The field of marketing has rapidly become one of the most complex disciplines facing small business owners. In the past, the options were limited and the choices relatively obvious. In many cases, they involved business cards, brochures, print advertisements and Yellow Pages listings. Today, the options for how to market your business have exploded to cover an ever-expanding range of both digital and non-digital possibilities.
With that in mind, it can become overwhelming to choose the right marketing opportunities for your small business. Here are five options that don’t involve a large investment of money (they may involve time, though) and which can be easily incorporated with your existing efforts today:
1. Create a blog.
A blog is a section of your website that is dedicated to magazine-style articles which delve into a topic of interest to your target audience. For a consumer business such as a retail store, these articles might focus on personal interests or practical considerations for your audience. For example, an antiques store might publish articles on how to evaluate antiques, how to organize a great antiquing trip itinerary, and how to understand the different kinds of antique store specialties.
For a business-to-business entrepreneur, the focus might be more technical and oriented toward your industry. For example, if you run a trucking and warehousing company you might publish articles about the different kinds of logistics strategies; how to select the right carrier for your loading, delivery and frequency requirements; and best practices in packing products to minimize the risk of in-transit damage. The point is to engage your target audience by educating them with content that educates and inspires.
2. Publish a newsletter.
A great companion to your blog is a newsletter, which can benefit from being produced in both email and print formats. A newsletter can bring together different kinds of content to reflect the range of priorities and interests important to your customers.
An email version might feature a combination of recent blog articles plus company news, special offers and customer stories that highlight your products or solutions. The print version can be distributed in the store or at the office, as well as at company events. This further encourages customers and partners to also provide contact information to you so that they can stay informed as well.
3. Share short-format videos.
Thanks to the increasing advancement of social media platforms and mobile apps, short-format video is now extremely easy to produce and distribute at a reasonably high level of quality. The goal is not to replicate broadcast studio-quality production, but rather to present a level of quality that is both clean and professional, but also simple to produce and easy to digest.
Typically, short-format videos can be anywhere between 60 seconds and fifteen minutes in length, and can be easily distributed using recently released social media features such as Facebook Live, LinkedIn Video and Twitter Live. In addition, you can save a recording of these videos and publish to the web, then distribute via your email newsletter as well.
4. Engage with imagery.
Photography is rapidly becoming the hidden gem of marketing. In short, humans are visual machines, whether we realize it or not. Even digesting text is a visual experience (when we read, we don’t actually look at each letter or word — we unconsciously scan the image and assemble the phrases in our minds).
Visual content also reduces the risk of overwhelming your readers by delivering multiple content formats to engage them. You can start by creating quote graphics and sharing them on social media, but a further step might be to create a photo album on Facebook, setting up boards on Pinterest, or becoming a regular contributor to Instagram (the most rapidly growing major social network today).
5. Promote partnerships.
Partnerships allow small businesses to produce large footprints in the world, especially when it comes to marketing. Building partnerships allows you to leverage the voices, knowledge and ideas of others to expand your own marketing reach. Ask partners to contribute guest blog articles or answer a Q&A that you can publish. Feature their news alongside your own in your next newsletter.
Interview them online using BeLive or other tools that allow for easy streaming of video content. Host workshops and Lunch & Learns that your partners present at. Request photos from their business to share with customers of yours and then create a joint offer or special discount to encourage repeat business.
All five of these opportunities involve time more than money — but even then, a little commitment can go a long way. You’ve already got great ideas, so write them down to create a blog article. You have an audience, so publish a newsletter. You have lots to say, so record it in a video. You have a visual story to tell, so take and share pictures. And you have partners and fellow entrepreneurs alongside you on the journey, so combine forces to reach more people. These five concepts can give you great opportunities to move your small business marketing to the next level today.