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Whether you are affected by the economic downturn, or your business is booming, these are the key tips you should consider to grow your business. These small business marketing tips are so important because 97% of local businesses are found via the internet. It’s critical to ensure that people know what you offer and how they can buy from you. This post speaks to how you can use key marketing tactics to ensure your business is discovered. These marketing tips focus either on driving incoming organic traffic, or going out to new markets and really getting in front of the right customer without them seeking you out.
We’re going to answer the following questions that are so important for small business marketing:
- How do I use digital tools to make it easy for customers to find my business?
- What kind of automation is available?
- How do I build a website without technical knowledge?
- How do I use social media to create more business?
- What are some key SEO tips?
- How should I use social media accounts?
- How do I turn website visitors into leads?
The key mistake people make with a website is they make it a brochure rather than a way to acquire customers. A brochure website gives people information, usually topline, and doesn’t give potential customers a next step. To the contrary, websites will grow your business when you engage in the following best practices:
- Have one page communicate one key idea
- Make it easy to read with combinations of photos, videos and images
- Don’t cram information
- Have a clear call to action for next steps
- Give users an opportunity to take the next step through a lead form or download
You’ll want your website to both inform customers of your offer, and give them a chance to call you, email you, download information, and take action. If you can’t sell directly on your site, you can give users an incentive to download information through a lead form
Your blog is a great way to communicate to people your ideas and thought leadership. If you have a business you clearly know a thing or two about a thing or two. You have technical mastery of the product or service that you are selling. You have knowledge and expertise that can be used to give people the inside scoop on why they should be working with you. Share that knowledge in blog posts. Here are some best practices for blog posts:
- Create content consistently
- Make the posts SEO friendly
- Share and flush out a single idea
- Share your blog posts on your social media for more engagement
Write content that flushes out your business ideas, and gives potential customers the ability to learn more about you and your business. Make sure the content you write is related to the core ideas of your business.
This is incredibly important because while email open rates have declined in the last decade, email marketing is your free and ongoing connection to the consumer even if they are not visiting your site. Email marketing automation should be used to give those on your email list a digest of content that you’ve created over the last week. These emails let your prospects get to know you and ease them into wanting to work with you.
The best practices for email marketing include:
- Setup automation so once the user signs up with you they get a stream of pre-set messages
- Write in a tone that is native to you
- Focus on the content as the primary driver of success; some of the best emails are designed with very simple layouts
This is important, because when people share their information for a follow up call, or they buy something, you want to know this is happening, and you want to know what caused them to take that action. Did the person see an ad from Facebook? Did they click from an email? Did they find you from Google? There are three ways you can set this up:
- Google Analytics and conversion tracking within Google Analytics
- Setting up pixels from Facebook across your site and on the key pages that load when a lead or sale is generated
- Similar to Facebook, conversion code from Google tracks your site activity, and then activity on key lead and sales pages
When conversion tracking is setup you have a framework for understanding how to spend your valuable time and marketing dollars to build your business. Without this, you can stumble upon the most effective marketing, but never know whether it’s effective, and ultimately stop doing it.
Getting More Conversions
There are tools available that keep people on your website longer. These tools can do a variety of things, but the core idea is to keep people from leaving your website. You can use banners at the bottom of your page to make that happen, timers to launch pop ups on your site, or movement based pop ups. So, as a user is on their way to close out the page, for example, a pop up will show, asking the user to take action immediately.
Social Media Marketing
Use photos, images, and videos to create new engagement opportunities, and even capture information directly from posts. By doing this businesses get the opportunity to keep top of mind among consumers in their social media feeds, and establish a culture for your business. Social media best practices include:
- Focus on authenticity as you post content
- Focus on quality of your messages rather than aesthetics
- Build your following over time by posting consistently
- There are no shortcuts on social media, so don’t buy fake followers
As you grow your business these tips speak to the ways you can drive traffic to your site, capture attention on social media, turn site visitors into leads, and automate your workflow.
Now, let’s go into some tactical details.
33 Tips For Small Businesses To Improve Your Marketing
- Create a customer persona.
- Define your brand identity.
- Understand what your customers want from you.
- Understand where in the world your customers are.
- Learn how to run Facebook ads.
- See where your ads perform better – Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger.
- Create videos that explain your offering.
- Use on-site SEO tools to grow your website traffic.
- Build your website with visual designer.
- Create SEO optimized blog posts.
- Commit to writing blog posts that explain your offering.
- Learn inexpensive ways to create ads
- Create a testing framework.
- Engage in conversation on your Twitter account.
- Answer questions on Quora.
- Help people looking for your expertise on Reddit.
- Add alt text and descriptions to all images on your website.
- Work with contract workers to round out the work that you don’t know how to do.
- Ask happy customers to share testimonials.
- Learn how to target ads to people searching for your services on Google.
- Post on social media as a method for social proof.
- Go live for more engaging videos.
- Create an email marketing cadence.
- Offer a monthly free webinar sharing your services.
- Connect with new prospects on LinkedIn.
- Engage with influencers in your industry and incentivize them to call out your business.
- Start a niche podcast for your industry.
- Write guest posts on publications.
- Leverage easy to use photo and image creation tools.
- Use free stock photos for your marketing.
- Use a customer relationship marketing tool to keep track of customer communications.
- Design an inexpensive logo.
- Automate everything.
Let’s break these down to their core elements.
1. Create a customer persona.
This really helps you understand who you are marketing to. When you create messages, art, copy, and videos you have an idea of the person you are speaking to. The more specific you are with this persona the more likely you are to create the right content that your consumers want to see. You can create this persona by looking at your existing customers, defining what they search for, understanding the media the consume, the personalities they follow, and trends they pay attention to.
2. Define your brand identity.
This can be hard, especially if you are doing it from within your company. Nonetheless, do your best to create a vision for your business. What words best describe your company? How do you want people to feel when they think of your company? The answer to these question helps you define your writing and creative style when you communicate about your business. Are you modern and sleek? Folksy and happy? Funny and laid back? Serious and noire?
3. Understand what customers want from you.
You may start your business thinking you are one type of company, but realize that your customers want something different from you. A prime example of this is Instagram, which started as an app called Burbn. This app was trying to compete with Foursquare for location check in dominance in the early 2010s. When they looked at their data they found their most engaged customers were the ones who shared photos. The rest is history, and in 2012 they were bought by Facebook for $1B.
4. Understand where in the world your customers are.
You may be a dance studio able to work with people who are 3-5 miles around your address. Or, you’re an eCommerce website that can sell to people in the US. Maybe you are a news publication for people in English speaking countries across the globe. Whatever it is, this is important because your messages will change depending on where your customers can buy.
5. Learn how to run Facebook ads.
Facebook is expected to be a $36B business in 2020, and along with Google, the single most important advertising platform. This is even more true for small businesses. So, learn how the Facebook and Instagram platforms work for ad buying. Learn what their ads look like, how to target ads, how to segment audiences in the platform, and what type of ad messaging works for your business.
6. See where your ads perform better – Facebook or Instagram.
Once you start buying ads on Facebook, which also includes Instagram and Messenger, learn where your ads perform better. This is part of testing infrastructure, and gaining knowledge for your business. Learn if you get more leads or sales from Facebook, Instagram, or Messenger.
7. Create videos that explain your offering.
Most businesses can create content that explains who they are and what they do. For trade businesses the strategy is straight forward: teach people how to do that you do. For example, if you are a plumber, teach people the basics on video, like how to unclog a toilet. For knowledge based businesses opine on trends in your industry, or use video to talk about your blog posts. Teach people what you know and how to do the services you provide.
8. Use on-site SEO tools to grow your website traffic.
There is no shortcut for SEO traffic, because when Google changes its algorithm any website owner who tries to game the system gets exposed, flagging a site for long term de-ranking by Google. Instead, setup for long term success by using an SEO plugin like Yoast. Set focus keywords for individual pages, and follow guidelines for making the URL, URL snippet, and copy the most SEO friendly it can be.
9. Build your website with a visual designer.
Elementor, Beaver Builder, and Divi, are great website visual design tools that help business owners develop websites without extensive coding skills. Simply use visual cues to build your website for long term success. These tools integrate with WordPress.
10. Create SEO optimized blog posts.
If you are a blogger use content to attract your audience by writing informational or entertaining written content. The topics should all surround your core business idea. A plumber can write lots of posts containing instructions on how to do basic plumbing work. A knowledge based service can write about trends in the industry. These blog posts should be written with basic SEO principles in mind, noted above.
11. Commit to writing blog posts that explain your offering.
Writing a blog post once in a while is good, but to gain traction for SEO, write blog posts on a consistent cadence so that Google understands that you are both an expert in your field, and that you have up to date information. This pattern will help Google show your blog post on the first page when people are searching for information you provide.
12. Learn inexpensive ways to create ads.
There are plenty of tools and services to create ads. Ads on Facebook require an image, text, and a headline. The image can come from your stockpile of business images, or from a stock photo site like iStockphoto, or from Facebook’s own repository of stock imagery. Your copy can be written directly for Facebook.
The easiest way to create banner ads is to make static jpg ads that don’t animate. The key ad sizes you need in 2020 are 300×250 and 320×50. You’ll access about 70% of all available ad inventory with these two ad sizes. Your ad should contain a call to action like “learn more”, “buy now”, and “download”; an image about your business, and up to eight words of copy. You can create banners inexpensively with bannersnack.com.
13. Create a testing framework.
When you run ads and marketing you want to create a series of small tests to learn more about your business. These tests can answer any of the following questions:
- Which ad platform works the best between Facebook, Instagram, and banners
- Which audience does the best: males or females, over 35 or under 35
- Which sites work the best for advertising: yahoo.com, aol.com, or cnn.com
One of the most important things you can do for your business is always be testing to understand what works and what doesn’t for your marketing efforts.
14. Engage in conversation on your Twitter account.
Twitter is a real time conversation, and people are talking about a whole slew of different topics, including your industry. Get right in there and engage with people authentically so they know you are someone who can offer great insight. When people know and trust you, they start buying from you.
15. Answer questions on Quora.
This is a great way to connect with potential customers and create the foundation for content marketing in your business. By answering questions in Quora around your subject of expertise you are both demonstrating that you are an expert in your field, and giving back to the community of people who you are helping with your business. These people will see that you are an expert and a small number of them will end up buying once they get to know you.
16. Help people looking for your expertise on Reddit.
People who need your help are on Reddit are in subreddits. You can create a personal brand on this site by being helpful and answering questions. If you see you are answering the same questions multiple times maybe it’s time to write a blog post about that topic on your website. Do this and you’ll likely earn some customers who want to work with you because you’ve demonstrated your expertise.
17. Add alt text and descriptions to all images on your website.
This is a key tenet of SEO. By using alt text on all of your website images you are giving Google the ability to have greater understanding of what the page and the site is about. So, when people are searching for the information you offer Google is more likely to search for you.
18. Work with contract workers to round out the work you don’t know how to do.
19. Ask happy customers to share testimonials.
This is especially good if you have high customer count. By sharing testimonials you are helping new customers find you. Yelp, Google, and Facebook like to share testimonials as a way of bubbling up the best businesses. Often customers trust other customers to speak for how good a business is.
20. Learn how to target ads to people searching for your services on Google.
On Google you can run ads to people who searched for specific key terms. This is really valuable for niche marketing efforts. For example, if people are searching for “plumber in Los Angeles” you have two pertinent ad opportunities. The first is search ads, where the ad appears directly beside or under the search term. The second opportunity is to run banner ads to people after they have made the search, and they are on a sports, news, portal, or informational site. For example, if a person just searched for “plumber in Los Angeles” and they are on Yahoo.com reading the news, your ad can appear there, which is really valuable.
21. Post on social media as a method for social proof.
The effectiveness of social media is strong as a social proof mechanism. Social proof means demonstrates that you’re a real business with real customers. It’s similar to walking on a street and seeing three restaurants. One restaurant has a lot of people in it. Two don’t, and you’re more likely to go into the business that’s busy. That’s just how people work. So, use social media to prove that you’re a good business to connect with.
22. Go live for more engaging videos
As you get comfortable creating videos for YouTube, consider going live with Facebook Live. Streaming tools including OBS and Ecamm allow you to create live videos with beautiful visual overlays. Engage with commenters, stream comments into your video, and have a share the screen with clients and peers with live video.
Separately, the video meeting company Zoom has a webinar add on, which allows your live content to be shared with functionality of video conference meetings as a stream on Facebook live.
23. Create an email marketing cadence
When a new person shares their email address with you they can have a full automation sequence get triggered. Use this technology to welcome them to your email list, share really important information on deals, communicate about the work you’ve been doing, share testimonials, and talk about new customer experiences. This is where you maintain connection to your customer.
24. Offer a monthly free webinar sharing your services.
If you are a knowledge business this is a great way to give something away that captures user attention, but then gives potential customers a way to work with you. Your monthly webinar will probably contain the same information month after month, and it speaks to the core solution that you offer. What will be different every month is that you’ll have new attendees, it will be a live webinar, and questions will be different. So, there is dynamism here, but it’s the same content month over month. You can also think of this as a group sales pitch.
25. Connect with new prospects on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a great way to connect with other business people, and potential customers. The benefit is that when you post content on LinkedIn, some of your followers will see it. You can most multiple times a day, and you don’t have to worry about being spammy. LinkedIn will ensure their algorithm gets your content to the people who are really interested in it.
26. Engage with influencers in your industry and incentivize them to call out your business.
Just like the press and media were gatekeepers in the past, influencers are the more democratized version of a gatekeeper in 2020. They have large audiences on social platforms, and they speak to an audience. You can work with these influencers to promote your product or service in exchange for a fee, free access to your product, or a reciprocal trade. What makes this an exceptional opportunity is that influencers often under charge for what they offer, so you can get outsized value if you choose the right partners.
27. Start a niche podcast for your industry.
If you want to approach prospects, but you don’t want to sell to them, this is a great way to offer them a platform. By creating a podcast you are offering someone the opportunity to be the star of your episode in a way that is usually new to them. While you may not have large scale listenership that’s ok, because what you want are a small group of key decision makers in your industry to get to know you and feel comfortable working with you.
28. Write guest posts on publications.
Work with publications in your industry to exchange ideas and value. There is value in even small publications, because often small publications, if chosen correctly, will yield outsized value. Simply approaching the editor and offering a unique perspective is a way of getting featured in trade or lifestyle publications. As you get more opportunities to post you’ll reach a larger set of potential customers, and more publications will be open to allowing you to contribute. The more you are seen as a thought leader and expert, the more new people will discover you, and business opportunities will grow.
29. Leverage easy to use photo and image creation tools.
Photoshop is the defacto tool that’s available from Adobe, but for many it may be too complicated. A great alternative is Canva, a tool that has pre-designed templates to create great looking imagery for use in advertising, social media posts, and website content.
30. Use free stock photos for your marketing
You can get great looking photos from from paid platforms including Adobe Stock and iStock Photo. Unsplash is a free stock image platform.. Use these in ads, website content, blog posts, and social media posts.
31. Use a customer relationship marketing tool to keep track of customer communications.
If you are like me, after 10 reachouts it’s hard to keep track of these conversations, so instead we use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that reminds us to reach out to people in the future. For example, Hubspot has a free CRM tool that lets you capture new lead information, and lets you note when you contacted leads, how you contacted them, and what the next steps are.
32. Design an inexpensive logo.
The logo that I’ve used for my business cost $150 and I got it made on DesignCrowd. You can get a number of different versions of your logo, and you can keep the version that you like the best.
33. Automate everything.
If you want to scale your business automation can help you do really well by taking out the monotonous and time sucking tasks. Zapier is a great tool that allows you to condense three or four actions into one. For example, if you enter an email address into your Hubspot CRM, Zapier will connect it to your Mailchimp email automation, and then into your Facebook custom audience for email address remarketing. Just be careful not to automate processes that are against terms of service of platforms. For example, it is against the terms of service on LinkedIn to scrape email addresses from LinkedIn profiles. Taking actions against a site’s terms of service can result in being banned from the site.
There is a lot of opportunity for small businesses to build massive presences and businesses on top of the robust digital marketing ecosystem. Some elements take time to work, but as you know in business, it’s never a straight line to success, and business rewards perseverance. Stick to the process, focus on the fundamentals, and build your business.
Recession Marketing Guide
For more ideas on marketing in the time of recession we look at our free, or full, Recession Marketing Guide. This report includes
- 9,500 word guide
- 90+ pages of slides
- 3 hour audio and video webinar
- over 90 different sources and links
This document is relevant for business owners trying to thrive in a down economy, and for marketing agencies who need to understand how they should be advising their clients to market during this rough patch.