The Pragmatist’s Guide to Small Business Marketing
Need to Have v. Nice to Have
It seems like every time you blink there are new bells and whistles, social networks, tools, dashboards and technology available to “help” you market your business. As a small business owner, you’ve already got your hands full as you manage things, work your business development and sales leads, manage your staff if you have one, and then, oh yeah, mind the bottom line.
You can easily get buried in just keeping up with all of the latest marketing trends and tools. There’s simply not enough of you to spread around to stay on top of it all. So, how do you decide where to put your time and energy when it comes to staying on top of the marketing wave? You need to review what you NEED to have versus what is NICE to have…
Need to Have
So what are the “bare necessities” when it comes to marketing your small business? If you’re a small, local or regional business, many of the new marketing products, services and tools aren’t necessarily targeted for use by a business like yours. So look into that aspect of things to see if it’s something that is really more than what you need. Here are a few of the marketing tools that every small business should have…
- A bullet proof brand – Make sure your positioning, brand identity and website reflect well on your business and clearly communicate your value proposition and differentiator – and that they move your audience to a decision to use you. When it comes to your brand, D.I.Y. isn’t a good idea. Unless you’re a graphic designer, web developer or marketing professional, your brand will only look D.I.Y. While doing it yourself will save you some cash, consider how much it will cost you in terms of lost business because it looks cheap or slapped together. Consumers can spot that sort of thing.
- Business card – Make sure you’ve got a well designed business card that offers people all the info they need to contact you. Don’t ever make it hard for them to do that. Another thing, if you’ve invested in building a brand and have a website, set up an email with that url to go along with it. When people go to a website – maybe, abccompany.com – then get an email from email@example.com they won’t necessarily connect the dots, and that could cost you a piece of business. Not only that, but having a ‘vanity’ email address – i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org – is more professional.
- Networking – As a small business, one of the most important things you can do for your business is to get out there and be seen. I’ve worked with a lot of introverted people who start businesses, but aren’t fond of ‘pressing the flesh’ to raise awareness and create opportunities and connections. Online is great and you need to do that, but going to live networking events will make a huge difference for you. If you’re uncomfortable with crowds, think about doing a Dale Carnegie course, or just push yourself out of your comfort zone – the more you do it, the easier it gets.
- Email signature and voice mail – Like a great business card, make sure your email signature includes all of your phone numbers and your website url. Then, make sure you’ve recorded a personal greeting for all of your phones. If someone gets a computerized voice telling them they’ve reached a certain number and to leave a message, they might doubt they’ve dialed correctly. A couple other thoughts on this one – because you have a choice of a rainbow of colors and hundreds of fonts, you don’t need to use them all – select a clean, easy to read font and keep it in black; and on voice mail, don’t ever let your mailbox get so full it can’t accept new messages – that will get someone calling your competition faster than grease through a goose.
Nice to Have
When thinking about ‘nice-to-have’ marketing tools, always make sure that they’re appropriate for a business of your size. Then make sure that, if implemented, you’ll have the time and resources to manage and keep them up to date. Here are several nice to have marketing tools:
- Online, broadcast and print ads
- Vehicle wraps
- Direct mail
- Email newsletters or other blasts
- and many more
Of those listed above, the closest that I would say should go to the Need to Have list would be blogging. It’s what is winning the game these days when it comes to search optimization. Not only that, but it helps to position your website as a destination and you as an expert. That said, it does require time to produce a blog on a regular basis, so if you’re going to do it, you need to commit.
The bottom line is this – because something is new, doesn’t mean you need to have it. Do your homework on it to make sure it’s a tool or opportunity that fits your business and marketing goals, and that you’ll be able to execute well.