On our quest to help 10,000 small businesses this year, we thought we would group together a list of all of the things working for our clients at the moment.
Some of these things you might already be doing and others might be things you could consider doing as part of your marketing strategy.
Produce Great Content
Whatever content you are producing for your business, always make sure it’s great content. Not only will your existing clients be viewing your blog posts, videos, etc, your future clients will also be looking at them, trying to work out if you are a good fit for their business.
When it comes to content marketing, make sure you have a blog on your website. This blog allows you to write industry-related content, as well as new products and services you have available. It’s also a great place to write instructional articles and how-to articles.
Probably one of the most over-looked marketing channels. To be honest, I can see why – it’s pretty daunting recording a video and putting it out there for everyone to see and criticise.
The important thing to do is just get started. I can guarantee that your videos won’t be great at first, but as you produce more, get better at lighting, editing, etc your videos will start to improve over time and your customers will love you for it.
What’s working for some of our businesses at the moment are:
– how-to videos
For example, we’re working with a local DIY store in Peterborough at the moment – they asked their customers what sort of “how-to” videos would be helpful. Simple things like hanging a shelf, laying a wooden floor, the best way to cut a hedge were the most popular suggestions.
Customers wanted to see behind the scenes of a business – they want to know who they are dealing with and what sort of person runs the business. (These are really popular).
Social Media Marketing
– online contests
Running online contests is a great way to engage with your clients and also allows you to collect vital email addresses for future promotions.
– participate in local hashtag communities
This is probably more relevant to Twitter – hashtag communities are threads run on certain days, at certain times, where everyone who wants to get involved tweets about a topic and includes that particular hashtag.
Again, very few small businesses are using infographics in their inbound marketing strategy. Infographics are graphics, visual representations of information you want to convey quickly and clearly. They’re great for marketing purposes since they are one of the most popular images shared on social media at the moment, especially on Facebook and Twitter.
They don’t work that well on Instagram since there’s probably too much intricate information that just can’t be seen on a small image in your feed. Also, your Instagram feed is designed to be read/viewed at speed. It’s not really designed for you to study an image for too long.
Still, the most popular type of way clients consumes information after they have visited your website. I don’t have the exact statistics on online and offline viewing at the moment, but clients liked the idea of saving a piece of content for later viewing.
If you have Microsoft Word, producing a PDF from a Word document is super easy and only takes a few seconds. This document can then be uploaded to your website or a separate server like Google Drive, Onedrive or Dropbox, where you can make it available for people to download.
One strategy used by large businesses and by very few small and medium businesses is email marketing.
Email marketing allows you to gather client emails to provide them with value by way of interesting articles, blog posts, videos, etc and also the ability to market to them.
This is done by giving away a lead magnet which is something of value in exchange for their email address. Ever purchased something from Amazon, Groupon, Living Social? No doubt you’ve seen the emails trying to offer you more goodies related to your original purchase. The reason they do this is for the simple fact that it works. If something works, rinse and repeat.
A bit advanced for most small businesses, but working really well for some of our clients. Granted, this is going to take a lot of time and effort to produce and the return on investment (ROI) isn’t always visible immediately once the courses are taken by your clients.
So, what’s the benefit of producing online courses? These courses are beneficial in many ways – they allow you to be seen as an expert in your field. When clients are in the fact-finding phase, your article or course will probably be one of the first things they come across. This also allows you to gather their email address if you make the course available after they have signed up.
An old classic of getting your name out there and building backlinks is blog commenting. Done correctly and strategically, you can get your business name or brand out there, whilst picking up traffic from industry-relevant blogs. The people reading the content you are commenting on are the exact same clients who would find information on your site useful.
When commenting, make sure you don’t get political, get into any arguments or be too controversial. The idea is to be as helpful as possible. A nice, detailed comment will impress the person who wrote the article and will make their readers curious as to who you are and what else you have to offer. This can be powerful stuff…
So, which website should you comment on? Head over to Buzzsumo.com and type in your industry-related keyword. This will then show you all of the articles, blog posts and pages that have written content on your keyword and that have been most shared online – these are the websites you need to comment on.
Don’t get me wrong, not every comment you submit will get posted and some may take a few months to be accepted. We’ve seen a really good piece of traffic coming from these sites using this technique.
Become a local maven
– Host an Event or Class
Depending on your niche, you might consider hosting an event or class in your local area to show potential clients what your business is about. This could be a series of “how-to’s” or instructional events teaching people something that could help them.
For example, we have a digital marketing company; I could teach basics in social media marketing, paid ads, inbound marketing, etc.
A plumber could teach plumbing basics, a restaurant could teach cooking classes, a clothing retailer could show what’s in season and which items you could wear with what.
Whatever your niche, your potential clients would love for you to host an event like this. It’s up to you whether you host this for free or charge. From my experience, you’re better off keeping it free and then charging for additional consultations.
So, why do this?
This places you as an expert in your field and allows you access to potential clients who may use your product or service in the future.
This could also be done online by setting up a Facebook Group – in this group, you teach what you know on a variety of different topics either by writing or producing a video.
– Apply Online for Business Awards
There are several places to register your business to be considered for an award. This is both good PR and credibility for your business. When clients see that you are either a finalist or are in the running for an award, this may be a deciding factor on whether they choose you or your competition.
– Press Releases
A press release is your way of broadcasting to the world something you’re working on, a new product/service or highlighting something exceptional you think the world needs to know.
You can either produce these yourself or get a professional to produce one.
So, why do these?
Instant exposure – The more you publicise your business, the more people will look to you as an expert in your field and choose you over the competition.
Increased leads and sales – With added exposure come more leads and sales. The more ‘visible’ you are, the greater chance there is of someone getting in touch.
Increased traffic to your website – Getting traffic other than paid ads is extremely hard. Press releases aren’t free, but marketed correctly can bring a flood of new traffic to your website.
– automate as many tasks as possible.
This can be done easily with social media. Scheduling and automating posts is the most popular of the automation tasks.
We have set up several telephone answering services for our clients. If they are either on a call or away from the office, the call is diverted to a call centre. This call-centre takes the call and then emails the enquiry to our client.
Setting up an email autoresponder that sends automated emails after someone has filled in a form on your website is a great way to automate in your business. You have the ability to write emails well in advance and then periodically send them out at intervals. You write these emails once and they are then sent automatically whenever someone fills out a form or purchases something from you online.
The number one traffic source, bar none, is still paid advertising. Paid ads are expensive and can cost you a lot of money if you get the strategy wrong. However, done correctly, paid ads give you the best ROI we have seen.
Here’s a selection of the different platform you could try….
Test different media
– Bing Ads
I have no idea which one of these platforms would work for you – that’s why it’s so important for you to test each one. One good tip is to go where your clients are.
Don’t know where they are?
Try asking them which platforms they are using at the moment.
Note: If you get the art of paid ads right, why not try a re-marketing campaign. This is a technique that places a cookie on your client’s internet browser that follows them around and shows your ad again on a different website. The conversions aren’t as good, but the pay-per-click cost goes down considerably.
Developing a customer referral program is one of the easiest of the tasks listed here. It involves using software like Zoho, Insightly or even Salesforce as customer relationship management software to:
- Take a look at your existing clients and see whether they have the ability to refer you to their friends, family or business associates?
- Take a look at previous clients – would they refer you?
- Business associates: Are you currently doing business with a business or brand that would refer your services?
- Offer incentives to past, present and future clients – by referring a friend they could receive money-off coupons, free products/services, etc.
If you don’t have CRM software, I recommend trialling a service first and then adding your client base to the system.
As mentioned previously, a customer relationship manager (CRM) is your number one marketing tool when it comes to referrals. It also allows you to keep track of your clients. It should detail what and when they purchased something as well as any communication you have had with them including phone, text or email. This puts you in a great position to get back in touch with this knowledge at hand.
– have a client call-back list
Have you done direct marketing (flyers, direct mail shots, telemarketing)? If so, you should have a nice list of potential leads for your business.
This list is available with other offers, upsells or future promotions.
– have a client follow-up list
From the call back list, which is known in the business as a ‘cold’ lead, you should have a list of warm leads. These leads have shown an initial interest and requested more information.
A CRM will allow you to handle these lists with ease, where all parts of your organisation have access and have the ability to add, delete or edit information on a particular lead or client.
So, what does ‘mobile first’ mean? It means designing your website with the intention of making sure everything looks right and is optimised well for mobiles. No matter what business you are in, the rate of clients visiting your website on their mobile has now surpassed desktops.
If more of your clients are viewing your website from a mobile device, it makes sense to concentrate your efforts on building and optimising for them. If you don’t, you’ll either lose a potential client or leave them frustrated.
– small nav bar (3 or 4 items)
My advice coming from feedback with our clients is to trim your navigation bar (normally at the top of your website). Having a navigation bar with several items is really hard to navigate around on a mobile. Having subfolders is absolutely fine, it’s only really the main menu items I’m talking about. If possible, reduce this down to 3 or 4 items.
Increasing the speed your pages and posts load at is vital. If your page is taking too long to load, a potential client will simply click away and have a look at your competition instead. There are several ways you can speed up your website. One of the main ones is reducing the file size of any images you are using…
– reduce the file size of images, videos
If you are using images on your website and you don’t have the software installed that reduces them as they are being uploaded, then I suggest using a tool like Resizeimage.net – The best free online image resizer and optimizer on the Web – simply upload your image, then crop, reduce and compress to make the overall file size smaller.
Joint Venture Partnerships
The last time you pulled into a petrol station, did you see a Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Subway sign? This is an example of a joint venture partnership. On a grand scale, of course (but you get the idea). There’s no reason why you can’t do the same with related businesses in your niche. As long as you’re not in direct competition with each other and your product or service is a good fit to be sold along theirs. Where possible, try to seek out these relationships – you can either rent space or give them a commission on each unit sold.
Study Your Competition
I recommend choosing one day out of the week (I like Mondays) to have a look at your competition. I’m not suggesting that you copy anything – it’s just nice to know:
- What new offers they have?
- Have they updated their website?
- Changed pricing?
- If they have introduced any new products or services?
I like taking a look on Mondays since most changes happen at the weekend. This isn’t a golden rule but, more often than not, this is the case.
If you have several competitors there’s no need to look at ALL of them on that day. Just pick a few and see if they’ve made any updates. The following week, choose some more to take a look at…
This keeps you on your toes and allows you to see which direction you could go and what improvements you could make.
Phew, this article wasn’t supposed to be this long (I do apologise). Believe it or not, I’ve only really touched the surface on these topics. If I went into any more detail, I’d be on my way to writing another book 🙂
The 10 small business tips I have listed are all working for the companies we are working with at the moment. They don’t mind us telling you since they support our quest to help 10,000 small businesses a year.
Don’t fear if you haven’t started doing any of these – go through them systematically in your own time and choose which ones are achievable. Anything you can’t do, you can outsource.
Here’s the list again:
- Have an inbound marketing strategy
- Become a local maven in your community
- Make public relations a vital part of your marketing mix
- Automate as many tasks as you can (especially social media marketing)
- Start using and optimising paid ads (experiment to see what works for your business)
- Set up a referral marketing system.
- Set up and manage your own CRM system. The ROI on this is infinite
- Improve your web design (more specifically, adopt a mobile-first strategy)
- Set up joint venture partnerships to increase the visibility of your brand
- Study the competition at least once a week