Getting your business to stand out from the competition can be challenging. Advertising your small business is one tactic that could give you a boost.
Maybe you're not sure about advertising, especially if you have plenty of customers now. Even if your business is doing well, it's important to think about the long term. What about tomorrow? Your business's future depends on having a pipeline of new business coming in.
Advertising is crucial, but where do you start? We've come up with some tips on how small business owners can use advertising effectively. We’ll give you an overview of how to:
- Make an advertising and marketing plan
- Choose the right advertising channels
- Build a strong online presence
- Devise digital advertising strategies
- Leverage physical advertising and direct mail
- Generate word of mouth advertising
Make a small business advertising and marketing plan
Successful marketing requires planning. This helps keep your advertising on schedule and within budget. There’s no single way to write a marketing plan, but you should start with these questions:
- What’s your target market? What are your target customers’ demographics and unique traits? How big is your target market?
- How do you set your business apart? Marketers call this your “competitive advantage.”
- What are your goals? Are you trying to increase sales by a certain percentage? Promote a brand-new product? Reach new customers?
- What’s your budget? How much do you have available to spend on marketing? How long can you sustain it?
Choose the right advertising channels
As a small business, you don’t have unlimited resources — so you have to choose your advertising channels wisely. Knowing your target market will help you make smart decisions.
To decide how to advertise your small business, begin by researching your competition. Where and how are they advertising?
You won't necessarily want to follow suit, but it's important to get a feel for how other local businesses like yours are finding their audiences.
Next, research your target audience. Where do they hang out? What social media channels do they follow? Do you know which publications they read? What are trends they’re interested in? That will give you valuable insight into how to reach them.
For instance, if you have a residential painting business, you might choose to advertise on a more visual channel like Instagram or a billboard to demonstrate your expertise rather than a newspaper (black and white print).
As you plan your advertising, make sure it’s legally compliant. It’s a good idea to carry general liability insurance, which can protect you from financial loss in case someone makes a claim of false advertising against you.
Build a strong online presence to advertise your small business
For most small businesses, having a good website is a must. It's the first place many prospective customers will go to learn about you.
If your website is poorly designed, badly written or doesn't contain enough information, it could turn people away.
Making a website isn’t hard these days. Website builders like Squarespace or Wix make launching a page simple. Besides easy-to-build websites, these services often also have built in marketing tools and even e-commerce functionality.
You’ll want to include the following information:
- Contact information. Include your phone number and email address.
- Services offered. Try to include high-quality images so customers know what they can expect.
- Background information. Have a photo of yourself and explain the story of your business.
- Customer testimonials. Testimonials build your credibility and speak to the quality of your work.
You can work with a search engine optimization (SEO) expert to get more customers through Google searches. They can help structure your content so that it'll appear more frequently when people search for your profession.
Third-party sites help advertise your small business
Many people find businesses through online business directories like Google Maps and Yelp, so make sure your small business is listed there.
Create a business page on these sites and provide any information that helps people find you and see what you do. This could include the business name, phone number, images, and what your business does.
For example, to gain more visibility on Google, you should create a verified Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) account. There are many types of information you can include in your profile. Creating a profile automatically adds it to Google Maps.
Similarly, you can create and claim a business profile on Yelp. Claiming and creating profiles on local listings helps your business get found through local searches.
Devise digital advertising strategies
With more than 60% of the global population using the internet, online marketing and advertising has become commonplace. And don’t worry; thanks to user-friendly tools, you don’t need to be a marketing guru to create effective marketing campaigns to reach local customers.
Consider display advertisements
If you've spent time online, you've definitely seen display ads. They're the text, images and videos that encourage you to take action — usually clicking thru to a website or other landing page.
Display advertising campaigns can run on advertising networks, such as Google ads, that allow you to target to whom your ads are shown. Many online ad campaigns charge on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis; that is, you'll only pay when your ad is clicked on.
This makes it a more cost-effective way to advertise your small business than traditional television or radio advertising.
Another benefit of display ads is remarketing — a way to target ads to an audience that has previously visited your website when they browse other places online. Remarketing is a way to remind potential customers — who’ve learned about your product or service — to make a purchase or contact you.
Use a social media marketing strategy
Social media accounts are important for the same reason as building a strong webpage. However, your small business doesn't need to be on every platform.
Stick to social media platforms that showcase your small business' value. For example, if you're a makeup artist, a visual platform with a younger audience, like Instagram or TikTok, could help you reach new clients.
Or, if you're an accountant trying to reach an older audience in your area, you might have better luck with a Facebook page or using LinkedIn.
These platforms also offer paid ads to boost your content and even target certain types of users. Consider offering discounts for people who follow your accounts.
Another great way to advertise your small business online is through affiliation. If you know of a blogger or influencer popular with your business' audience, you can offer your service or product to them in exchange for a review — or even pay them to recommend you (though they'll need to disclose this).
Create an email marketing strategy to advertise your small business
Set yourself apart with email marketing. It’s an excellent choice for small businesses that want to make a big impact.
But haphazardly sending out emails when inspiration strikes isn't the best way to communicate with your customers. Before you start, decide what types of messages to send and how often. Here are a few ideas.
- Welcome email. When someone signs up for your list, send them a welcome message with the offer you promised (i.e., discount, content download, email newsletter, etc.).
- Email newsletter. It can be tempting to start bombarding your email list with information about how wonderful you are. But that's likely to scare some subscribers away. Instead, share useful, educational content with your audience that provides valuable information and helps solve their problems. Decide on the frequency (e.g., once a week, twice a month, once a month) and stick with it.
- Product information and promotional email. That doesn't mean you should never talk about yourself. The trick is striking the right balance between educational and promotional emails. If you have a product or service that can help solve your customers' needs or a special offer they'd be interested in, share it.
And remember, you don't have to send the same message to everyone on your list. You can send different messages to different groups based on their needs. The more targeted your messages, the more likely they are to be opened.
Don’t neglect physical advertising and direct mail
Despite the power of the internet for digital marketing, physical advertising (or traditional advertising) is still very effective — especially if your target audience is older or doesn't spend much time online. Plus, physically advertising a small business is an effective way of building brand awareness in your local community.
This kind of local advertising could include banners, flyers, business cards, newspaper ads, posters and billboards.
The key is to use physical advertising where your target audience is most likely to see it.
For example, if you’re trying to reach new customers for your healthy meal kit business, you could leave flyers at the desk of your local gym. If you repair home appliances, consider printing magnets so customers can stick them on the fridge.
You can also create branded items, like adding your small business name and contact information to work vehicles and the clothes you wear to work. That makes you appear more professional and advertises the business to anyone passing by.
You can also get your business’s name into the world by attending or sponsoring local events. Or, if that sounds daunting, you can form partnerships with other businesses to band together and combine marketing efforts.
Word of mouth is essential
Many small businesses will tell you their most important form of advertising is word of mouth. If you build a reputation for quality, existing customers will tell their friends — and people are far more likely to trust a recommendation from someone they know.
You can do a lot to encourage word of mouth referrals. For example, you can offer incentives to your customers, like discounts on future services or products, if they bring their friends to your business or post about it on social media.
Even writing a thank you note is a nice (and low cost!) way to acknowledge someone who brings you some business.
Remember to ask satisfied customers to leave you a positive review on websites like Yelp or Google. These testimonials will speak volumes about your business to potential customers and is free advertising.
NEXT helps you grow your business
Whether a new business owner or a veteran entrepreneur, it's important to have the right kind of business insurance. At NEXT, we offer custom insurance packages that align with your journey.
We’re committed to making insurance easy. That’s why our application is online. You can get a quote, choose a policy and get your certificate of insurance in a process that could take less than 10 minutes.