As a small business owner, it's important to realise that offering great products/services isn't always enough. Today's marketing environment is noisy and crowded. It's like standing in a packed MCG on grand final day pre-COVID where everyone is shouting at once. The excellent news is mastering online marketing for small business means having many new techniques and tools available to promote your products and services. The bad news is the chaos, and clutter gets increasingly worse as more and more organisations also adopt those same tools.
As an owner of a small business, you also may have indulged in dreams of expansion from time to time. And why not? Just because you started, small doesn't mean you have to stay small! Farther reach, a more significant impact and more considerable profit margins all sound great, and that is what you deserve. Yet ask anyone that has put themselves on the line to start a business, and they'll tell you growing a small business isn't always easy. Factors like limited time, limited money even limited manpower can hold you back and make meaningful expansion seem like a fantasy.
If you want to scale up your business, just like anything you want to succeed in, you'll have to do the work. You must carefully plan and streamline the process, and you'll have to work hard to stretch the capital you already have. That means cutting costs and adding in time-saving techniques wherever possible.
How do you get heard above all the noise?
Understand the Foundations of Offline Marketing
As much as marketing has evolved in the last decade, the core principles of marketing haven't changed in hundreds of years:
- Strategy: Start with a business strategy that effectively anticipates customer, market, technology, and business needs.
- Products and services: Have a quality offering that meets customer needs and better than the available alternatives.
- Customers: Understand as much as you can about your prospects and customers—who they are, what they need and want, where they exist and how you can best improve their lives.
- Market analysis: Understand the market in which you compete, including as much as possible about the industry and competitors.
- Brand: Build a strong brand and reputation in the minds of all key audiences —customers, partners, employees, shareholders, the local community, and others.
- Communication: Effectively communicate the value you provide to generate demand.
- Sales channels: Provide the right tools to enable those who sell and recommend your product to be successful.
- Operations: Deliver, track, and analyse your marketing efforts to understand what's working and where changes need to be made.
Having a desire to impact the world in any way should always be accompanied by a plan of action. In today's world, that means taking a strategic marketing approach. Now more than ever, your customer does not enter blindly into a purchasing decision. They are armed with information at their fingertips before they buy any new products or try new services. An important reason why having an online marketing presence is so vital to your success.
Your prospective customers need to know who you are, what you stand for, and the experience you offer them. Read on to discover that the more you step out and introduce yourself to the world through various marketing outlets, the higher your chances of being seen by your target audience.
You'll find four online marketing strategies that when mastered, you can use over and over again to grow your business successfully. And the only way to master anything, including online marketing is to do one thing, take action!
Start a Blog
Blogs are the perfect way to introduce yourself to potential clients. You can get as in-depth and personal as you want. You can share tips, insights, stories about yourself, how you began your business and why you started in the first place.
Creating a blog means creating a new digital asset for your business. Online content that is owned and lives on your website is an opportunity to draw people in an informative and personable way. On its own, a great website is critical for success, yet it will likely lack the personal touch a blog can offer. By providing your customers with both (a blog and website), you're giving your online visitors an in-depth look into who you are and what you stand for.
Plus, it's a great way to gain trust as you boost your credibility as the most reliable source in your local community or industry. As visitors to your site, read your tips and insights, or a blog about your favourite local products, you build influence as an informed and reliable source on the subject. Building trust and relationships are essential for any business, and a blog can go a long way in establishing this along with your online presence.
And guess what? It doesn't always have to be you. Remember last week we talked about seeking meaningful collaborations are there businesses or individuals that you can invite to write on your blog for you?
A perfect example is this website right here at Venture Melton Business Network (VMBN), where the title of the blog feature is Current News & Initiative. You can see this section of the site is complete with timely, relevant and consistent content that will add value to the audience, you. By sourcing someone like myself that geeks out on all things online marketing and helping small business grow, the team at VMBN can focus on other projects.
ACTION: Last week, we talked about you seizing opportunities to guest blog for others in the spirit of collaboration. This week I want you to think about who you would like to invite to guest blog for you?
Increase Your Social Media Presence
With over 2 billion users, as a small business, you can't ignore social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Sharing images and stories is a great way to introduce yourself to the world and share an inside look into your business. People are more likely to trust a company with a strong social media presence, so make sure you're posting regularly and creating genuine content.
Give your audience an insight into your day-to-day life. Talk about your favourite products, be lighthearted and professional, and don't forget to use hashtags, tag other businesses and engage with your followers in the comments. Details like these make all the difference between a successful post and one that fails.
It would help if you also considered using a tool like Canva to create professional graphics. For platforms like Instagram or Pinterest, even to change up your Facebook cover regularly. You can create and use these visual pieces of content to share advice or tips and, at the same time, link back to that new blog you're going to create.
ACTION: Sign up for Canva and head to the Facebook Cover section. Most businesses leave this prime piece of Facebook real estate untouched and with the same images uploaded from the day they launched. Have a go at changing it up and then set a reminder to change it regularly!
Find Your Community
As a small business, it is extra challenging to make it in the big world alone. You do need help, support, and guidance. And you'll find this by seeking out like-minded businesses, either in person or online. Facebook groups are another excellent way to find other local businesses. Once you locate them, reach out, introduce yourself, and start a conversation.
The friendships created between business owners is a special bond, and it's a necessary one. I have had the honour of speaking at your events, and more recently delivering online training to your business community.
There is most definitely Melton magic when you all get in a room together, even virtually! Getting in amongst other experienced businesses has great benefits. You can gain access to mentors, timely advice, others to teach you the ropes, and save you precious resources trying to figure it all out yourself. In turn, you can pay it forward to other new businesses starting their journey and do the same for others.
ACTION: Join your Venture Melton Business Network community group on Facebook. To make this work, though, go beyond merely joining and be an active participant, introduce yourself, comment on others post and add value. And if you are in a particular niche, why not take the lead and start a group of your own.
Start a YouTube or Facebook Channel, even a Podcast!
Start talking, and tell the world why you do what you do and how your business adds value and helps your customers. Better still share and use these mediums as another way to reach out and collaborate with your local community and share the story of others. Podcasts, Facebook and YouTube channels are top-rated online assets right now, and most people love talking about their favourites and recommending them to others.
Like your own blog, this is a great way to introduce yourself, your business or niche industry to the community, cultivate credibility, and establish a unique voice. I took the liberty of turning season two of my Tourism Hub Podcast into a live show that also featured on a newly created Institute of Excellence YouTube Chanel. I share this with you because after recording the first 17 episodes as audio-only for the podcast, it seemed counterproductive to waste the opportunity of not having these interviews on video as well. And guess what? When I finish with them, they also end up as new content on my website. One action, three different pieces of content. Minimal cost, maximum effort. Do more with less. Be resourceful to make the most of creating multiple pieces of material from one output.
ACTION: Make a plan. Create something. Start somewhere. If it's meant to be, it's up to you. You do not need a Hollywood production studio, fancy equipment or any financial investment. You only need your smartphone, and you can pretty much do any of the above with what you already have and carry around with you 24/7. Please give it a go; I'm cheering for you!
To summarise, a great place to start is:
- Understand the foundations of offline marketing
- Start a Blog
- Increase Your Social Media Presence
- Find Your Community
- Start a YouTube or Facebook Channel, even a Podcast
Making your online presence the best it can be is vitally important if you want to succeed. But without marketing, only a fraction of your target audience will ever find you. To grow your business and reach your maximum potential, you need to market yourself correctly. Put yourself out there. Share your knowledge and unique voice. Make friendships. And give your community, both local and online, a new business to love. Most importantly, give love in return.