We have worked with several hundred small businesses and most have two big things in common: they are extremely good at what they do, and they have no idea how to successfully market their business.
Many of them are still using worn out and ineffective tactics, such as advertising on billboards, untraceable mailers, or relying solely on word of mouth.
I have heard the same things over and over from business owners:
"Well, I’m the best at XYZ so the word will obviously spread."
“Word of mouth is my best advertising.”
(But if you ask how often that word of mouth brings in qualified, paying clients, it is usually once a quarter or less, and no business can survive on that!)
Word of mouth doesn’t pay the bills.
The truth is, every business needs a strategic online marketing strategy to thrive today.
Unfortunately, most small business owners don't have one. It makes sense that they're not flocking to online sources for their business. The average business owner is 50 years old, and they have been through the ups and downs of the economy, and they know what has worked in the past.
So they find themselves sticking to what they know - what’s been "working for years," even if there’s no way of tracking the results. In the meantime, overall revenue, reach, and number of clients continues to decline.
Here's my formula for successfully promoting your local business online:
Targeted offline marketing + strategic social media marketing + local directory listings + producing amazing and valuable content = successful business marketing.
Offline marketing isn't useless.
But it should be targeted and strategic. My favorite offline strategies are things like sponsoring a school event that generates goodwill with parents and grandparents. Or if you have a product that you can give away easily, offer to add value to events like races or field days with free samples.
For example: If you own a frozen yogurt store, you can offer to attend a race on a hot day and give out tiny tasting cups of your delicious treats.
All that is to say, old school, traditional marketing tactics aren’t useless, but most people are looking at Yelp instead of the actual Yellow Pages.
Just remember that offline advertising is very difficult to measure. It’s hard to tell how many people saw your ad, your sign, or your mailer, and as a result, called your office or walked into your store.
However, it is still a good way to build brand awareness and bypass some of the noise online.
Social media marketing is vitally important.
Master one social media platform at a time. The one where your ideal clients spend the most time is the best place to start.
For a local business, the key to gaining visibility is to create engaging, captivating posts, and then utilize geotagging and (when appropriate) hashtags that are relevant, to both your business and the community, and that are common enough that your ideal clients will find you.
Tagging your location is how you create visibility in your local community. Many small businesses miss this important step.
When someone is looking for a new business or information on a service, they turn to Google. (This is part of the reason it is vital to have amazing content, too, but more on that later.)
Here are a few other places they will search:
- Angie's List
Directories are a great way to get warm leads. A warm lead is someone who is further along in the sales cycle. They tend to be more ready to buy. If someone is searching a directory, they’re an easier sell because they’re already looking for the service or solution you offer.
Make sure your business profiles on these directories have accurate and up-to-date information, including hours, services, and images.
Content is king. Consistency is queen.
Creating great content is the best way to be seen as an authority in your space. I tend to get lots of push back from clients who think that they are unable to create content for their industry. But I have yet to find a client for whom this was actually true.
You just need to get creative. Ask yourself what questions your clients are asking when they’re looking for information about what you do.
You can do this by posting pretty images, funny or inspiring videos, or writing interesting, informative blog posts. This is how you differentiate yourself from competitors - by having your personality shine through and showing your knowledge in your space.
But you must do it consistently. Don’t post a pretty image once a month and expect to get any results. Like anything else in life, you will get out of your marketing what you put into it.
If you take the time to put together a plan that works both online and offline, you will begin to see results from your marketing in about 90 days. (Usually less!) But you have to plan ahead, know your ideal client, and be consistent in reaching out to them.
/krēāˈtivədē/ /kuh n-suhl-tnt/
Noun: An energetic native Floridian with a passion for smart, authentic, imaginative, effective marketing strategies and original ideas.
Synonyms: Netflix Junkie, Cockapoo mom, crazy aunt, world traveler, foodie.
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