If you’re anything like most of the small business owners I talk to, you probably don’t want to spend the farm on marketing.
You most likely want to spend a little bit of money on a specific marketing strategy, see if it works, and then scale once you know that there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing an ROI. AKA the smart way to do things.
Being rationally paranoid about deploying online marketing strategies as a small business owner is completely legitimate, especially if you’re someone who’s had the majority (or all) of their business success offline.
As a small business owner, marketing your business online can be both extremely overwhelming as well as something you don’t want to do. And this is why I’ve attempted to lay out a few of your digital marketing options in an extremely easy-to-understand way, hoping I can contribute to the process of you making an informed decision.
The truth is that there are multiple ways to make digital marketing work for your business.
And the best way to go about the entire digital marketing process would be to simply choose a couple methods, find case studies of other similar businesses who have had success using the methods you choose, get really good at them, and then once mastered, move on to another one.
Here are 7 of the most cost-effective marketing strategies you can use right now to grow your small business.
#1: Facebook Ads
FB ADS kill it when it comes to bringing in local leads for small businesses.
With the ability to target your ads specifically to people who may be interested in your product / service, FB ads are a great way to get your product / services in front of people that may want it.
Here’s an example of a FB ad we ran for a cookie company advertising cookie classes inside of their bakery. Creating an additional revenue stream for your business (such as some type of class inside of your unused space) is a fantastic way to not only advertise your business locally, collect testimonials, and have fun… but make more money as well.
The results of this campaign were capped because of the limited class space that we filled up. Meaning, they could have been a whole lot better if we had more class space available.
We spent $10 and made $720.
Results like these are extremely common when it comes to running FB ads under $100 for local businesses because of the power of local brand leverage. Especially when the targeting, image, and copy are all on point.
As you cans see from the results above, we spent $10.96 on FB ads and received 112 clicks from qualified, local customers.
Out of these 112 clicks, we received 16 local purchases (a 14% conversion rate) that amounted to over $720 in final sales.
$11 goes in… $720 goes out. THAT’S the power of FB ads.
Here is a solid beginner’s video on local FB ads that I am not affiliated with. He covers the basics nicely.
#2: Email Marketing
Email marketing is one of the best ways for local businesses to build loyalty with their current customers and increase their revenues by acquiring new ones.
It’s well known that it costs less to sell to a current customer than to acquire a new one, and email marketing is one of the best ways to not only sell to your current customers, but to deepen the relationship that you have with them.
Email Marketing Strengthens Customer Loyalty
Instead of people buying from you only because of the services you provide, you’ll now have them buying because they want to do business with your brand specifically. Customers love buying from businesses that show their humanity, and there are few more powerful ways to show your humanity than by sending personal, vulnerable, and connection-building emails to your customers.
Displaying to your customers that you’re not simply a business entity, but a group of humans with families, hobbies, and passions can open the door to unmatched brand loyalty.
How To Use Email Marketing For Your Small Business
There are two things you need to have in place to begin email marketing:
A way to collect emails and a reason for your customers to give you their email.
If your website doesn’t have an extremely clear and easy-to-use button for collecting customer emails, such as a popup, then an extremely valuable first move would be to install your own popup form or look into some type of web design service.
With this email-collection mechanism in place, you’ll be able to drive people from places like Facebook and Google to your website, where they will then be able to give you their beloved email address in exchange for something of value.
Choosing And Installing An Email Software Is Actually Easier Than It Sounds, I Promise
Once you’ve established some type of email-collection mechanism on your website, it’s time to choose an email software to use. A couple simple ones are Activecampaign, Aweber, Mailchimp and klavyio. Although installing an email software to use for your small business may seem like a lot of work, it is actually very simple when you do it through a WordPress plugin.
How To Collect Emails From Customers
One of the most effective ways to collect emails is by creating a lead magnet. A lead magnet, also known as “gated content”, is something of value that customers claim from you by giving you their email address in order to access the super cool thing that you are offering them.
A lead magnet could be offered in the form of some type of discount, free consultation, free appointment, or free physical product, but is most often used to simply give out free information in the form of an e-book, PDF, or other type of download.
Creating gated content that your customers love is a a great way to build your email list over time.
How To Create Gated Content: The Strategy Behind It
The key to gated content is creating something that your customers actually want. A lot of small business owners, when first getting into the email marketing game, fall into the trap of creating something that they themselves would want but that their target market wants nothing to do with.
With that in mind, the most important part of creating the gated content is doing some market research on what your current customers are responding to, and then writing copy to advertise your product in a way that reflects those targeted value propositions.
Meaning, if you own a sock business and your market research reveals to you that your customers have a burning desire to dry their wet socks quicker, then creating a small 3-page e-book solving their problem, and then titling it “How To Dry Your Socks Quicker Than Ever Before” would probably work great. Why? Because you’ve specified a real problem, created a solution, and then marketed that solution in an easy-to-understand way.
How To Create Gated Content: The Creation Of The Content
Creating gated content that’s juicier than your Grandma’s Turkey (during Thanksgiving, of course) comes down to a few simple things that I will go over right now.
Good gated content should:
- Speak Your Truth, Whether That’s Being An Expert Or Not – We both know it. The word “expert” has been watered down more than a slip-n-slide at your 5 year old’s birthday party. Some people believe proving you’re an expert is the only way to success. But, you can actually gain traction with your content by positioning yourself not as an expert, but as someone who’s in the mix with your customers, and is trying to “figure it out” just as they are.Why? Because when you claim you’re an “expert” you need data, science, and facts to back up what you’re saying. Or (incoming joke alert) you just need to spend a couple days writing a book. Because if you’ve written a book, then obviously you’re an expert. Hehe. Alternatively, when you position yourself not as an expert, but as a regular guy (or gal) who’s found success by testing and learning some things, all you need is life experience. And I’ve found that doing it this way this also makes you more relatable to your audience.
- Build Rapport – People prefer to buy from people they like and trust. So relating to your audience and showing them that you once faced their problems—but then learned some things and got to where you are now —is huge. Infusing humor into your writing also helps.
- Have High Perceived Value – Not only should your lead-magnet actually be highly valuable, but it should also come across as highly valuable. You could have the most amazing lead-magnet ever, but if your customers don’t know how amazing it is, then they won’t want it. Make them want it by writing copy that is clear and benefit-oriented and then over-deliver what you promised.4.
- Have A Super-Specific Solution – The more specific the lead-magnet, the better it will convert. Choose a super-specific problem and then solve the sh*t out of it with your lead magnet. The customer will think that because you solved one problem so well, you could probably solve their other problems too.5.
- Have Some Type Of Quick Win – It would be wise not to create a lead-magnet that has a solution like “work for a year and you’ll get what you want”. Instead, have some hard-hitting idea or action step that the customer can implement and see results from immediately.6.
- Have An Easy-To-Digest Format – This was something I learned the hard way. Instead of blowing your customer’s minds with an overwhelming amount of value, limit the amount of value that you give to a one or two specific things. In other words, keep it short, sweet, light, and to-the-point. Don’t hit them with 300 pages of dense text or a 75 page e-book. Give them a few simple ideas that will make them feel warm and fuzzy, and save the bigger value-bombs for blog posts or other platforms where people are in the mindset of consuming larger content.
- Have A Way To Be Delivered Instantly – Don’t you hate when someone promises you something, you get excited about it, and then they tell you it will be done in a month? Don’t do that to your customers. Give them something that they can read / watch right this very second. Because people love instant gratification!
What To Do After The Emails Are Collected
So, you’ve put in the work and have collected a couple emails. Now What?
The first thing I would do is create what are called “email sequences”, or automated emails that are sent out to your customers at certain time intervals (such as every 2 days).
Using email sequences can be a great way to outsource the majority of your lead generation by providing your customers with upfront value and then eventually, after building a relationship with them over the course of a 1-2 weeks, giving them some type of incentive to ask their friends / family to try out your services.
If you can ask for the referral after you’ve provided your customer some value, and then incentivise them with more value if they do give you a referral, you’ll find that your referral percentage will go up big time. All in a way that is completed automated and doesn’t need your day-to-day attention.
Shameless Plug: If you’re overwhelmed with the idea of installing email software, creating lead-magnets, writing the email copy, and installing the pre-written emails onto your email marketing platform, don’t worry. We’ll do it all for you with the type of tender love and care only previously seen by a mother bear to her cubs. Except it will be us deploying tender love and care on your business.
SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is essentially getting pages on your website to rank on the first page of Google, especially in the top 3 of the local map pack.
Google tailors the searches to where the searcher is searching from geographically, so hammering down your website’s SEO will help you dominate the area around where your business is located. For some quick and easy ways to optimize your website’s SEO, check out our How To Use SEO For Your Small Business post.
#4 Content Marketing
Content marketing in the form of writing articles targeted at specific keywords will help drive traffic to your business both online and offline when done correctly. It’s also a great way to boost engagement for your business and turn everyday customers into loyal fans.
We have a free guide (in exchange for your email address) on how to use content marketing for your small business here. Just wait a couple seconds for the email popup and then throw your email in and enjoy. Here are a couple more tips that will help your content marketing efforts:
Tip #1: Make your website Conversion-friendly
A lot of small business websites aren’t conversion friendly. Meaning, instead of giving their customers an extremely easy way for them to give them their email address or schedule an appointment, they have complex, overwhelming websites that don’t ask for an email at all.
Creating a website that is extremely user-friendly and low on the resistance scale will help convert the people that do come to your website in search of the content you’ve provided them with.
Tip #2: Understand your audience
Understanding your audience is a massive part of creating effective content for your customers. A lot of small business owners think that their customers want something on the surface when they actually want a desired result. One example of this is when someone comes in to buy a drill. Do they actually want a drill? Probably not. What they really want is a 1/4inch hole, and they think the best way to get that is by using a drill.
Metaphorically speaking, business owners that think the only way to give their customers a 1/4 inch hole is with a drill is a major “mental block” that a lot of small business owners face when not only creating content, but physical products as well. So instead of assuming they want a drill, it may be beneficial to go a little deeper and see what the desired result it they want. Which is sometimes easier said than done.
One great way to understand the current state of your audience is simply by asking them. Sending a quick and friendly message asking customers about their opinions on something could end up having leaps and bounds for your business. On top of this, you can also do competitor research and see what customers are saying about your competitor’s services and business methods, revealing deeper truths that may have gone unnoticed.
Tip #3: Promote Your Content
One mistake a lot of small business owners make is neglecing to promote their content. Although creating a long, helpful-to-the-customer and SEO-optimized article will drive traffic to your website if created correctly, promoting that content will fast-track the amount of time it will take for your content to gain leverage.
Some great ways to promote your content are through social media or to your email list. A quick “we published this thing and think it will help you” type post / email seems to do a great job in attracting the right people to your business content.
#5: Claiming Your Listings
A great way to advertise your business locally is to claim listing space on various directories.
Although there’s literally hundreds of directories you could be listed on, the most important of all is Google My Business, which we cover in our SEO post. Once you’re on GMB, you’ll also want to register your business on Facebook / social media platforms you’re using, Yelp, foursquare, Manta, Citysearch, and Angie’s List.
If that seems like too much work, you can head over to fiverr.com and have someone do it for you for $10-20 or less.
As mentioned before, the most important directory to be listed on is google my business. Besides being the most effective one for increasing your search rankings and putting you on the “map back” that shows up when people search for your services near them, you’ll also be able to engage with them in Google my business’ live messaging chat.
The live messaging chat will allow someone to find your business on Google and then send you a message instantly, giving you the chance to leave a positive impact and solidifying that person as a one-time, and possibly even lifetime customer.
#6: Review Generation
Social proof is one of the most powerful ways to drive more people into your business. Not only will social proof attract more people to your business, but it will also help you get found in Google as well.
One of the most important factors in ranking on Google locally is collecting reviews / testimonials and responding to them.
A lot of local business owners don’t know that simply responding to their reviews in a genuine and thoughtful way will boost their search rankings more than they may normally think.
The goal of Google is to provide it’s users with the best solution to their problem. So if a business has 500 positive reviews, and each one is being responded to in a friendly manner, then Google will believe that not only is the business a good solution for a potential customer, but that the business is also active and relevant, meaning they are actively maintaining their customer service tendencies instead of just making their online presence appear good and then leaving.
There are multiple ways to generate reviews, but one of the simplest ways is to ask your customers. If you’ve been keeping up with an Email marketing strategy, then one of the most effective ways to generate reviews is simply by sending out a “Leave us a review if you’d like” email while giving your customers an incentive to do so such a free gift, discount, or other type of benefit. Framing the email as “we’re doing this thing and would appreciate it if you participated” usually has a much better response rate than explicitly telling your customers to leave you a review.
As i’m sure you know, many people don’t like being told what to do, and will be turned off if the review strategy isn’t framed in a way that makes them feel like it’s their choice.
Turning Negative Reviews Into Positive Ones
If your business currently has some negative reviews, there’s no need to worry. Having negative reviews left on your business is actually a fantastic opportunity to learn, adjust, and come out on top with another 100+ positive reviews because of it.
The first thing to consider when receiving a negative review is determining if it’s accurate or not. Sometimes, people will either be confused, angry, or just plain wrong when leaving a negative review. If you’ve determined that the negative review is completely unfounded on any truth at all, then the best course of action would be to leave an empathetic comment mentioning that you understand their frustration, but are unsure what they are talking about and would like some more clarity, so you can resolve the problem and further the relationship on a positive note.
A lot of the time, the people won’t even come back to the review and complain any further, making your business look good because you’ve taken the time to genuinely understand the customer.
Alternatively, if the negative review is founded on a truthful experience, then it would be extremely beneficial to audit the systems in your business that contributed to a negative customer experience. Was it quality control, wait time, or the clarity-of-purchase process? What was it in your business that caused the customer to have a negative experience? And more importantly, was it a one-off thing that happened or do you currently have systems in place that are taking your customers by the hand and walking them directly to more problems?
Figuring out what went wrong and brainstorming solutions that can fix the problem can be huge in taking the perceived negative experience of getting a bad review and turning it into a positive opportunity to improve your customer experience and your business’ reputation.
#7: Grassroots Event Marketing (With Some Secret Sauce)
One great way to get your local business’ name into the community is by reaching out to local news sources and getting them to cover your business. Which is much easier said the done.
Why would a local news outlet cover your business?
Well, the first thing to understand is that news outlets are always actively looking for stories to cover. They want to increase their ratings and know they can do so by covering stuff that’s engaging, entertaining, and memorable. The best way to get a local news outlet to cover your business is by running some type of creative, philanthropic, for-the-community type event.
If you walk up to a local news outlet and say “cover my business”, chances are they won’t because it’s not entertaining and engaging. But, coming up with a way to get your business covered by framing your services inside of a fun, for-the-community type of event can be extremely beneficial.
Let’s say you own a cookie company. One great way to advertise your company is by using your bakery in your off-hours to host a philanthropic cookie decorating event. You pick a charity, set your bakery up with decorating supplies, and then approach a local news outlet saying:
“Hey local news outlet, my name is X and I am with X Cookie Company. We have partnered up with x charity and want to offer a free cookie decorating class for kids this holiday season. Our vision is to have a bunch of kids decorating cookies, eating cookies, and being happy. We’re going to be accepting donations for our charity of choice and would love some help expanding our reach for these classes”.
Instead of giving the local news outlet some selfish reason for covering your business, you’ve now created a movement / event that not only provides local kids with something to do and helps out a local charity, but also gives the news outlet a “different from the usual” story that will help their business as well.
So instead of feeling like you “suckered” the local outlet into helping you out… You’ve now helped a charity, kids, the news outlet, and your own business. That’s a lot of good!
The Truth is…
There are a lot of ways to market a small business successfully.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or simply would like some assistance either implementing or clarifying which marketing marketing strategies would work best for your business, feel free to get in contact with me here.
Looking forward to speaking with you!