Big Marketing For SMB Business

Small to medium business (SMB) owners and operators out there have a lot on their minds these days – the economy, healthcare, hiring, and that’s not to mention fulfilling the daily tasks of the business. It’s no wonder why marketing the business gets pushed to the back burner. You think to yourself: “websites, communications, Twitter, and java updates – I just don’t have time.” Besides, the only java on your mind is brewed at Starbucks and mixed with a double shot – okay, triple shot – espresso.

We’ve all heard it before: “marketing is key to the success of any business.” You may or may not believe it, but effective marketing can drive consistent brand recognition, website traffic, social media presence, industry leadership, increased sales, and overall company growth. And many SMB’s are taking advantage. In fact, The State of Digital Marketing for SMBs (Vocus and Inc., June 2013) report states that 65.8% and 77.3% of SMBs currently utilize email marketing and social media, respectively, in their marketing strategy. 24.9% of SMBs surveyed report social media as being their most effective marketing tool.

So, what can you do to keep your marketing relevant, reliable, and affordable without diminishing quality or, worse, your sanity? Here are five tips…

  1. GET SOCIAL. If you are on the fence on whether or not social media is worth your time – it is! I’ve developed relationships, picked up media leads, and won free workshops and prizes via social networking. Pick one or two platforms to start with – my recommendations are Facebook and Twitter, but there are other viable social networking platforms like LinkedIn as well. However, the trick with any social networking is to be present – that’s why they call it “social networking.” Just like in real-life networking, standing silent in the corner of the room will get you nothing but wasted time.

Once you establish your account(s), download a management platform (I like HootSuite) which allows you to post to and track accounts simultaneously all from one simple, easy to use location. Then, get out there onto the middle of the virtual floor and start liking, following, and conversing with others. Social media takes time, like anything else, but it is a valuable business tool that, if used accurately, invites a dynamic of both the viability critical to any business as well as a collective casualness that makes a business approachable and engaging.

  1. RAISE AWARENESS.  Although it often gets lumped into it, Marketing is not a fancy division of Sales. True, it is Marketing’s job to aid Sales through appropriate company and product representation and collateral. But, it is also – and moreover – Marketing’s job to raise awareness around the company – its existence, first and foremost, then its brand, mission, leadership, and initiatives. How?

Whenever business professionals ask me what they should market about their company, I always say “Everything!” Everything is relevant if you present it well: news, events, photos, videos, related industry news, etc. And via the right tools: your website, social media accounts, newsletter, press releases, and marketing collateral. A balanced amalgamation of content and vehicle will provide a broad-ranging and fresh connection with your audience while offering your company validity in showing it is ambitious, successful, and current.

  1. PROVIDE ONLY PERTINENT INFORMATION. In sharing all of your “new-found” information, don’t lose yourself in irrelevant information. Saying “good morning” on twitter every once in a while is fine, but what you are having for lunch everyday most likely has nothing to do with your business. Also, don’t send out a press release with no news in it. If you are writing it, the first things you should know are: “Who is my audience?” and “Why is this important?” If you can’t answer those questions, don’t bother.

On the opposite side of the scale – don’t forget to include the important information! Too many times I’ve opened links to registration pages without the location of the event on it; or I’ve gone to visit clients and they do not have their business address listed anywhere on their website. It’s a balance between providing too much information and not enough.

  1. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR RESOURCES. SMB owners are often, by nature, resourceful people – like MacGyver’s with an idea and a business card. Don’t be afraid to use that instinct and intellect in sourcing out free or low-priced marketing opportunities.

 For example: many chambers of commerce and industry and trade associations offer free news and events postings to members. You send it to them, and they do all the work in posting on their website, social media accounts, and newsletter. It’s like having your own personal marketing assistant. Other resources include free news and event postings to news and publication websites, as well as free press release posting sites.

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH AND TRACK YOUR SUCCESS. Just as with any sound business decision, take the time to explore what’s out there for marketing. You have options. Once you do choose a marketing strategy to suit your needs, track its progress. You wouldn’t buy new equipment or services without an idea of ROI and measurements to prove it. Marketing carries the same principles. There are many free, useful tracking tools available, and adding a combination of these to your outlook will give you a well-rounded image of the impact of your marketing efforts.

Try for starters:

  • Google Analytics – tracks website hits, traffic, bounces, and more
  • Google Alerts – sends any internet presence you have directly to your Inbox
  • Klout – measures your social media presence
  • Facebook – automatically creates “insights” from your page activity

In addition, many email marketing, social media, and press release distribution tools have tracking components and details built directly into the software for your use.

Bottom line for SMB’s:  you have to get yourself out there. 90% of business in Rhode Island is small business. The numbers are similar across the country. That’s a lot of competition just in this country, never mind globally. How are you going to stand out? Good news:  you have a starting point that is effective, engaging, and 100% do-able for just a few hours a week. Java, anyone?

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