How to market your business: The introductory guide to online and offline marketing.
When your running a small business marketing is one of the most important things that you will have to get to grips with. There's loads you can do to get eyeballs on your products, so make sure you don't sell yourself short in the marketing department! This guide will give you an introduction to both online and offline marketing, from which you should be able to put together an action plan for your business.
1. Online Marketing
Get clicks and get paid
What is this?
Online marketing is such a broad area, so we will need to break it down into it's main facets so we can put a game plan together. After you've gained a basic understanding of the various methods and which suits your business, you can then set a budget for how much you would like to spend. The good thing about online marketing is that it is measurable, and if you set budgets, you won't spend more than you intend to. After the initial setup you can chop and change if something isn't yielding results, and with a bit of patience you will get the orders you need.
If you have an online presence at all, social media is likely to be an important marketing tool for your business. The various platforms available all have their strengths, and it's up to you to decide how many of them you want to impliment. The good thing about social media is that they are all free, unless you decide to use their paid advertising services. You can gain loyal following but simply posting something people might be interested in, announce news about your company and it's products, and interact with your audience to build trust and reputation. If you're of a certain age, you're likely to already be a whizz at social media, so make sure you use this to your advantage. If you don't have any experience, don't worry, here's a great introduction to each of the platforms. If you're struggling for time or don't want to be on every platform, a service like Hootsuite allows you to post to all your social media accounts from one place, and even schedule your posts so you can get everything done in advance and move on to more important stuff.
I would argue that writing blogs is the single most important asset to your online marketing arsenal as it greatly helps your SEO (search engine optimisation), but is also very essence of the message you want to get through to your customers. Anyone can do it and it doesn't have to be a work of art, the important thing is to constantly be adding new content to your site. We highly recommend writing a weekly blog, with most of the content being relevant to the products and sector you're in, with a splash of more personal articles for light reading. There's so many articles out there with ideas for blog writing, so definitely get to grips with it and get writing. It will help your website get high up in the Googles, and you might even find it fun!
This is a tricky one to write about in the current climate, as here in the UK at the time of writing, new GDPR legislation is coming into place that prevents companys from sending unsolicited emails to people who have not signed up for them. This change will have a huge effect as companys will need to rebuild their existing email lists from scratch using only the people that have specifically signed up for them. With that said, this is a good time for a fresh start and to figure out if using email campaigns will be an effective and worthwhile part of your marketing strategy. There are a few different ways to do an email campaign, with free and paid options available. Our current favourite service Send in Blue allows you to build lovely looking emails and send it all of your clients simultaneously. It also has built in analytics functionality, meaning you can measure absoloutly everything including who opens your email, who clicks where and who unsubscribed from your mailing list.
We recommend setting up an email service and building up a list of people that want to hear about what you have to offer. It is one of the fastest ways to get your loyal customers back to your site, and sending a new product alert is a must.
Pay Per Click
Pay per click (PPC) is probably the most tehcnical form of online marketing, as it requires a knowledge of Google's Adwords platform. Using Adwords involves placing bids on searches relevant to your business, to get your adverts featured at the top of Google's search results. There's loads of freelancers and agencys out there who will manage this for you, and will work within your given budget. The advantage of pay per click is that the monthly spend can be set, and won't be exceeded. However due to the technical nature of using the platform, it can seem opaque to a business owner that doesn't understand it, making it difficult to get to grips with. Businesses over a certain size will almost all have a PPC campaign, competing with each other to get their ads placed on the most relevant searches phrases, and we recommend beginners doing a bit of research to find out if it is necessary for your business.
Do your research. The nuts and bolts of your marketing campaign will primarily hinge on what you're selling. For instance, there's a lot of tote bags out there, so you will need to think of what's special about your bags and how to use that as your strategy.
Embrace change. Setup your campaign, run it for a few months and see what sticks and what sucks. Be prepared to change and optimise on the fly to make best use of your time and funds.
Throw money away. Figure out how much you can do yourself before hiring professional help. It can get very expensive farming work out.
Don't be afraid. Whilst there's lots to learn, you can take it a step at a time. Decide which forms of marketing you want to use and give it a go.
2. Offline Marketing
Keepin' it old school
What is this?
As the name suggests, offline marketing is anything that involves not sitting in front of a computer or using a smartphone. Whilst offline has become secondary to online in recent years, it is still important for every business. Offline marketing is the way to interact with your customers face to face, and meeting in person will always be the best method of gaining trust and loyalty. The methods are all tried and tested, but don't think there isn't room to innovate!
Printed Marketing Collateral
A sure-fire way to give people an idea of what you're all about is to get some printed marketing collateral. Whether it's flyers, brochures or leaflets, all can be useful to you as it takes away a lot of the explaining needed to convey what your product offering is. If you're not able to design it yourself, use one of the many pre-made templates available or find some local help. Also consider getting some business cards, which are still very relevant even in the age where they are technically not necessary.
Exhibiting at trade shows and other events is a serious marketing investment, but one which can reap huge rewards as it is the best way to meet face to face with the industrys top buyers. Trade shows exist for just about every sector of business, and typically run for between single day or full week events. To have your own stand at a show typically costs between £1500 - £10,000 all in, with lots of work required in the preperation and running the stand. Our advice would be to visit a show first, and see if it fits your business.
Host Your Own Event
Hosting your own event can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and combined with a well written press release is an absoloutly killer way of spreading the word. Have a grand opening, a birthday party, or event just for the hell of it. Get the local press involved and look after your guests, and you can gain some friends for life. Put together a budget for the event and stick to it. It can be done on the cheap and the press you will recieve will make the event pay for itself in no time.
Pound The Pavement
Get a special offer together and get yourself out there. Engaging people with the right attitude and offer cannot be understated. People are busy and impatient so keep it short and sweet, with a few lines that will grab their attention. Don't be afraid of rejection or making a fool of yourself, and give it a go!
Guerilla marketing requires out of the box thinking and creativity to put together something that won't be easily forgotten. There's no set tactic for this, nor is there is there any specific piece of advice I can give you, as how you will execute a guerilla marketing campaign depends solely on the product you are selling. Try to think of a link between your product and the public environment. It's all about breaking the norms in a visual way, but be careful not to polarize your audience. Something light hearted and fun is likely to win over the masses, whereas something more shocking may win you a smaller but more dedicated audience.
PR, Awards & Accreditations
Press releases, awards and accreditations are all ways of giving your business more authority, which helps build trust is your brand and gets you affiliated with organisations that support your cause. Press releases are absolutely recommended and should be considered each time you reach a milestone or have some special news to share. All you have to do is write an article and submit it to local and/or national press. You might not always get featured, but don't worry, what you have written can be utilised for your own blog and social media postings.
Awards ceremonies, typically hosted locally, are good for establishing connections with well known business people and can work as guaranteed free press. See if there are any local business awards and submit an application, it doesn't hurt to try.
Accreditations are given out by organisations typically to company's that meet some kind of ethical standard, or operate to a high standard. This usually involves an application process, and once approved you can use the accreditation on your website or all marketing materials. Consumers are much more discerning nowadays and will gravitate towards a business that is ethical and eco-friendly. Accreditations will help bolster your position in this space and make you much more desirable than competitors without them.
Schmoozing the local business scene is the best way to get a feel for how businesses in your area operate, and establishing allies with powerful people can prove a vital lifeline. The experience and advice they can offer will help fast-track the learning curve and open doors you might never have known existed. You may not enjoy it, but it can help your business grow.
Give it a go. You are responsible for growing your business, so get stuck into some or all of the above ideas.
Be present. Know what's going on around you and exploit any opportunity to spread the word about your business.
Burn through cash. You probably won't have buckets of cash at hand when starting your business, so decide where it is best to put your money.
Don't ignore offline marketing unless you really don't need it. A face to face relationship cannot be underestimated in business.