This post is for: small business owners who aren’t sure where to start with their digital marketing options
Since 1985, I’ve had the good fortune to be the one-person marketing/creative department for a number of small businesses and not-for-profit organizations. All of them needed to get their important messages out to their target audiences, and relied on me to recommend and implement the best ways to spend their limited marketing budgets. If you’re just starting a new venture, or just starting to market it, here’s what worked for them, and what will also work for you:
Start with the Message. What’s Yours?
Great marketing is nothing more than very effective communication: people communicating with people. When you start marketing your business, the first and most important question you should ask yourself is: “What’s our message?” What do you want to say to your intended audience? What do they need to know and understand about you?
A lot of people get tripped up at this very first stage because they think they have to come up with a very eloquent and significant-sounding message. Not yet! The “wordsmithing” actually comes later – that’s the second step. First, just state to yourself, in the simplest language possible, what you’d like your customers to know about you. It can be as simple as “we make great bicycles” or “we sell yoga mats”. Before you can communicate eloquently, you need to know what you want to communicate.
Next, Craft That Message
Once you know what you want to say, you need to find the best way to say it – the most effective, understandable, moving, convincing, eloquent way to say it. Great writing is the bedrock, the solid foundation of all of your marketing. It’s also another clear expression of the quality of your products and services. It’s worth taking the time, and/or hiring the copywriting expertise, to craft your wording carefully.
Then, Determine the Best Ways to Deliver Your Message
Okay, you have a message and you’re ready to deliver it. How? What are the best ways for your small business to get your message out? Even with the smallest of marketing budgets, there are a few marketing pieces that are pretty much essential for almost everyone:
- Almost certainly, a website. Your potential customers will want to look you up online.
- Also helpful, a mechanism for you to send out regular updates. This could be a newsletter, a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, or another social media venue.
- Increasingly important, videos that your customers can also find online.
- Always reliable, some printed material that you can hand out in person, or send out by mail or as a PDF.
Those are the essentials, for almost any type of small business or not-for-profit organization. Of course there are others as well, and some of them may be just as important in your specific industry or niche.
Create Your “Look” (Visual Identity)
Even if you don’t think you need a logo or slogan or other typical company identifiers, the fact is, as soon as you even just post or print the name of your business somewhere with a certain font and colour, you’re displaying a visual identity. So why not do it with intention? You logo can be as simple as your company name displayed in a specific font that you’ve picked out intentionally. Pick its colour intentionally too, and now you have a company font and colour. Use those on your website and brochures and business card and stationery and you’re well on your way to having a distinct and recognizable visual identity. If you have a budget to get a logo and company colours and font designed for you, even better! Books do get judged by their covers, all the time.
Create Your Marketing Material
Many small business owners are DIY types by nature, and there are tools available to you if you decide you do want to create your own website, videos, and print material. But, if your business is successful and you want it to grow, you probably already have your hands full just running it.
Get Found by Search Engines
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of fine-tuning your website’s written material so that it contains the key words and phrases that your potential customers are likely to type into Google or Bing to try to find the products or services that you offer. Big businesses spend many thousands of dollars per month and year just trying to get their websites to rank really highly on search results, but that’s far beyond the budgets of most small business.
However, you can still achieve significant improvements in your search rankings with a smaller budget too. If you spend some time identifying the main key words and phrases that you think your customers will search for you with, we can help ensure that those words and phrases are in the right places on your website.
Finally, Keep Your Website and Marketing Material Up-To-Date
The thing about effective marketing communication is that it’s not usually just a one-time effort. Your business will change. Your products and services will change. Your prices and photos and videos and case studies and branding elements will all likely change over time. So while it’s certainly less of an effort and expense that creating them in the first place, the upkeep of your website and marketing material is just as important a part of your marketing.