It’s the 21st century, but there are some things that haven’t changed about marketing – most of all, marketing is still about building meaningful relationships – we just tend to go about it a little differently in the cyber age.
Of course, just because everyone is on Facebook and the internet these days, it doesn’t mean that you should throw all your money at the internet – don’t forget about traditional marketing (and older internet marketing techniques, like e-mail marketing).
Above all, as a small business, you need to understand what works for your market and your customers, and if you don’t, test these different marketing vehicles out on a rotating basis and see what gets the best response. Unless you’re an analytical wizard, take these results as relative and with a grain of salt, though, because if you try Facebook during your busy season, of course it’s going to seem more profitable and worthwhile than when you tried out Twitter during your low season.
Get Outside The Box
If you do direct mail and find that it isn’t producing the results that you were hoping for – do something different, something eye catching – maybe even something personalized, depending on how small your target audience is.
A postcard, a sticker, a unique discount offer, a sample – something that will call attention to your company and what you do. You don’t want the offer to feel like “another piece of junk mail” just to be discarded without a second thought, but offer something that presents itself as genuinely engaging, and not snail-mail spam.
This comes in when you’d like some advertising with a relevant business or publication – but don’t necessarily have the budget. If you are both local businesses, or if you know that you both have limited budgets, you have the option to barter goods or services in exchange for a lower rate (or free!) advertising on that particular publication.
Big businesses don’t usually have the ability to offer that option, unless it’s in the form of a giveaway or sweepstakes, simply because advertisers know that they have the budget for advertising and are adverse to give any kind of discount.
As a smaller business, though, bartering is definitely an option that is open to you, and because the goods or services that you’re offering are probably both more unique and potentially longer lasting, take advantage of the opportunity to build a relationship with the other business, however you can. You never know when you may want to have that relationship to go back to.
While you may say, “I don’t have that many customers, what’s the use of having a Facebook or a Twitter account?” Well, the weakness you percieve is actually your strength. You have a smaller customer base – which means that your company can use Facebook and Twitter and every other social media platform out there the way that it was meant to be used – as a community builder!
You have the ability to really involve your customers in your business process – get their feedback on whatever you might be kicking around over the water cooler, whether it’s a new product line, or changing your logo. You have a test pool of subject to query – “hey, do you like this new product idea?”.
The value have that kind of feedback – and feedback that is relatively immediate – is priceless, and is often something that gets lost in translation when bigger brands start using social media – oftentimes, the customer falls behind and becomes a secondary concern.
Keep Your Image Constant
This may be difficult to do sometimes for smaller businesses, but you really want to keep your image constant – from your Twitter and Facebook icons matching up with your company logo, to having a consistent design and feel throughout your website, to even the atmosphere of your office and the logo mat that your customer sees when they open the door.
As much as you can with a small business, you’re going to want to keep your image the same across the board. Especially because you are a small business, you don’t want to confuse your customers on the few channels that you advertise on and are engaged in! Build brand recognition in ways that you can.
Don’t keep old logos on your business cards because you don’t want to print out more. Don’t use colors completely outside your color scheme in advertising (unless it’s a deliberate marketing tactic and not just an “oh, that looks cool that way”). Don’t change your company name and not buy the new domain, or secure the new Twitter account.
As a small business owner and someone who works closely with many small businesses, Jackie Ryan thinks that old is just as important as new – from logo floor mats to social media. She hopes that all small business owner find ways to succeed and flourish in whatever industry that they love.