So you're taking the leap and starting a small business. Good for you! Many adventures await you... but there are no few challenges in the offing, too. One of the biggest small business challenges is competition. No one may love your profession like you do, but chances are, you aren't the first person to start a business in your field. There may be other companies around that are bigger and have more experience than you. How are you going to convince your target audience to choose your business over your competitors?
The answer is: good marketing.
Some small business owners balk at the very concept of marketing. In a world where we're constantly bombarded with ads, it's inevitable that many of us will develop a negative attitude toward them. But advertising your business doesn't have to mean being obnoxious and intrusive or begging people to give you their money. It means making potential customers aware of what you have to offer them. You can make their lives easier, more convenient, better or more beautiful with your service or product. All you are doing when you advertise is inviting them to consider accepting the value you can provide.
In this post, we'll discuss how to market a small business affordably and effectively.
Points to Consider
Before you start, make sure to think about the following:
- Budget: How much of your budget can you use for marketing? It should be enough for high-quality advertising that will bring in new clients, but not so much that you can't afford it.
- Quantity vs. quality leads: Remember that it's not about reaching as many people as possible; it's about reaching as many people in your target audience as possible. Which leads us to the next point:
- Target audience: Who is most likely to want or need your service or product? Which of your services or products are best suited to those people? The more specific you are, the more you can hone in on the most effective marketing campaign. For example, "middle-class, working moms aged 20-30 with one or more children aged 5 and younger" versus simply "women."
- Readiness to grow: Is your business capable of taking on an influx of new clients now? Do you have the resources and staff available to take on more work?
How to Advertise a Small Business
There are many ways to advertise a small business - and you can't know ahead of time which of them will work best. There's no magic formula. Some things that have worked wonders for other businesses like yours may not work for you at all, while others may surprise you with their effectiveness. While there is a lot of chance involved, knowing your target audience and doing your research will help you make better decisions and hone in on the best way to advertise your business.
To decide how to market 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 frequent? What publications do they read? Finding out where your audience congregates and shares information gives you some valuable insight into how best to reach out to them.
Below are 3 categories of small business advertising ideas you may want to consider - but it's unwise to try all of them at once. Decide where to advertise your business and how to invest your marketing budget according to the information you gathered while researching your competitors and audience. Choose the forms of advertising most likely to reach your potential customers.
Print Advertising for a Small Business
Print advertising has gone somewhat out of fashion these days, but it's still important to consider, especially if your target audience is older or doesn't spend a lot of time online. This kind of advertising might include:
- Business cards
- Ads in newspapers or magazines
Distribute or display them in places where your target audience is most likely to see them. For example, if your target audience is young moms, see if you can leave some business cards at the desk of a local daycare, or hang some posters near the playground.
Online Advertising for Small Businesses
For most businesses, having a good website is a must. It's the first place most potential clients will go to learn more about you and see if you're a good fit. If your website is poorly designed or badly written, or doesn't contain enough clear information, that might turn people away.
Having social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) is important for the same reason, but you don't need to have an account on each of those platforms. Stick to the one or two you're most comfortable with - preferably ones that are suitable for showcasing your value. For example, if you're a makeup artist, hairstylist, caterer or cake decorator, your business has a strong visual component. That makes Instagram a good platform for you. As always, though, you need to consider where your target audience tends to hang out online. You can also try paid advertising on social media or other websites.
Another great way to advertise online is through affiliation. If you know of a blogger or social media influencer who is popular with your audience, you can offer your service or product to them for free in exchange for a review - or pay them to recommend you.
Word of Mouth
This is the most important form of advertising for most small businesses. Make sure that most of your customers have a great experience with you. If you build a reputation of offering high-quality and trustworthy service, customers will recommend you to their friends.
You can even facilitate this process by offering incentives to return customers for bringing their friends. For example, you can give them a discount on future services or products if they refer someone to you.
Get Ready to Grow Your Small business
When you've got a solid marketing campaign in place, your business is probably going to grow. Don't forget that it's important to keep providing the high-quality service your customers have come to expect from you. Make sure you have everything you need to serve new customers and adjust to the bigger workload.
One important way to reduce risks while growing your business is having good business insurance. Insurance gives you the peace of mind you need to keep serving your customers and honing your craft without worrying about things that might go wrong. For more information about how insurance can protect your business and help it grow, check out our Business Insurance page.