It’s that time of the month again.
The month-end is right around the corner. And you can feel the dread coming on.
Once again, you need to settle the bills and ensure that everyone gets paid. But you don’t know where you’ll get the money. You’re hoping that a few last-minute sales will get you across the line.
It’s the ongoing struggle. It never stops!
Why is it so difficult to build up a little cushion of financial comfort?
You feel discouraged. Will this ever change?
Will you ever have more than enough clients?
Small business marketing is part of being an entrepreneur.
But running your small business has your hands full. And your budget is stretched as tight as a drum.
So what do you do? How do you attract more clients while running your business?
If those are your thoughts, you’re asking the right questions. And this guide will give you the answers.
You can make 2019 your business’ best year yet!
This guide on small business marketing has the potential to explode your business growth.
So, maximize your profit by following the strategy presented here. It won’t cost you an arm or a leg.
Neither will it consume your life.
Before we look at what you should do, let’s first consider what you shouldn’t do.
The Biggest Small Business Marketing Mistake
Shortly after the internet was a thing, internet marketers already had a bad name.
Internet marketers sold “exclusive products” that weren’t of a decent quality. And they did so at exorbitant prices.
Customers felt cheated after the sale. The experience left a bad taste in their mouths.
And these guys were selling all the time.
People get sick of selling very fast. You have to offer value to get and hold people’s attention in 2019.
So, why is this important? You’re not a scummy internet marketer. But there’s an important lesson here for everyone.
We live in an era where consumers are wary of BS and marketers peddling BS. If your products or services are not of the highest standard, then don’t bother reading further.
The rest of the post will be a waste of time for you.
Trying to market a sub-standard solution will be like swimming upstream.
You’ll work hard but never get ahead. You’ll get exhausted and miss out on business nirvana.
It’s better to spend your time coming up with something of genuine benefit that people are willing to buy.
Ask your target market what they need rather than trying to sell them what you think they need.
Also: If you only want to sell, sell, sell, then don’t read further.
Small business heroes offer massive value to their fellow human beings — they overdeliver. And they do this before they ever make a sale.
Okay, enough introduction and enough caution. Are you ready to start?
Cool. Let’s roll!
PART 1: Your Small Business Marketing Plan — Failing to Plan Is … Planning to Stay Poor!
Put the first things first. You need a small business marketing plan.
But don’t worry!
Your plan doesn’t need to compare to a doctorate thesis.
It needs to answer three simple questions:
- Who will you target?
- Where will you find them?
- And how will you serve them?
Then offer them what they want to buy. Ask for the sale. And business will take care of itself.
Let’s consider those three questions in more depth:
Who will you target?
It’s wise to define your ideal buyer at the onset of formulating a marketing plan.
And the best way to define your ideal buyer is by his/her interests.
Who are your interest-tribe?
For what are they searching? What are they reading/watching/doing?
This interest focus is better than a demographic focus.
I’ve been working with retail traders for many years. When I started, I defined my ideal buyers as:
- Young professional men,
- Who had an interest in derivative trading,
- Were married,
- Had some dependents,
- Was employed, and
- Felt stuck and frustrated.
But see, some of my best clients were:
- Older ladies,
- Who were single,
- Quite wealthy,
- Independent, and
- Had time and geographical freedom.
See the problem?
Both of these client types were traders. They were both interested in financial markets and derivatives trading. But they were from quite diverse demographic segments.
And there were other client types. They were all members of my trading interest-tribe.
Real-world tribes contain women and men, young and old. And so will your interest-tribe.
Don’t leave any potential business on the table by targeting a narrow demographic group. Target anyone interested in what you offer. Anyone interested in your topic.
Where will you find them?
Your clients are present online and offline. A smart small business owner will target them through both those channels.
The rest of this post will show you where to look for and find your ideal clients.
As you’ll see, Part 2 of this guide deals with online small business marketing. And part 3 (you guessed it!) deals with offline, local small business marketing.
By the end of this post, you’ll be able to answer, “Where will you find them?” with confidence.
How will you serve them?
This one’s important.
Seth Godin said it first: We live in an era of permission marketing. The days of interruption marketing are over.
You can no longer interrupt a broad cut of civilization with your marketing message. They’ll get annoyed fast! This approach will do more damage to your business than help it.
I don’t want car insurance ads to interrupt me while I’m watching YouTube. If I have an interest in car insurance, I’ll search, find, and give someone permission to market to me.
So forget television commercials. And also forget flyers at the traffic light.
You need to practice permission marketing. And the best way to do that?
Offer value. Serve people.
When you do, they’ll permit you to market to them. And then you’ll use that permission to tell the story of your excellent product/service.
It’s a small mental switch from interruption to permission marketing. But it makes a world of difference.
So, as you read this post, think about how you can serve your ideal buyer. You can create content they love to consume: blog posts, YouTube videos, photographs of beautiful scenery.
Or you can serve them in some other concrete way. I’ll share some examples later.
Other Smart Strategies to Round Out Your Small Business Marketing Plan
You now know the three main questions you’ll need to answer. Answer these well, and you’ll have a reliable small business marketing plan.
But there are some other small business marketing strategies to keep in mind. These add the finer detail to take your marketing plan from reliable to magnificent.
Keep Your “Enemies” Close
It’s now time to scope out the competition. I write quote-enemies above because your competitors aren’t precisely enemies. You can learn a lot from them.
Sometimes you can even network and collaborate with your enemies. You can also ask them for favors.
In our current world, there’s always a place in the market for one more quality player.
Still, you need to research your competitors.
They’re already making some money. And you can learn from their victories, and also their mistakes.
Get on Google and find people already ranking for what you’re selling. How do they come up in the Google results?
Look at their websites. What content do they publish?
Also, consider offline competitors. For instance, if you’re an optometrist, Google your competitors. But also visit their shops.
Try and gauge their involvement in the community. Where else are your competitors visible?
Remember: We All Love a Good Story!
One of the best marketing books I’ve read is Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller.
We all resonate with a good story. And some wise people say that we have the hero’s journey etched into our psyches.
So, think of your customer as a hero facing a challenge. Think of yourself as a guide with a solution.
Then communicate the two different climax scenarios your prospects face. How will your prospect’s story end if she works with you? And if she doesn’t?
Story structure makes your messaging clear and on point.
To sell more, you need to communicate well and get people to listen. Positioning your message in story form achieves both those goals.
Okay, now we’ve talked enough strategy and plan. Let’s get practical!
PART 2: How to Market Your Business Online — You Gotta LOVE Online Marketing in 2019!
While it is not fresh news, the following is something we need to remember:
We live in an era where we can connect with millions of people online, in mere seconds.
There’s no limit to where we can grow a great business. There is no ceiling. The right product aimed at the right audience can sell better today than at any time ever before.
So, online marketing should be one of your pillars. Maybe the main one! I commit the whole second part of this guide to online marketing for small business.
You cannot ignore the online marketing opportunities before you.
Throw All Your Business Cards Away
I mean that. Don’t interrupt people by handing them a piece of paper that they don’t need.
They have a smartphone, and Google, and the internet.
The 2019-version of your business card is a website.
You need a website!
People need to be able to find you online. And no, not your Facebook page or your Twitter account. If you want other people to take you seriously, get a website.
Below I’ll speak of three types of online marketing:
- Content Marketing,
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and
- Email Marketing.
These three together have the potential to make you millions of dollars. And all three are pretty much useless if you don’t have a website.
So get a website — today.
I recommend and use WordPress. Why? WordPress websites get more search engine traffic.
Look at this example provided by Ahrefs:
If the website building terms sound like Greek to you, put in the hours to learn.
Remember, while you’re acquiring knowledge, 90% of your competitors are out partying. Your time investment will pay significant future dividends.
Do you think that my advice to throw away your business cards is unwise? Okay. If you insist on giving people something in physical interactions, why not provide them with something useful?
Give them a branded pen or license disk holder. Be creative.
Help Your Best Buyers to Find You
You can summarize the whole world of online marketing in one word: Google.
Yes, granted, people will throw other words around.
But we all know those are the giraffes, buffalos, and antelope. Google is King Lion.
As mentioned earlier, we live in a world of permission marketing. The best thing that can happen to you in this world is if your prospects find you. Allowing customers to come to you is the opposite of interruption.
And that’s why Content Marketing and SEO are the most important forms of marketing in 2019.
Master these two, and you’ll have more power and freedom than you ever thought possible.
Get People to Adore You Before They Buy from You
We covered this already. You need to serve people, and you need to add value.
Your best solution is to produce useful content. Create information that answers prospects’ questions and solves their problems.
You can create articles, recipes, videos, graphics, or photographs. Help people. Give them what they seek.
We call this content marketing — marketing through content. And because you’re adding value, prospects then permit you to engage with them.
They do this by subscribing to your email list. More on that later.
For now, consider what kind of helpful content you can create. You need to cover relevant topics for your tribe.
I recommend you create written content that readers can find via search engines. Of course, you can supplement this with visual and video content.
You need to optimize your content for your readers. Get and keep them reading!
But you also need to optimize your content for search engines. We’ll talk about that in the next section.
Here’s some tips on how to impress and keep on impressing your ideal buyers:
- Create quality, fresh content.
- Be consistent in your content output.
- Be consistent in promoting your content to influencers in your niche. They’re not “enemies,” remember?
- Be a content marketer for the longer term. You won’t build a massive following overnight.
- Be prepared to work hard! Creating quality content is time-consuming.
To even consider content marketing, you need to be serious about your business. It takes a long-term commitment. So think it through before jumping in.
One fantastic free resource on content marketing is SmartBlogger. And Jon Morrow is an inspiration!
He has helped me more than any other mentor or coach. I recommended you study his work.
The Incredible Evolution of Search Engine Optimization
Ah, SEO. One of my favorite subjects. I’ve been meddling with it since 2003.
But SEO has come a long way. Every aspect of it has evolved. And today you have the most amazing tools to help you succeed.
The basics of SEO are straightforward:
- Get the technical stuff sorted. Ensure you have a fast website with a sitemap file for search engines. I use WordPress with Cloudflare DNS and WP Engine hosting for speed.
- Pick a list of keywords that you would like to rank for in the search engines. An example of one such keyword might be “lamb soup recipe.” Think about all the terms or phrases your tribe is typing into Google.
- Then research your list to find the most “profitable” versions of your keywords. Do people search “how to meditate” or “guided meditation” more often? Which keywords will you be able to rank for sooner?
- Create helpful, quality content aimed at solving searchers’ problems. And optimize the content for search engines. You want to rank in the first ten results on Google.
- Ask other people to link to your content. Find people already linking to content like yours. Send them an email to request a link to your content.
And then, wait with patience for Google to send you some traffic-love.
The above steps might sound daunting. But the good news is that there are tools to help you do each of these tasks: free tools and paid tools.
Research terms you don’t understand on Google. You’ll find dozens of helpful and free resources explaining every aspect.
If you want to take SEO seriously, invest in an Ahrefs subscription. But be warned: This is not affordable.
Ahrefs covers every aspect of SEO with fantastic functionality. And they offer an unmatched depth of data.
You can sign up for a $7 7-day trial. Then use the free trial to perform some starter research. This initial research might carry your efforts for a while.
When you start seeing results, you can then invest in a full subscription.
To squeeze the most out of a free trial, I recommend you watch many Ahrefs instructional videos first. You don’t want to waste time trying to figure out how the tools work during your brief trial.
But beware — you’ll likely sign up for the $99 per month option once you see the full power of Ahrefs.
2019’s Most Important Form of Communication
Email is old compared to other online communication technologies. But it’s still the best form of online communication.
It gets the best marketing results. And prospects prefer to receive marketing material via email.
How does email marketing work? Again, this is simple.
You already know how to build an online marketing base. You’ll serve people through valuable content, and get this content to rank well on Google.
That base means a flood of new visitors will arrive at your website every month. And they come free of any cost to you.
All that remains now is to convince as many of the visitors to sign up to your email list. That’s the crux of permission marketing — it’s where prospects permit you to market to them.
You need to perform the following steps to set up your site for email marketing:
- Register for an email database service to capture and host email addresses. I recommend using MailChimp until you have the money to explore other options. It’s free of charge for small email lists.
- Create a valuable resource that people download in exchange for their email addresses. Marketers call this a bribe to subscribe. Think of it as you offering further value to get permission to market.
- Set up a series of subscription forms on your website. You can place subscription forms at various spots on your site, or use a premium plug-in like Thrive Leads.
And voila! You’re an email marketer!
Your site now builds a list of emails of prospects who have given you marketing permission.
More Advanced Online Marketing Strategies
As your business grows, you can start considering more advanced online marketing strategies:
- Using social bookmarking tools such as Reddit. Being featured on the front page of Reddit can bring you thousands of new visitors. But it requires exceptional content and an element of luck.
- Creating helpful infographics can help you get in-pointing links from other domains. Other people post these with links back to you. This strategy is excellent for off-page SEO and will boost your rankings.
- Online advertising can help you drive thousands of visitors to well-converting offers. Paid traffic is near-instant. But you need to know how much money each click will make you, and therefore how much you can spend on each click.
There are many different opportunities for online ads once you have some money to invest:
- Affordable ad services like StumbleUpon — Traffic won’t be very targeted, but it won’t cost too much either. You can experiment with this before more expensive ad services.
- Facebook and other social media networks — These services are less affordable and they drive more social network traffic than website traffic. But they are very effective.
- Google Adwords — Google ads are the most expensive, but they will also yield the most targeted traffic.
You’ll know best when these more advanced strategies become viable options for you.
Remember that every dollar spent on ads has the potential to bring back many more dollars. So don’t be afraid to experiment when the time is right.
Other Online Marketing Tips for Small Business
These further tips deserve a mention:
- If you’re selling some form of a membership program, offer a free trial. A trial period has the potential to increase your sales many-fold. Knowing there’s a way out in case they’re disappointed helps prospects click the buy button.
- Offer a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee. It’s the online gold standard, and not doing this will make you look dodgy. Be confident in your products.
- Make regular use of discounts and coupons. Consumers love coupons and will find them hard to resist.
- Use affiliate marketing to increase sales and get exposure to the email subscribers of other entrepreneurs. Offer a 50% commission on all affiliate sales.
- When you have a new product offering, make use of a structured launch process. It helps generate buzz and will maximize interest and sales.
- Become an expert at small business marketing automation. Build email sequences that convert new subscribers to customers.
Next, we leave the virtual world behind for some old-school brick and mortar.
PART 3: Local Marketing Ideas — Talk the Online Talk, Walk the Offline Walk
The third part of this guide deals with the offline, local presence of your small business.
Local marketing might not be an appropriate channel for every small company. If you have an online-only business aimed at a global audience, you can ignore this section.
Also, different types of businesses will target different segments of the offline community.
Someone selling quality wooden toys will target parents with young children. A top-notch interior architect will target high-end residential homeowners.
Please use your judgment to determine how this part of the guide applies to your business.
The Importance of Marketing a Physical, Local Business Online
I can hear you say it:
“Hey! I thought we’ll now focus on offline, local marketing. Why are you still talking about online marketing?”
And I get it. After the sizeable second part of this guide, enough is enough, right?
We’ll get to specific offline, local tactics in a moment. Before we do, though, I need to show you something cool!
Google has a marketing feature aimed at local businesses. It’s called Google My Business.
And you should use it if you have a business with a real-world shop or office. As you can see above, the listing shows important information:
- A physical address,
- Opening hours,
- Contact details,
- Popular times, and
- Social media accounts.
And on the left, in the search results, you hope to see the business’ website right at the top.
All this information is useful to your prospects. And you need to ensure it comes up if someone Googles your business.
Please beware: Inaccurate information in your listing makes you look amateurish. It also frustrates your prospects.
To create a Google My Business listing, check out The Ultimate Guide to Google My Business on Hubspot.
How to Throw a Profitable Party
Not long ago, my wife and I attended a sleep seminar, offered by a high-end bedding supplier.
The host speaker was a doctor specializing in the treatment of sleep disorders. It was informative, and the snacks were superb.
I’m sure both the bedding supplier and the doctor received many new leads from that event.
So, plan events that are informative and enjoyable to your ideal customers. That will help you generate leads from targeted buyers.
It’s acceptable to invite people to an event that offers free value. More so than doing a random, uninvited pitch about your products.
See how the principle of permission marketing comes through once again? You offer something of value in exchange for marketing permission.
Use your creativity to come up with many marketing event ideas:
- Information sessions like the one described above.
- Gatherings to show your support of a worthy cause.
- Events that raise awareness of important community topics.
- Launches of new product ranges.
It’s essential to offer value over and above the topic of the evening or event. Offer quality wine, coffee, and snacks. Doing this will ensure everyone feels like their attendance is rewarded.
People tend to tell everyone about something they enjoyed. So word of mouth marketing can be an excellent spin-off of such an event.
Speaking of which…
How to Recruit an Army of Marketers
Imagine you could have a whole army running around town, marketing your business for you.
Well, you guessed it: You can.
Think of every customer as a recruit into your army. All you need to do to ensure they spread the word is to blow their socks off!
Make sure you treat everyone who visits you in the best way possible. Walk the extra mile through solving customers’ problems for them. Always be friendly and helpful.
We all know many people who do this. Think of a restaurant you return to every chance you get.
Have you ever told someone about that restaurant? Of course you have! That chef has successfully recruited you into their marketing army.
Overdelivering is an indirect form of marketing. But it combines well with two effective forms of direct marketing:
- Ask for referrals. If you’re overdelivering, people should already be doing this. But there is no harm in asking if you’re confident in your product or service.
- Ask for testimonials. Testimonials are marketing gold. We all look for them. And we all buy with more peace when we see the product/service satisfied other people.
Also, if you’re ever lucky enough to serve and please a celebrity, be sure to ask for an endorsement. One great endorsement can bring dozens of new clients.
Everybody Wants Happy Children
One great way to make an impression on prospects is to bring joy to their children. That’s why many small businesses sponsor little league teams.
Of course, it doesn’t need to be baseball. You can sponsor any school sports team.
If you sponsor such a team, be sure to be present at some of the games with a goodie pack for the young athletes.
Want another great idea? Wherever kids are present, you can hand out branded helium balloons. Can you imagine the kids’ delight?
Even the adults will have fun. And they’ll all take proper notice of you and your company.
Brainstorm other ways to make children happy in your local marketing endeavors. Happy children, happy future customers!
How Do I Advertise My Small Business Locally?
Here’s another example of how the online world meets the local, offline world.
The best way to advertise your small business locally is through targeted online advertising. You want to focus on Google Adwords, and specify that you are targeting searchers in your geographic area.
What do you do when you’re looking for a local company. You Google. And your prospects will do the same.
Print Advertising: Targeted Advertising in the Offline World
An ad in a paper or newspaper is easier to ignore than a television commercial. But if we’re strict, we could say this is a form of interruption marketing.
That’s not the case if you offer print advertising in a niche publication.
Take a bridal magazine, for example.
A bride reading a bridal magazine is (in a sense) permitting you to market your wedding cakes.
Better yet, if she sees your ad, she’ll feel like she found you. That’s the opposite of you interrupting her to tell her about your cakes.
Heck, she might even be buying the magazine to see all the ads. Who knows?
It goes without saying: If you have a local business that needs more leads, you need to do print advertising. And more so if you can find niche publications.
Don’t Be a Gorilla… Practice Guerilla Marketing!
Guerilla warfare is a form of war that’s opportunistic. Guerillas use smart tactics to achieve remarkable victories for an underdog army.
In the same way, you can use smart guerilla marketing tactics. It will enable you to achieve large results without spending much time or money.
Consider this example: There’s an open wall on the side of your office space. You create a moss graffiti to beautify the building while also drawing some attention to your business.
This is one small example that can bring awareness for years. For more info on guerilla marketing and some examples, watch this video:
The Minimalist Guide to Networking
Networking with other businesses in your area is an essential local marketing task.
And while networking can be very time-consuming, you don’t need to spend many hours. Just have a networking-mindset.
Whenever you meet another business owner, consider this:
- Are they a direct competitor of yours?
- If not, would it make sense to market their business to your clients? And vice versa?
Then go ahead and offer to give their clients a discount on your products or services. The other business owner will likely be willing to market you to their customers.
Then be willing to return the favor.
And that brings us to the end of part 3! Let’s answer one important question, and then close off.
What’s the Best Marketing Strategy for a Small Business?
Okay, so now it’s time to reflect.
And what better way to do so than to ask the question above — What’s the best of all the preceding strategies?
My recommendation would be to tackle Online Marketing first. And specifically, to focus on Content Marketing.
Content Marketing is great in that it offers a service. You’re answering your prospects’ questions and providing them with solutions to problems. You’re serving them.
Follow this up with clever SEO and well-thought-through email marketing.
Yes, I know. That’s three strategies. But they go hand in hand.
Together they give you the essence of permission marketing:
- Serve people.
- Be found.
- Get permission to communicate further, and to sell.
That’s the best marketing strategy for a small business in my opinion.
Having a Small Business Marketing Strategy Is Not Enough…
You have to act on your strategy.
You despise that feeling you get every month as month-end approaches. That anxiety always steals your joy.
And deep down, you know it will only go away if you start marketing better.
So, go through this guide again, and pick a couple of your favorite ideas. Give particular attention to the suggestions in the online marketing section.
Start working at them!
Like right now… Seize this moment.
You feel motivated now. But that feeling will fade if you allow time to pass.
Add some action to your motivation! Do something right now!
You know what? With better marketing, the future is bright!
You’ll finally be able to live with more freedom. You’ll be able to:
- get some help,
- travel more,
- spend more time with your family or friends,
- automate monotonous processes, and
- do things you’ve been neglecting.
You’ll have spare money to invest in small business marketing services. That will make everything more manageable and more powerful.
It will amplify your results.
Put your small business marketing before other busywork. And increase your level of freedom.
You’ve got this!