You want to grow your business.
You want to get new customers in the door, just like everyone else in your industry.
You want to remind your existing customers to stop by more frequently. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt if they spent a few extra dollars each time you saw them.
So how do you make that happen?
Small business marketing.
But not the type of small business marketing you are thinking about.
That type of marketing doesn’t work in 2019.
Effective small business marketing today requires something just a little bit different.
You have to be different.
You have to be bold.
You can’t just pay someone to make a commercial hyping up your business.
Having a billboard with your smiling face on it just isn’t going to move the needle today.
So how DO you market effectively?
You have to get deeper. You have to try harder. You have to tell your story.
Think about some of the most successful companies and brands out there.
They probably have a story to which you can relate. That’s why you do business with them.
It’s time to start telling your story.
The Basics of Small Business Marketing in 2019
Before we can get into the nuts and bolts of how a small business marketing plan works in 2019, we first have to set some ground rules.
These are the basics that you have to get under your belt before you can move on to specific tactics. Let’s get started.
Know Your Market and Your Customer
Before you ever even think about posting on your company Facebook page, you first have to spend some time thinking about the people you’re trying to reach.
What traits do they all have in common? Where do they hang out in person? How about online? Where would be the ideal place to put stories about you and your business so that those people would be likely to read them?
In many cases, you’ll find that the people you most want to reach are simply not paying attention to the marketing channels you have been using. It is also important to know why your best customers choose to do business with you as opposed to your competitors.
Southwest Airlines hit a home run with their marketing campaign that focused in on the fact that their customers hated bag fees. It was only a matter of time before their “Bags Fly Free” messages resonated with the exact customers they were targeting.
Do Something Worth Talking About
In the insightful book on marketing Talk Triggers by Jay Baer, Baer explains that you have to have some element of your business that is actually worth talking about.
So, what is it that you do that’s worth talking about?
This doesn’t have to be on the level of changing the world or ending poverty. You just have to have some element of your business that makes you special. You just have to have a story that people feel compelled to tell other people about, a story that “spreads”.
Companies like AirBnB and Uber were able to grow at an incredible pace because their customers couldn’t help telling all of their friends and family members about their experiences.
What are you doing to create those kinds of experiences for your customers?
That is where your most profitable small business marketing ideas are going to originate.
Scrap the “Elevator Pitch” and “Finding Your USP”
If we were in a college marketing class, the professor would likely start with some nonsense about finding your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and honing your elevator pitch. That might work well in the textbook world, but you need something a little more flexible out in the real world.
So scrap all of those university buzzwords. The only thing you need to focus on is figuring out what makes you special.
What is it about your business that resonates with your target audience?
One example of this is the way that the guys from Dollar Shave Club present themselves. They operate in a pretty boring business, but the message that they are normal guys who are just as fed up with paying too much for razors as you are resonates with their customers.
That’s what we’re going for here.
What Does a Bullseye Look Like For You?
Once you’ve taken the time to know your audience, figured out what parts of your business are worth talking about, and decided on a tone that will resonate with those people, the only thing left to do is define what success looks like for you.
What are the goals for your marketing efforts? Increased sales? More revenue? Larger profits? Additional foot traffic? And how much are we talking about?
Only you can define what success is going to look like for your business, but be careful to set realistic expectations. Drifting too far in either direction will always lead to disappointment.
Now that you have those four marketing basics handled, let’s get into the small business marketing strategies we can use to turn your business into a cash machine.
Online Marketing for Small Business: Strategies for 2019
While many of the old school marketing tactics still work for small businesses around the country, there is no denying that the power of the internet gives up and coming businesses the leverage they need to compete with the established players in their industry.
Whether you see yourself as an established player or an industry leader, putting the power of the internet to work for you is a great way to take your business to the next level.
To help you do exactly that, I’ve pulled together six of the most effective tactics for online marketing for small business with links to additional reading.
Let the Major Players Get to Know You
One of the simplest ways to put the internet to work for your small business is to list with all of the major players.
Start by claiming your business on Google. This will give you the ability to control the information they display about your operation when people search for you.
From there, you can expand by registering your business with rating sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Even the free packages with those sites will allow you to respond to customer reviews, and some will let you post pictures as well.
Once you have those sites handled, the next step is to sign your business up for some social media accounts. Facebook is still the big dog here, but don’t sleep on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and anything else young people in your industry might be using to connect with others.
Even if you never bother to post anything on these accounts, simply having them in place with the correct contact information is always going to be better than leaving that information up to chance.
Social Media Marketing for Small Business
If you followed through with the first step, then you already have your social media accounts set up and ready to go. The next step is to start posting status updates.
Each social media platform creates a different type of environment which will require a different approach, but Facebook is a solid bet for any business that is just getting starting in the social world.
Start out by shooting for one post every workday highlighting something happening around your store or office. Then gauge the responses to your posts and focus on the ones that get the reactions you want. It is important to remember that social media is about being social, so lean toward casual posts rather than promotional content. Company accounts that do nothing but ask people to buy their products don’t ever get the results they want.
The trick here is to come off like Jet Blue’s Twitter account, which is known for engaging customers on a regular basis instead of just posting special rate discounts.
That’s where you want to be.
- The Complete Guide to Social Media for Small Business
- 10 Tactics to Boost Your Organic Social Media Reach
- How to Use Social Media for Small Business: 11 Simple Tips
Double Down on Social With This Hack That Never Fails
Organic social media will provide a fantastic platform for you to engage with your existing customers, but every platform is becoming more and more congested with businesses trying to do exactly that.
One way to separate yourself from the pack is to ensure that your content finds its way into new customers’ feeds by pitching up some cash to promote that content.
You can start this with a very small budget by just paying a few dollars to boost your Facebook posts. But as you see the results this increased exposure drives to your bottom line, you will quickly increase the size of that budget.
Facebook ads have made up the majority of the advertising budget for two of my biggest businesses for more than five years now, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Spending $20 to promote each of the daily posts at my restaurant has led to astronomical sales growth that is not only paying for the ads, but also paying me quite well to manage them.
My goal with any restaurant ad is to simply remind the target customer that we are a local restaurant putting out excellent food. By planting that seed in the back of their minds, I believe they are much more likely to choose my restaurant the next time they are looking for a place to eat.
And the results speak for themselves. Business is through the roof.
There are tons of pay-to-play options across all of the social media platforms. The key to getting the most out of your investment is to start simple and build on the things that work for your business, just like we did with the organic side of social media.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Advertising
- Facebook Ads: The Ultimate Guide for Businesses
- The Complete, Always Updated Guide to Facebook Advertising
The Next Level of Content That Most Overlook
Once you have your social media marketing in place, the next step in developing a complete online marketing strategy is publishing deeper content on your website by starting a blog.
The concept of using a company blog to market your small business is known as content marketing. Remember earlier, when we suggested that you stick to casual Facebook posts rather than strictly promotional posts? That’s content marketing – where you draw attention to your brand without explicitly advertising it, and it’s what you want to do with your blog. It is an outstanding way to develop relationships with customers and tell your story on a platform that you completely control.
The content that you publish on your blog can be anything from a roundup of other content in your industry to a deeper dive on your own insightful thoughts on the business. Regardless of the type of content you are going for, the key here is to publish consistently.
As you dive into the world of content marketing, you will likely come across quite a bit of information about optimizing your blog for search engines. However, at the end of the day, the best content is always going to rise to the top, so craft your content accordingly.
Companies like American Express and Mint.com do an outstanding job with their blog content. For example, Mint.com doesn’t outright say “sign up with Mint!” on its blog, but rather provides articles about budgeting and the things for which you might want to budget. And oh, by the way – Mint is a service that makes budgeting fast and easy. You can see how discussing a topic (budgeting) leads to product sales (usage of the Mint.com platform). That’s blog-based content marketing in action. There are probably some examples of companies doing excellent content marketing in your industry as well.
Seek out those companies that are doing it right. Then follow Austin Kleon’s advice from Steal Like an Artist and take their most effective ideas for yourself.
- 8 Reasons Every Small Business Should Utilize Content Marketing
- Guide to Content Marketing for Small Business
- How To Build A Content Marketing Strategy You’ll Actually Use
The Most Important Piece of the Online Marketing Puzzle
Another excellent way to market your business through your website is to encourage visitors to sign up for your email list. By obtaining permission to email those customers on a regular basis, you give yourself the ability to remind them to do business with you at regular intervals, which is priceless for small businesses.
Of course, in order to get those customers to stay subscribed to your email list, you have to be sending them things that they actually want to read. So once again, you are going to have to dig deep and come up with some amazing content.
You also want to develop a unique tone in your regular emails. Take a look at the way Zappos talks to their customers through email and you will see that the options are virtually limitless for the voice you create for your business.
One way to cheat the process and get people to sign up and stay subscribed is to offer some type of incentive. The most popular way to do this is to offer some type of free document, known as a lead magnet, to anyone who signs up.
For example, anyone who signs up for my email list at BrooklynContent.com receives a free infographic that will help them come up with killer content ideas out of thin air.
Another tactic that works fantastically for me is to send something free at regular intervals. I do this for a local bingo hall where we regularly send free admissions to a small percentage of the email list.
Not only does this keep them active and engaged, getting the free packages regularly also keeps them in the habit of coming to bingo, so we don’t ever fall out of their routine.
- The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Email Marketing
- The Complete Guide to Effective Email Marketing Campaigns for Small Businesses
- Email Marketing 101: How to Build Your List, Send Effective Campaigns, and Track Results
It Never Hurts to Bump Your Search Results
The final option for online marketing that can make a big difference for your small business is to purchase some common keywords through Google Adwords. This means that your business is featured prominently when people nearby are searching for terms related to your industry.
With Google AdWords, you can make a very small investment to experiment with a wide range of keyword combinations before committing significant funds to the ones that produce the most desirable results.
Start out with something as simple as “Best [Your Industry]” and then expand from there with as many variations as you like. So for example, I might use “Best Restaurants”, “Best Local Restaurants”, etc.
- The Small Business Strategy Guide to Google AdWords
- Google Ads Secrets: What Works for Small Business
- Top 5 Google AdWords Tips for Small Businesses
Offline Marketing for Small Business: Strategies for 2019
While there is no debate that online marketing for small business is the area where you can get the most bang for your buck, there are still plenty of offline marketing channels that can offer reasonable returns on the time and money investment that they require.
So while you certainly want to focus the bulk of your efforts towards marketing your company online, each of these six local marketing ideas can be used as bonus marketing efforts.
Always Rep Your Brand
The easiest way to promote your business in the offline world is to constantly be positioning yourself as a positive representation of the brand image you want to cultivate. Do this by wearing some type of uniform designating that you are a representative of the company. This could mean anything from a hat and t-shirt with your company logo to wearing a full suit, depending on the image you want your company to represent.
It is also important to remember that the way you treat people will be connected to your company, so bite your tongue when necessary…and always tip well!
Companies like Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, and Budweiser all do an exceptional job of repping their brand at all times. Keep those examples in the forefront of your mind throughout the day and act as if your company deserves to be on that list as well.
Sometimes You Have to Look Beyond New Customers
You have probably seen the impressive statistics that show how much more difficult it is to connect with a new customer compared to keeping an existing one. For that reason, one beneficial thing you can do to promote your business is to continue developing relationships with existing customers.
There are legendary stories about how Zappos customer service reps are able to go above and beyond to keep their existing customers happy. For example, Zappos is willing to take as long as necessary to resolve a customer issue, and they mean it – one time they had a customer service call that lasted ten hours and fifty-one minutes. Now THAT’S how you keep a customer happy.
You don’t have to hand deliver shoes to a Las Vegas casino, but you can certainly give your existing customers the impression that you care about them.
Snail Mail Isn’t Outdated Quite Yet
Before the world of online marketing took off the way that it did, direct mail was always one of the most reliable marketing tools for small business owners…and it still works today if you approach it from the right angle.
Just about everyone still gets those coupon clipper books in the mail today, and many people also get regular mailings from local real estate agents and politicians. There is no reason that your business couldn’t do something similar to promote your services.
One of my businesses uses a simple postcard that is good for a $10 discount as a way to get something physical from us into the hands of existing customers, and we have seen outstanding results from this practice for decades now.
Do You Fancy Yourself a Local Celebrity?
Another offline tactic that has a long history of producing results for small businesses is to apply the principles of online content marketing in an offline publication.
There is a good chance that a strong portion of your target customers read the local newspaper. And in 2019, there is also a good chance that your local paper is struggling financially.
In many communities, local newspapers will jump at the chance to let someone from a local business write a regular column about their field of expertise. This gives the newspaper free content while also positioning the author as an expert in their particular industry. It can also produce much better results than purchasing ad space.
The Easiest Way to Grow a Local Business
You can’t ever talk about offline marketing without getting into referrals…even in 2019. There is simply no substitute for having people out in the community who speak highly of you and recommend that their friends and family members do business with you.
One way to jump start your referral business is to join a local business group like Business Network International (BNI) or your community’s chamber of commerce. The people in these groups set up reciprocal referral arrangements that can keep new business coming in on a consistent basis.
Another way to increase your referrals is to incentivize your customers. Dropbox did a fantastic job of this when they first started by giving their customers more storage space for every referral.
- How to Ask for Referrals and Get More Clients
- 25 Ways to Ask for a Referral Without Looking Desperate
- The Art of the Ask: How to Ask for a Referral
Teach What You Know and People Will Follow
One final offline tactic that still gets the job done is to give a speech or host a seminar for other local business people.
In most local communities, you don’t have to be an expert on things like social media or content marketing to be qualified to help other business people in your area. All you need is a little bit more knowledge than the people to whom you are speaking.
Hosting a social media seminar for local business owners at a local hotel can be a great way to get tons of potential clients in the same room, and when you are in charge of the seminar, you are automatically going to be seen as both trustworthy and knowledgeable.
If you aren’t quite comfortable getting up in front of people and talking about your business, you can always improve on those skills by joining your local Toastmasters group.
What is the Best Marketing Strategy for a Small Business?
There is no perfect formula when it comes to small business marketing strategies. In fact, the only way to find out what works best for your business is to get out there and try some new ideas.
Fortunately, you don’t have to implement all of these small business marketing ideas at once.
Take one or two of the ideas that resonate with you. Then see what kinds of results they get for your small business.
Not every tactic will work for every business. The key to elite-level small business marketing is to experiment with a wide range of options and then do more of whatever works for your business.
No matter what type of small business budget you have at your disposal, it is important to remember to look at all small business marketing strategies on a spectrum that ranges from zero effort to Coca-Cola.
You probably aren’t ever going to find yourself at either extreme end of the spectrum, but we can always be working to improve both our effort and the results that effort creates.
If you follow that approach using these tactics, there is no doubt that you will see a dramatic increase in business that directly corresponds to the effort you put into your small business marketing.
Now get to work. Go try something today!