Small Business Marketing Strategies that are Worth Your Time and Money
As a small business owner, you don’t have time or money to waste on marketing strategies that aren’t suited to your needs, so let’s take a look at options that will (and will not) get you the most bang for your buck.
Cost-Effective Marketing on Google
If you’re feeling lost as to what the best marketing strategy is for your business, your best bet is to start with Google. Make sure your website, online listings, Google My Business profile, and ads are aligned with Google’s algorithm. The exposure you’ll get from ranking higher in results will make every minute and dollar you spend worth it.
Get a Website
With 63% of consumers choosing to find or engage with brands via their website (1), and with 63,000 searches per second per day on Google (2), your business website is the means by which you leverage the power of Google to grow your small business. In order to make the most of your Google-related marketing efforts, you need to make sure your website can scale up with your business growth and easily adapt to changes in Google’s algorithm. At the end of the day, Google favors websites that its users favor, so make sure it satisfies and engages your ideal customers. To get a return on the investment of time and money you put into your website:
• Use contact forms and CTAs to generate leads
• Track page metrics to gather intel about your ideal customers
• Make the most important information available immediately to reduce bounce rate
• Create seamless navigation to increase time on page
• Make it easy to contact your business
• Educate site visitors about all of your offerings
Search Engine-Optimize Your Website
Did you know that 51% of all website traffic comes from organic search***? That’s 5 times more than pay per click (PPC) advertising and 10 times more than social media. The goal of SEO is to get your website to show up first for searches your potential customers are performing, related to our products, services, and industry.
An effective SEO strategy for your website involves:
• Publishing trustworthy, useful content about keywords relevant to your target audience
• Placing keywords in strategic spots on your webpages to help Google identify, categorize, and retrieve them more easily
• Maximizing the quality of that content so Google will rank you higher in search results and put you in front of a larger audience.
Improving your website SEO is free, but it does require time and effort. Nevertheless, when done properly, it is arguably one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies out there.
Windy City Dog Walkers is the first organic result for someone searching “dog walking downtown chicago”
Preschool Plan It shows up first in organic results for “preschool graduation planning”
Search Engine-Optimize Your Directory Listings
Your website isn’t the only online media that you can optimize for Google. With search results pages becoming more and more rich with answer snippets, drop-down boxes of related questions, and even answers directly in the search suggestions, it’s important to optimize your information in the online directories from which Google pulls to provide such convenient information.
Google is starting to provide answers before you can even press enter in a search.
Your listing optimization strategy for Google should include:
• Getting registered on free business listing sites like Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Angie’s List,
but most importantly, to Google My Business (see below).
• Filling out all fields for each of these sites
• Selecting a category for your business (to help you get found for non-branded searches)
• Making sure your information is identical across platforms
• Updating your hours and contact information to stay accurate
• Collecting positive online reviews
Optimize Your Google My Business Profile
Google search results are starting to provide the information your potential customers are seeking—before they even get to your website. The more quickly it can grab information and the more it can trust that information, the higher you will rank in search results. That being said, it only makes sense that you optimize your information on one of Google’s own sources: Google My Business.
Your Google My Business profile is what makes up your listing on Google Maps and the local results for regular Google Search:
Studies show that a complete and accurate Google My Business listing, on average, gets 7x more clicks than an incomplete one. So perhaps even before you start digging around your website and online directories to make sure you’re optimized for search, you may want to start with your Google Business listing. This article will help you get your Google My Business marketing strategy up off the ground.
Advertise on Google
According to Google, search ads can help boost brand awareness by as much as 80% (5). In addition, the average business makes $2 in revenue for every $1 spent on Google Ads (6). Putting highly targeted ads directly in front of your ideal customer when they are searching for what you have to offer is a surefire way to maximize your marketing dollars.
With Google Ads, you bid on keywords for which you want Google to show your ad (which is typically a landing page)—not just anywhere on Google but at the top of the first page.
Paid search ads appear at the top of results.
In some cases, as with this one, ads can take up the entire “top of the fold”—the view before a user scrolls.
You only pay when someone clicks on your ad, and you can set caps on your daily spend and total budget, making this a cost-effective marketing strategy. Also, your paid ads will appear more immediately on Google, making it a great strategy to employ while you wait for your organic pages to accumulate traffic.
Other Affordable Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses
Aside from having an incredibly large reach, Facebook advertising is effective because when consumers are on social media, they are in their “happy place” and naturally more receptive to brands. They may not be actively shopping for something, but they are in a state of engagement with a desire to consume information. More importantly, Facebook has a wealth of psychographic information on its users. This makes for unprecedented targeting capabilities to ensure your ads appear in front of very specific (and therefore very receptive) audiences—getting you the highest return on your investment.
A referral program can be highly effective in attracting more relevant customers to your business. Offer existing customers a discount, reward, or other special offer in exchange for bringing new customers to your business. You might want to offer something small to those who get the word out such as by emailing a certain number of people; and then something bigger for those who actually bring in new customers. Another approach to take is that both the referrer and the referee get a discount. Referral marketing is an effective strategy because people trust positive feedback about a business more so when it comes from existing customers than from the business itself; and better yet from existing customers that they know and trust. Another advantage of this marketing strategy is that it builds a tight-knit community around your brand.
Did you know that only 2% of website visitors convert on their first visit (7)? Retargeting ads are those that appear in front of consumers who have already visited your website. You use a pixel on your website so that after they exit, they see ads for your business on other websites or on their social media feeds. Retargeting is an effective small business marketing strategy because it helps bring people back to your website who have already expressed interest, increasing the chances that they will convert and also improving the amount of relevant traffic going to your website.
Free & Worthwhile Content Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses
Google may be the most popular search engine in the world, but it’s not the only place you should strive to get found online by potential customers, and not the only channel through which you should reach out to them. Here are some additional affordable marketing strategies that will help you to increase your visibility, improve your credibility, and generate leads for your business.
Collecting online reviews is already mentioned above as an important part of optimizing your Google My Business and other directory listings. However, it’s worth mentioning again as a marketing strategy that yields returns. As it turns out, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend (3), and 74% of consumers say that a positive review makes them trust a brand more (4). With more and more consumers conducting thorough research before making purchases, online reviews have become a crucial marketing strategy for small businesses. To get online reviews to work for your business:
• Ask for reviews. Start with loyal customers. Then try polls, email campaigns, and website calls to action
• Make it easy for customers to leave reviews such as by generating a Google review link
• Respond to all of your reviews, even the positive ones
• Resolve negative reviews—as they can sometimes turn into positive ones!
Taking the time to get a cadence of online reviews going is important, and will have long-lasting effects on your business growth.
To make blogging a worthwhile marketing strategy for your small business, populate your business blog with evergreen content that your potential customers are seeking. By providing free, useful information that they can come across on their own, you enable your target audience to build a relationship with your business over time. The more they resort to your blog posts, the more familiar with your brand they can get, the more they will learn to trust you, and the more likely they are to turn to you when they need your product or service.
Blogging plays into your website SEO strategy, since your blog posts can help you to get found on Google and increase traffic to your website. You can also leverage your blog traffic by inserting calls to action for offers that might move interested readers through your funnel.
Social Media Marketing
With its many users and the variety of media it supports, social media remains one of the most effective and free small business marketing channels. It’s also an ideal place to show off your brand’s personality. Careful not to post the same thing across your social media profiles all the time, otherwise your followers will know what to expect and not feel the need to visit all of your pages. To make the most of the time and you put into social media marketing, be sure to:
• Market only on the platforms relevant to your target audience.
• Create compelling posts that get liked, shared, and commented on; post engagement is more important than post frequency
• Use location-based and other relevant hashtags to expand your reach
• Offer value: promote your useful blog posts and special offers
• Save time and effort with user-generated content
• Create groups where you can answer questions, invite feedback and opinions, and share newsworthy information on their common interests. Like and share your followers’ posts, and ask them to like and share your posts as well.
• Use chatbots to connect with users via messenger apps, give automatic responses to FAQ’s, or even help someone make a purchase.
Social media can support your SEO and website initiatives, as an active presence on these platforms drives traffic to your website and sends positive signals to Google.
Just about everyone has an email address, and just about everyone checks their email regularly. Until further notice, email marketing should always be a part of your small business marketing mix. Regular communication keeps you in front of your customers and top of mind so the next time they’re in the market for what you’ve got, they’ll head your way. To get the highest return on investment into your email marketing campaigns,
• Segment your mailing list and target your messages appropriately
• Offer useful content through nurture campaigns to push leads further down your funnel
• Keep your content diverse while remaining consistent in your language and formatting
• Avoid abusing your list. Too many emails can lead to unsubscribes.
Email marketing helps with brand awareness, lead nurturing, and website traffic, while also helping to build your brand voice and a community around your business.
Ebooks and Whitepapers
Get even more out of your blog posts and website content by repurposing them into longer-form pieces of content such as eBooks and whitepapers. This is a great marketing strategy that not only shows your expertise in your field, but can also generate leads for your business. By offering free but valuable content in exchange for an email address, your guides can become some of your best lead generation tools—while also building trust and credibility with your audience.
Case Studies and Customer Testimonials
Case studies and customer testimonials are an especially effective marketing tool when your services are diverse or hard to explain. Outline a client’s problem, your business’s solution, and the results. The best case studies tell a story so that they are easy to follow and remember. They also use quantifiable results whenever possible to highlight the value your business brings to your clients.
Each of the above marketing strategies are free in terms of dollars spent, but they do require an investment of your time. If you create a content calendar and implementation plan around these strategies, and allocate time each week to them, you can prevent yourself from spending hours on content and start seeing your efforts pay off.
Local Marketing Strategies
Once you’ve got your Google presence, your website, listings, and social media profiles covered, another worthwhile approach for small businesses to take with their marketing is through hyper-local and offline outlets.
Local Media Marketing
Aside from paid ads, establishing relationships with local newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, and other local businesses will not cost you a dime, but will build your reputation over time. Here are some ways to gain exposure for your small business within your local community:
• Reach out to your local newspaper, and see if they’d be interested in writing a story about your business. The key is to get featured via something unique or historical about your business, a charity you support, or an event you’re running. The more meaningful to the community, the better.
• Have any milestones, new products, or announcements? See if you can get a press release.
• Alternatively, you could offer to contribute an article. Focus on pitching something compelling, informative, and educational; something that will add value.
• Run ads in the local paper; your target audience could very well still be flipping through the pages.
• Get interviewed on the local tv or radio station
Events and Activities
Hosting an event doesn’t have to be a huge production and can really draw a crowd especially if you’re in a high foot traffic area. If you’re looking to host an event on the low-key end, choose a fun holiday that coincides with your business (for instance, July 20th is National Get to Know Your Customers Day) and set up a table outside your shop enticing passersby’s to stop in.
If you’re up for something more substantial, coordinate with complementary businesses in the area to host a joint event. Each business benefits from access to one another’s customers, you share the costs, and you create a fun activity for your clients helping to strengthen their loyalty to your brand. With such varied options to throw into your marketing mix, you’re sure to find the perfect combination to suit your business, budget, and goals.
Other Small Business Marketing Strategies
There’s a whole world of people who rarely go online, and people do still appreciate a hard copy of a coupon or a flyer with seasonal specials. The below strategies are applicable to small businesses but not as effective as the ones listed above.
• Cold calling
• Traditional mail (postcards)
• Email outreach to paid lists
• Door-to-door canvassing
These strategies require you to spend money on a list that you aren’t certain will yield leads, or time on a task that you can’t be sure will bear fruit. In other words, not the best small business marketing tactics if you’re trying to maximize your time and budget. Nevertheless, they’re worth mentioning so you can see how they compare to other strategies and be informed to make the right decisions about your business.
How to Get the Most Out of These Small Business Marketing Strategies
So which of the above channels are the right ones for you? They vary from business to business and will be a mix of paid and free strategies. The right strategies for your business are those that yield a return on your investment. Here’s how to ensure the strategies you choose for your business are worth your time and money.
Target Your Marketing
You may think that casting a wide net and marketing to anyone is your best bet, as it’s sure to bring in customers. But at what cost? Marketing like this will only waste your marketing dollars, and you’ll be racking your brain trying to come up with messaging that appeals to everyone. If you want to get the biggest bang for your buck with your marketing, you need to make sure you’re targeting the right people at the right time, on the right devices, and with the right content. When you target your marketing, you can:
• Refine your content to have maximum impact
• Gather accurate data as to what strategies are working best
• Ensure your time and money are being used wisely
• Increase the chances of getting a return on your investment
How to Effectively Target
To appropriately target your marketing strategies, you must gather both demographic and psychographic information on your ideal customers. Demographics describe the facts about your audience such as:
• Household income
• Family size
Psychographics, on the other hand, describe the behaviors and preferences of your audience, such as:
• Marital status
• Shopping habits
• Preferred websites and devices
• Interests and hobbies
With both demographic and psychographic data, you’ll deepen your understanding of what is important to your target audience, what motivates them to buy, and what messages will resonate with them best—enabling you to enhance the impact of the time and money you spend on your marketing strategies. When implementing your marketing strategies, ask these questions about your target audience
• Who is your target audience?
• Where are they looking for your product or service?
• What problems does your product or service solve?
• What needs does your product or service meet?
Plan and Track
Successful marketing is not about throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. You must form your strategies into a structured marketing plan with measurable results. This will enable you to test different approaches, mediums, and messaging and see what works best. Not all marketing strategies will work for all businesses. A goal-oriented marketing plan to implement these strategies will help you determine the best ways to reach your audience and convert leads into paying customers.
Prioritize Local SEO
Google is only getting more powerful in its ability to connect consumers with the specific products and services they are seeking, closest to them. It is imperative that you optimize your online properties to show up as high as possible in search results. Thoroughly optimizing your website and listings and maintaining an active presence across the web will help you to align with Google and therefore with potential customers.