Over the past 15+ years, I’ve helped many business owners solve marketing problems and grow their companies. Most of my clients are established small to mid-size businesses. However, I’m often asked for advice from start ups, micro businesses and companies with 1-3 employees. Here are some of my favorite free or inexpensive marketing tips for small businesses.
Please Note: Whenever possible, I highly recommend hiring professionals to enhance your marketing program. Professionals can help you with marketing strategy, branding, logo creation, graphic design, photography, website development, social media and more!
- If you don’t have a website, you can set up one quickly and easily using GoDaddy. Their “Go Central” options are easy to set up, inexpensive and don’t require coding skill. (There are also many other DIY options you can explore. In my opinion, they are all fairly similar in terms of cost and features, but I personally found the “Go Central” option to be the easiest to use.) If you have a budget to hire someone to help you, I recommend using a WordPress template for your site and make sure you own all the content and rights to the site not the developer.
- Once you have a site, be sure to keep it updated with pictures, testimonials and other relevant content based on your business type. Just focus on talking about what you are doing in your business and let the content develop naturally. If you are a handyman, post before and after pictures of your projects. If you are pet sitter, post pictures of the fur babies you are watching (with client’s permission of course).
- Be sure to link your website to your social media platforms so people can connect with you. Also make sure your social media platforms have a link back to your website.
Email that Matches Website URL:
- When you set up a website, most providers offer email addresses that match the URL of the website. By using the same URL in your email address, you will appear more professional.
- Think of your email signature as a little ad or promotion about your company that goes out every time you send an email. Spend a little time getting it refined. If you have more than one person in your company, make sure everyone has the same basic look and content in their email signature to make your company look more polished and established.
Google My Business:
- If you don’t already have a Google account, please create one. It’s free.
How to Add Your Business to Google Maps
- Open Google Maps and make sure you’re signed in.
- Zoom in to the map where you want to add your business.
- In the bottom right, click Send Feedback.
- Click Add a missing place.
- Drag the marker where you business is, and add any relevant information.
- Click Submit.
- Once set up, ask for testimonials on your Google Business listing. This is VERY IMPORTANT. You will need to reach out to former customers and/or clients and ask for them to leave you reviews. It’s quick and easy, and companies with lots of good reviews, generate more calls and/or get more traffic to their sites.
- Create at least 1 or 2 social media accounts for your business. Do not use personal accounts because it does not look professional. Facebook is good for business to consumer (B2C) marketing. LinkedIn is good for business to business (B2B) marketing. Make sure you pick logical platforms.
- Invite your friends, and don’t buy fake followers. Interact with people by liking their posts, etc. Remember, it’s “social” media so you should reciprocate by liking other people’s pictures and posts.
- Have links to your social media accounts on your website (mentioned already) and in the signature of your email messages (also mentioned above). Again, just make sure everything is connected back and forth, so people can find you.
- Add content on a regular basis. This can even be the same info you are adding to your website on an ongoing basis. For example: add pictures of your projects, tips related to your business, coupons or promotions, etc. Make a habit of posting at least once a week or more frequently if at all possible. In my opinion, consistency is slightly more important than quantity because it shows you carry through with things.
Closed Groups Such as Garage Sale Groups on Facebook & Hyper Local Sites Like Nextdoor.com:
- If you sell directly to consumers, you might want to layer in targeted marketing in “closed” groups on Facebook such as local garage sale groups. First, you have to ask to join the group. Once you are a member, start by using the search feature to look for mentions about your type of business, i.e. – “pet sitter” or “handyman” or “insurance agent” and other logical terms people would use to find you. Then set NOTIFICATIONS to ON, so you will get notices when people are talking about this topic. Monitor all notifications and “chime in” to promote your business when appropriate. Be cautious about not violating the “rules” of the group, or you can be kicked out.
- If you don’t already have an account on NextDoor NextDoor.com, go ahead and create a free account. Your account is based on where you live, so it is hyper local. Go to the search feature at the top and search for terms people would use to find your business. Chime in when appropriate. Unlike Facebook, I have not found a way to receive automatic notifications for matches, but it is easy enough to check the site once a day when you are trying to build business.
- Google Ad Words – When you set up your Google Business Listing, you should receive a coupon from Google inviting you to try Google Ad Words. They generally offer a promotion requiring you to spend $25 dollars to get $100 in ad word credits or spend $50 and get $100 in ad word credits. You can test their system to see if it drives business to your website or generates calls.
- Facebook Ads – If Facebook is one of your social media platforms, try running a Facebook Ads campaign to drive traffic to your page or get them to call or take some other specific action (You can start by spending very little money to test it. I’ve spent as little as $7 for a “campaign” than ran for a week and cost $1 per day just to understand how the system works.)
- Ads Through Other Social Media Platforms – Most social media platforms offer some type of advertising or paid promotion. Generally, you can test the waters for a small investment to see if it makes sense for your business.
Business Cards & Collateral Materials:
- If you don’t have a budget to hire a professional designer, you can start by using templates with digital printers like VistaPrint vistaprint.com. At a minimum, you want a business card and generally some type of leave-behind materials like a flyer or brochure or forms to create estimates. (Some of these documents may be created in Word and printed and/or emailed as a PDF.) VistaPrint is also a good source for small quantities of tri-fold brochures, yard signs, car magnets, etc.
- Promotional Items, such as pens, can be used by most small businesses. Again, VistaPrint is a good source for small quantities. However, for large quantities of promotional materials, I would suggest online companies such as Amsterdam Printing, National Pen Company, or other similar online companies or hiring a local promotional products rep to help you.
- Develop some type of simple referral program and make sure you communicate it to everyone on a regular basis. For example, a pet sitter might offer a $10 discount on a client’s next service when they refer a new person who hires them for $50 or more in services. (In this case, they are not offering a cash reward, but a discount on the next service which incentivizes the client to hire them again.) Once you come up with your offer, put it on the back of your business cards, on your printed materials and in your email signature.
Connect & Stay In Touch:
- In my many years of experience, most small business owners struggle to stay in touch with their prospects and former customers/clients on a regular basis. Here is a simple plan to help you get started.
- Contact Info – Make sure to keep records of your former and current clients and/or customers and your prospects including their first and last name, email address, snail mail address and info about your interaction with them. Ideally, you should have this information in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. There are many options for small businesses that are easy-to-use and affordable. Also, look for a solution that integrates with your accounting software to save even more time and manage things more efficiently. If you don’t use a CRM system, at least keep records in Outlook and/or a spreadsheet or some other system.
- Connect on Social Media – Try to connect with all your contacts on your business social media platforms. Be sure to interact with your connections to create more “top of mind” awareness.
- Ask for Testimonials – Go back through your contact list and ask your best clients and/or customers to review you on your Google Business Page and on the social media platforms you use. Once you have reviews in these places, you can duplicate the testimonial (i.e. – copy and paste) it to your website manually to build your reviews directly on your website.
- Follow Up via Email and Snail Mail – You don’t want to bombard your contacts with follow up messages, but you do want to stay in touch with them on a regular basis. Come up with a plan to send a couple logical emails per year, for example seasonal home improvement reminders from a handyman or holiday scheduling reminders from a pet sitter. I also suggest layering in one or two snail mail campaigns per year with a great promotion, fun greeting card, birthday card and/or holiday card.
With a little smart planning, small businesses can represent themselves in a more professional manner. With a simple plan, you can reach more prospects through referral, organic search and targeted advertising. By setting up a simple social media program, you can easily stay connected with your clients/customers and prospects. By layering in a simple email/snail mail program, you can stay in touch with your contacts throughout the year. These activities are synergistic and all work together to create more repeat and referral business as well as target new prospects to help you build your business.
If you found this article helpful, please post a comment and share it on social media. Also, be sure to check out my other blog posts and connect with me on social media to help us stay in touch. Thank you!