Following my own advice about blogging, I thought I’d post the highlights here.
We love helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams. Many small businesses and start-ups are so budget-conscious they don’t invest enough time and money into promoting their businesses. Major mistake.
Succeeding in business means attracting customers. That’s what marketing is all about. It’s as important as leasing commercial space, producing products and hiring staff.
The only way to grow your business is to connect your products and services to the needs of your potential customers. You have to understand who your best customers are, what they need, and where they go to find it.
We suggest the following 10 steps for marketing any small business.
1 Create a strategic marketing plan. Define your vision for the company and set business goals. Identify your target market. Understand your customers’ demographics and psychographics. What are their problems? What products or services do you offer that solve those problems?
2 Establish your brand. Your company’s name, logo and tagline (or slogan), key messages, the colors and fonts you use, even office/store decor and the dress code or uniforms all contribute to your brand identity. What image do you want to portray? What messages are you communicating through your brand? Think of big brands like Starbucks or Apple. You know when you’ve walked into one of their stores.
3 Invest in a professional website. Few entrepreneurs (or the neighbor’s kid down the street) have enough experience in marketing, design and communication to pull off creating a do-it-yourself website. Your website is your business’ online storefront. Hire professionals to guide you in architecting an effective website that projects your company’s image and supports your business goals.
4 Develop web presence. Just having a website doesn’t mean people will find it. The internet is an incredibly crowded place. To cut through the clutter, you need to have clear messaging with proper optimization so search engines will find and list you in their results. Full-on SEO is complicated, but at the very least you can get your business registered with Google, Yelp and other free listings yourself. You’ll also want to publish everywhere you can. Post relevant information in your own blog and offer guest articles for blogs in your industry or profession. Also comment on blog posts written by others about topics of interest to your customers. Authorship is increasingly important in search engine rankings. Become an expert in your field. Write a lot. Get your name out there.
5 Use social media. Today’s social media are a super-cheap way to promote your business. Use social platforms as a way to develop relationships with your customers. Offer information and tips. Ask questions. Listen. Comment. Learn about your customers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+.
6 Commit to personal networking. Create professional business cards featuring your brand. Develop a 6- to 8-second “elevator pitch” to tell everyone you meet about your business. Collaborate with other entrepreneurs and professionals. Talk about your company and ask for referrals. Get involved in your community. Sponsor a Little League team or an arts organization.
7 Ask for referrals. Build relationships with current customers. Ask them for referrals to friends and colleagues who might be potential customers for your business. Continue to provide excellent customer service and find out if there are other ways you can provide additional products and services to your customers.
8 Offer a give-away. Give potential customers a chance to sample your products or services. Offer a complimentary consultation, a brief video tutorial or white paper on your website. Product sampling is a great way to promote your business and generate sales.
9 Get testimonials. Ask satisfied customers for testimonials about their experience with your company. How did your products or services help them? What were the results? Glowing reviews from satisfied customers are much more effective than you constantly talking about how great you are.
10 Protect your intellectual property. Don’t forget that your company name, logo, tagline or slogan and website content are your creations. Before you invest in building out your brand, make sure these are not in use by someone else. Protect your intellectual property through trademarks and copyrights so others can’t use them. An IP attorney like Kameron can help you with this.