons and flyers).
The restaurant will promote the grand opening to make sure the community is fully aware of information about the big day. Promotional material could include opening hours, a mini-map of the new location and any giveaways or deals at the launch.
When your business is just starting out, you will be competing against established brands. For instance, this new Italian restaurant will be competing with not only other independent established restaurants in the area, but also big-name restaurant chains with national recognition.
2. Promote Online for Free
Aside from making a splash with the grand opening of your blossoming business, you can compete with larger companies with free local awareness techniques online. You might not have the same budget as a larger competitor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your name out there with a free social media strategy and search engine optimization, including an optimized Google My Business listing. Positive reviews across search and social will reinforce your promotion efforts, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Social Media Strategy
Social media is one of the cheapest ways to promote your business, not to mention that at least 80% of Americans use social media. Promoting your business on social media is as easy as setting up business pages on the social media channels that make sense for the products or services you sell. Typically, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are the top choices. These networks allow businesses to set up their own pages and thus create an online presence in these communities for free.
But if you’re going to set up social media profiles, make sure you tend to them regularly. Don’t just set up everything because you feel like you have to. Focus on what you can manage and keep up the conversations there. Engage with other Facebook groups for example that talk about your business topics or create one! Search for hashtags on Instagram that are related to your business. Join in discussions online and post interesting topics on your own pages.
You can also use social media to share sales, discounts, local news and events, behind the scenes look at your business and much more. Plus social media is a great way to communicate with your customers directly to solve any issues they may be having.
When you’re ready you can start paying to promote content or even doing social media advertising, but for now stick with the freebies and grow your own tribe within these online communities. For best long-term results, invest in social media advertising as well as just posting for free.
Search Engine Optimization and Google My Business
For most small businesses today, the majority of your marketing and advertising takes place online. Why? Because searching online is how more than half of people first learn about products they purchase.
You can optimize your website for search engines by strategically using keywords and links to help your site appear in customer’s search results. Optimizing your content for search engines seems complicated at first, but there are a lot of beginner guides out there to get you started on this important long-term strategy. Optimizing your Google My Business page can help you rise to the top of local search results as well.
When you have an optimized page listed with Google My Business, your business will show up for local searches in Google with a unique format above the other search results.
Businesses can set up pages right by including all necessary business information including name, phone number, address, website, email and hours of operation. A business description and images also help to enhance these results like the examples above.
Of course if unpaid search engine techniques aren’t working you can try pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on search engine result pages. This will helps attract the specific customers you’re looking for when they are ready to buy. While being more expensive than SEO, PPC is a fast, effective way to get more leads for your business now. Besides, advertising on search engines is more accessible than ever for small businesses!
Across your local search results and your social media pages there is opportunities for you to gather customer reviews. This may seem scary as it puts the pressure on you to perform, but new customers love it. Seeing positive reviews help potential customers decide to buy from you or not. In the Google search image above the bright orange 4.5 starts from 107 reviewers is pretty convincing for the Canak hardware store. Building customer loyalty through good customer service is the best way to generate positive reviews as a free promotion technique.
3. Build Customer Loyalty
Promotion is also a valuable tool to enhance customer loyalty. That’s right: Even after customers have purchased from you, you need to keep promoting your business to encourage them to keep coming back.
If the customer buys from you once and then never hears from your business again, they might think you’ve gone out of business, or worse, they might just forget your business exists entirely and end up in the arms of your competitors! Ongoing promotion lets your customers know that your business is still ready and willing to serve them. Some techniques to build customer loyalty include:
- Offer great customer service in every aspect of your business (including online) – customers will appreciate this and will spread the word organically
- Send birthday cards, offer free gifts, nice packaging, free shipping or anything else that they will truly appreciate
- Build a strong social media presence that shows off your brand as a valuable asset to the community
- Using email marketing to stay in touch with customers, share news, and offer exclusive discounts
- Consider implementing a customer loyalty program
Building customer loyalty will help generate ongoing word-of-mouth promotion from your customers. It will also help to generate more positive reviews from happy customers back into your online presence – that you’ll be constantly promoting!
4. Email Marketing
Email marketing is great for long term promotion of your business with new and existing customers. Once a customer has expressed interest in your product or service, get their permission to send them emails from your business. Offering valuable content (like ebooks, checklists, etc) or discounts can encourage an interested party to give you their email address and permission to send more content. As we just established in the previous section, email marketing helps generate customer loyalty!You can keep customer coming back with up-to-date information on upcoming sales and promotions. You can also offer exclusive content and discounts just for them.
Promotion and the Competition
If you’re having trouble promoting your business on social or search, it’s a good idea to do a little competitor research. By studying how your competitors promote their products and services you can find inspiration for your own promotional material.Beyond what your competitors are doing, read through their online reviews and social media posts to uncover how their customers reacted to their promotions. Use this information to brainstorm ways you could improve your own offerings to attract new leads and return business.
Small Business Promotion Questionnaire
If you’re still having trouble promoting your business, don’t fret, we’re here to help! To develop a solid plan for promoting your business, start by answering some questions about each of the 4 P’s as it relates to your business:
- What are the features of your product or service?
- What are the benefits to customers?
- What needs does your product or service address?
- What makes it different from/better than your competitors’ products or services?
- What stage is the lifecycle of the product or service? Is it new or established?
- What is the perceived value of products or services like yours among your target customers?
- What types of prices do your competitors charge for similar products or services?
- If you want to charge more, what value can you add to your product to make it worth the higher price?
- How price-sensitive are your customers?
- What types of promotional discounts can you offer and still make a profit?
- Where do customers typically learn about products and services like yours?
- Where is your product sold?
- How does it get to the customer?
- Do you sell your product directly or through resellers?
- Do you have in-house salespeople?
- How and where does your competition sell their products and services?
Note: using the information you uncovered about product, price and place, you can develop a promotional strategy.
- Which promotional channels are right for my business?
- Which sales promotions (discounts, sales, etc.) would drive customers while remaining cost effective?
- What would be the best timing for promotions (for instance, offering discounts during the holiday shopping season)
Getting Promotion into Action
So after asking yourselves the previous questions do you feel ready to promote your business? It’s not a matter of if, it’s how. Using does social media, search engine advertising, reviews and customer loyalty techniques in combination with email marketing means you’re promoting your business well! Search advertising will help you attract new customers, while email marketing can help you retain existing customers. Social media marketing can do it all — attract new customers and build relationships with your existing ones.
So now it’s your turn. Promoting your business is just a few clicks away.