Would it shock you to learn that most SMBs out there still have no clue how to market their business effectively — online and off?
Probably not. But how is your current marketing plan working out for you?
Billboards, benches, paper classifieds, (gasp) Yellow pages ads and listings? Radio, television, mailers — all this stuff works, but it certainly isn’t enough to grow and maintain a small business.
Then there’s the silly notion that you’re the best in town or the best in your industry — surely WoM (word-of-mouth) will do all or most of the work for you, right?
Ahem — nope!
I would say that the disconnect between the need for effective digital marketing and the methods that were most potent prior to 2007 or so, exists mostly with older business owners who’re either running an established business or who’ve recently started a new business after an extended layoff.
These old dogs want to stick with what they know and will gladly pass down that advice when acting as a mentor to less experienced entrepreneurs.
If your products and product development are sound, your customer service is bulletproof, and your accounting is spot on, marketing needs to be what you’re focused most on. And you need to be watching what’s going on and adapting your plan to keep up with the competition.
Offline marketing still works, it’s just harder to measure and thus, more expensive to use.
Unless your mailers and radio spots are directing visitors to a website, there’s really no way of knowing if the 4 or 5 grand you spent to do it was effective or if you just suddenly have a great month or two for organic reasons. With digital marketing, the sky’s the limit as to all the metrics you can measure.
Social media marketing is quickly becoming most important.
There used to be a distinct separation between social media, paid advertising, review sites, and so on. An SMB owner could have easily used one or the other a few years ago and still have been considered having their ducks in a row. Now, you can’t get away with a one-off approach.
Try throwing money at an Adwords campaign without a social presence — it won’t work because all those impressions you get will be looking to social media for reviews about your products and service levels. There’s no reason to buy your products or visit your physical store otherwise — too much risk involved for the consumer to both their wallet, their time, and their sanity.
Get active on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook for now. There’s no need to post different content on each when you’re just starting to rev that social engine up. Grab a social dashboard like Sprout Social or Buffer and you can cross-pollinate to a number of accounts, while focusing on just one that you know to be best geared to your business marketing needs.
Directories can’t be just an afterthought.
Where does a customer go when they want to learn more about your business? Google is a pretty good guess. Make sure you have a complete Google My Business listing and set up accounts on the following directory sites to ensure you have the best online coverage on directory sites (some below are exclusively for offline businesses):
- Bing for Business
- Better Business Bureau
- Yellow Pages
- White Pages
- Angie’s List
- City Search
- Trip Advisor
Also look for industry specific directories. For instance, Home Advisor is a must if you’re operating a trade business building, renovating, or fixing things in people’s homes. Just like Doctor Directory is definitely recommended if you’re running a medical practice. Do your research.
Make note of all the directories you’re listed on and immediately update any information such as store hours and holiday closings as changes are made to avoid annoying and/or losing valuable customers.
Content distribution is important for all businesses.
Whenever content interests someone, they automatically become more curious about the creator. Highly funny, informative, or personable content always has a chance of going viral and driving tons of clicks to your homepage. Look at what your competitors are doing successfully with regards to their content distribution. Innovate — rinse, repeat, and profit!
Don’t think that just because you’re running a convenience store, food truck, or sidewalk hot dog stand that you can’t benefit from offering valuable content to web users. Like I said, if they like it, they’ll soon turn their attention to your SMB!
Main Image Credit: Nancy Pelosi/Flickr