By Shelley Grieshop
You don’t have to be a huge corporation to need a marketing plan. Small businesses need marketing strategies just as much as big businesses do—maybe more. Approximately 20% of small businesses fail in their first two years, and only a third are still around after a decade. These are sobering facts that apply to every industry and prove that small companies need to consider every marketing option available to succeed.
Which type of marketing is best for small businesses?
Search online for small business marketing strategies and you’ll get about 600 million results. Each one suggests dozens of ways to gain exposure and brand recognition. But what works for the coffee shop down the street might not boost your company’s traffic or bank account.
Finding the right mix of advertising methods for your business is often trial and error. Much will depend on your marketing budget, which I’ll talk about a little later. Your personal business goals are also a big factor in determining an overall strategy. Exploring your capabilities, weighing the risks, and getting comfortable with the digital world are your first priorities.
Social media marketing continues to rank as one of the most popular advertising strategies today. Email and content marketing are the go-to methods most often used by established and well-staffed small businesses. Promotional products are another effective form of advertising when targeting all age groups.
So how do I market my small business? Take a look at the six most popular and effective marketing ideas for small businesses.
6 great ways to market your small business
1. Social media marketing
Social media is one of the most cost-effective forms of marketing. That’s why 88% of companies use it for marketing purposes. It certainly can help you enhance your brand awareness and engage more customers. Today 72% of the U.S. population uses some type of social media. That means sites such as Facebook are drawing attention, interaction, and feedback from millions of people.
You’ll save big if you already have tech-savvy employees on staff who can handle social media duties. However, to get the most out of social media marketing, it’s best to have a dedicated employee, team, or agency on the job.
The average U.S. company spends from $200-$350 per day on social media marketing. Depending on the number of channels you use, a social media management agency may charge $1,000 to $20,000 per month. A social media freelancer can demand up to $35 per hour.
The top five social media sites today for businesses are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
2. Email marketing
Are you old enough to remember when businesses solely relied on U.S. mail and phone calls to engage customers? Although some companies still use these expensive, labor-intense methods, most have switched to email marketing. More than 64% of small businesses use emails as a marketing tool.
Mass emails can be sent to clients and prospective customers with the touch of a button. No printing, no stamps. An interesting subject line and well-written, creative content will intrigue your target audience. Great graphics and images are icing on the cake.
The downside? The average open rate for emails is only about 21%. That’s why it’s extremely important to reference deals, new arrivals, and anything else exciting in the subject line. Those first few sentences in the body of the email are also important if you want your entire message read. Videos also are known for drawing people in. Don’t forget to include a CTA that directs customers to your website or brick-and-mortar store.
One of the most frequent questions small businesses ask is how often to send an email message to customers. The general answer is once a week. Consumers rightly get annoyed by frequent emails that don’t offer a substantial benefit to them.
It’s good practice to send emails on a regular basis each week, even choosing a specific day. Inconsistent sending can appear spammy and create bad PR for your company.
The cost of email marketing can be as low as $20 per week if you have employees with good writing and email skills. If you’re paying a third party or an email marketing agency, count on doling out about $500 per month or more.
3. Earned mentions
Getting your company name mentioned and your website linked by reputable media sources can be a huge asset for a small business. A backlink to your website from a source with a high domain authority will help you rank higher with Google.
One way to obtain a mention and build trust for your business is via an article in the press. An online newspaper or magazine story can be shared by thousands, or even millions, of subscribers. Exposure like that is priceless. Media with business sections often welcome stories about a company’s special achievement, new leadership, contribution to the community, or landmark anniversary. Typically, there is no cost for submitting business news for publication, but check with your media source for rules and restrictions.
Small businesses also can subscribe to organizations such as Help A Reporter Out (HARO) to earn mentions in a wide range of publications. HARO connects journalists with sources that provide expert advice on various topics. The journalists choose the replies they feel are most appropriate for their stories. They credit the source and usually link their website or tag them on social media. Basic subscription costs for such services are free, but options are limited without paying a fee.
More articles from AllBusiness.com:
- Creative and Low-Cost Ways to Promote Your Business
- The Most Important and Most Skipped Part of Your Marketing Plan
- Branded Giveaways and Other Promotional Products: Do They Still Have an Impact?
- Increase Visibility and Drive ROI with the Right Daily Deal Sites
- Marketing Your Business with Promotional Products
4. Content marketing
It’s odd to include content marketing in this list since all types of marketing involve content. But content marketing for small businesses mainly relates to blog writing. Successful blogging requires extensive research, strong grammar and punctuation skills, SEO, and knowledge about your targeted audience.
Deciding what to write about is often the hardest part of blogging. Stick to topics that make sense for your business and industry. The goal is to show your authority on specific subjects and build trust in your brand.
Bloggers often get topic ideas from questions asked by their own customers. Use the comments and reviews left by clients to find out what subjects intrigue or confuse them. Create a list of ideas to research from the information you retrieve.
Blogs containing customer testimonials and stories tend to increase traffic. The more personal, the better. Why? People love to learn from others’ experiences. Research shows that positive testimonials increase trust in your business. You’ll also gain valuable exposure when customers share how your products or services helped them succeed.
5. SEO marketing
Search engine optimization is one of the top marketing tools across the globe. The basic concept behind SEO is simple: find out what people are searching for online and optimize your content/website accordingly to rank at or near the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). Customers place more trust in businesses they find at the top of search results.
Landing choice real estate with any search engine isn’t easy. And keeping a top ranking is a work-in-progress due to constant competition from other websites and the frequent changes made by search engines. But even small businesses can learn and use SEO to rank above or near their biggest competitors.
Hiring SEO specialists or an SEO company is a good investment. One report tallied SEO costs at a minimum of $25 per hour and $750-$2,000 per month. A small business must weigh the cost of implementing an SEO marketing strategy with its potential for increased traffic and sales.
6. Promotional products
Free stuff. That’s the secret behind marketing with promotional products. Everyone loves to get freebies for simply attending a trade show, running in a 5K, or being a loyal customer. They want those items printed with your logo.
About half (53%) of the population uses a promotional product at least once a week. Think about the customized pen you keep on your desk or the personalized water bottle you take to the gym. Those logos are highly visible and make an impression on everyone who sees them. That’s amazing exposure and affordable advertising at its best.
Promotional products are available in bulk quantities to help small businesses keep their marketing expenses low. The average cost per impression of customized items is 3 cents. That means you’ll pay just 3 cents for every impression your logo or brand makes.
With small business marketing, success is in the details
Before you embark on a specific plan, set a marketing budget that is realistic for your business and goals. What can you afford? Only you know the answer to that. The SBA recommends small businesses spend 7 to 8% of their gross revenue on marketing.
All small business marketing strategies must have a minimum one-year plan and a defined execution. I recommend creating a detailed calendar that outlines each step planned to accomplish your mission. Be sure to include an estimated and actual expense sheet to keep your spending in check.
Perhaps the most important element of your plan is measurement. Without regularly measuring your progress (or failures), you’ll miss the opportunity to make needed changes in a timely manner. Schedule regular meetings to discuss your small business marketing status with your team, and don’t be afraid to make changes. Effective marketing plans need tweaking now and then to remain successful.