When you operate a small business, a marketing budget seems like a pipe dream. All your “extra money” goes to employee costs, new inventory or unavoidable overhead expenses. Many small business owners are lucky to break even and pay their bills. With all the fixed cost, and the pressure to make ends meet, how are you supposed to find wiggle room in the finances for marketing? Here are a few tips that might help.
Start with Social
Social media marketing is a powerful (and free) tool to reach the masses. However, simply having a Facebook page, Google plus, Twitter or other social account is not enough. In order to use these social engines as effective marketing tools, you need to create engagement and build a community around your product. This means that you need regular, relevant posts that provide value for your potential customers beyond just “check out our products.”
Get to know your customers – what they like, what sort of content they engage with on the web, and what sorts of posts you can create that appeal to your target audience. If you struggle with getting your mind wrapped around what sort of things to post, there are some inexpensive tools out there like postplanner that can help.
Unfortunately, money is not the only concern. I’ve talked to many small business owners that never seem to quit working. In fact, I’ve been one of them. There’s simply not enough time in the day to run your business, type, tweet and post. I’ve always been an advocate of working smarter, not harder.
Implementing Awesome Automation
Fortunately, in the digital marketing realm, there is usually a solution to make this happen. As business ebbs and flows, slot out some time to plan out your social media schedule. Use a post planner, or a simple competitive analysis of your competitor’s posts to see what you might want to post. Input from your existing audience is always a good idea as well.
Once you have an idea of what to post, figure out when you want to post it. Once you’ve got a rough outline of your post schedule, you can automate a lot of your social activities. The buffer app can help you automate your posts and you can easily syndicate your posts across multiple social channels with a tool like Hootsuite or IFTTT (if this then that). These social automation tools will help you free up time spent on tedious tasks and focus on working on other aspects of your business that need your attention.
Turning Views into Reviews
Once you’ve cultivated a positive community around your business, try to leverage some of that positive sentiment into positive reviews online. Many businesses, particularly restaurants or service-based businesses, live in fear of poor reviews, but very few encourage customers to leave positive reviews on prevalent sites like Yelp or Google+. Unfortunately, the malcontents are more likely to speak out, and if your entire review portfolio is comprised of the vocal, dissatisfied minority, then you may be counted out by potential customers before they ever get a chance to make their own judgments. However, these types of customers are more prone to post reviews, while satisfied customers remain quietly content.
Turning those satisfied customers into positive reviews can help drown out the vocal minority while also boosting your search engine visibility. Business reviews are a huge ranking factor for local businesses, as Google and others do not wish to serve up poor offerings to their users. Certainly, positive reviews anywhere are a good thing, but prioritize reviews on Google Plus and Yelp if you are at all interested in the search engine benefits these reviews provide. If you struggle with soliciting and obtaining reviews, there are services like Get 5 Stars that specialize in this sort of campaign, and they can assist you greatly.
Go Forth and Post Plan
So, if you find yourself struggling with marketing your business, try starting with social. It’s a low-cost, high impact solution. And, if you do it right, you can have a built-in audience for years to come that you can market to and who will market you to their friends. The growth potential on social media is immense, and the popularity of these channels is likely only going to grow. Get started on your post schedule and step into the social scene sooner than later.
Kirk Kerr graduate of the College of Idaho marketing program and an avid student of micromarketing. He balances working at his day job and his entrepreneurial ambitions. When he’s not putting his nose to the grindstone, he enjoys sports video games, binge watching Netflix, and button mashing on his Xbox One.