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If you’re not sure where to start with your business advertising, or you’re stuck for inspiration, this expert guide to small business marketing offers some ideas on how to grow your business and get noticed by your customers.
Whatever your profession, you no doubt went self-employed because you’re good at what you do – not because you necessarily love marketing, bookkeeping, or paperwork. While there are obvious benefits to being your own boss, it also means you’re responsible for all of those things by default.
Read on for how to advertise your business with tips from experts in the industry and creative inspiration to help you get started.
Here are the top seven ways to promote your business, according to our in-house experts at Simply Business:
There’s no ‘best way’ to advertise your business. Of course there’s best practice, but there are different approaches depending on the type of business you run. We hope these tips will help get you started.
When it comes to social media small business marketing, there’s a whole host of platforms to choose from depending on your audience.
From Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and TikTok, social media is a way to communicate directly with your customers, potential consumers, and industry in a relaxed and conversational way.
Using social media in the right way will help increase awareness of your business which can ultimately lead to an increase in sales. Danni, Social Media Manager at Simply Business, shares her tips for getting it right:
Read more on how social media can help your business grow. And once you’ve decided on the platforms you want to try, read these in-depth guides to get started:
Email marketing and newsletters help you keep in touch with your customers. They allow you to send advertisements, updates, sales messages, and important information about your services or products.
Here are just a few reasons to give it a go:
Personalisation – send personalised, relevant messages to customers at exactly the right time. You could, in theory, completely tailor the experience to each customer, depending on how much data you have access to.
Cost-effective – deliver messages straight to people who are interested in your brand. There are lots of free or low-cost platforms available and, once you’ve set up a few email templates, you can send as many as you like.
Instant tracking – most email marketing tools let you see how many people have opened or clicked on your email within seconds of sending.
You’ll need a few things to get started:
Bigger companies like ASOS and Uber do emails really well, if you want a standard to aim towards. They use data and website/app behaviour to create perfectly tailored email messages.
But smaller companies can be just as effective.
Kayleigh, eCRM Marketing Manager at Simply Business, says: “The best thing to do is to sign up to emails from a range of companies, including some in a similar field to you, and see what lands in your inbox. You’ll start to get a feel for what they send and how often, and you can use that as a starting point.”
Your business website is how lots of people are going to find out about your business and what you offer. But it’s important that it’s optimised so that it shows up in search engines.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) involves optimising your website to get lots of visitors from search engines (like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo). SEO can be confusing at first, but there are lots of SEO tools out there that can help you get to grips with it and really make the most of the boost it can bring your business.
Pages and pages of results can show for a search query, but most people will only look at that first page of results. Not only that, the highest position at the top of page one (known as position one), will drive the most clicks and traffic. Your goal is to be position one.
Jerry, Head of SEO & Partnership Marketing, shares his tips on how to optimise your website.
Keywords – Keywords are, like the name suggests, the key words or phrases to include on your page. The right keywords help drive traffic to your website. Use online tools, like keywordtool.io, to find out which ones you want to target. You can also carry out keyword research by asking customers what they’re searching, or searching yourself to see what people are asking.
Write useful content – create content around your keywords. Start with written content and add images. If you have more budget, add video or rich media. Content has to be unique – you can’t copy and paste information – search engines don’t like plagiarism. We'll go into this more in the content marketing section below.
Make sure you consider these top tips for your business website:
Jerry explains: “Search engines are a huge feature of our day-to-day lives, with people using them to answer all sorts of queries. If you want to know whether to watch a particular film, search engines help you find reviews in an instant. Your potential customers are doing the same when looking for products or services.”
“With no direct costs associated with SEO, it’s ‘free’ marketing. The cost is the time and effort you put into developing an SEO strategy”, he added.
Another part of SEO happens away from your website, for example backlinks (when another website links to yours). You could get backlinks by:
If you need to outsource your SEO, read our guide to finding the right SEO agency for your small business.
Content marketing involves creating engaging content to help answer a reader’s question or problem. This content can come in various forms, including blog posts, podcasts, and videos.
Content marketing is closely tied to many other areas described in this guide. It’s helpful to think of email, SEO, and social media as channels you use to get your content in front of readers (and listeners and viewers).
Blogging regularly is the easiest and cheapest way to get into content marketing.
Come up with a schedule for regular posts. Before posting, make sure you get someone else to read your article first. Typos, errors, and badly researched pieces can damage your reputation.
Decide what to write about. Finding good topics to write on may seem daunting at first, but it can be done with a little practice. Scott Chow from The Blog Starter advises using tools like Google Trends and Keyword Planner for ideas on what to write about. The ‘Related Search’ section on Google search results is another fantastic resource to find good topics for your blog.
Sam, Copywriter at Simply Business, said: “Considering the benefit to you is the wrong way to think about content marketing. You should think about the benefit to your customers (and potential customers).”
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
Not confident about writing? Reading lots is the best way to improve your way with words. Copyblogger has lots of great tips on content marketing, focusing on making your words work for you. And Oberlo’s blog about entrepreneurship is great for inspiration.
Read more on how to start a blog from expert blogger Ryan Robinson.
Reviews are an important part of your business’s online marketing as customers can rate your service or product. Using an online review platform like Google, Facebook, Trustpilot, or TripAdvisor also lets potential customers know what your existing customers think of your business, whether it's positive, negative, or neutral.
Saniya, Brand Community Manager at Simply Business, says: “Often people will research your business before making a decision on whether to buy your products or services. Positive reviews can help encourage your potential customers to choose your business over your competitors.”
Reviews from others who have already been there give clients faith that your business is trustworthy and isn’t trying to hide anything. That’s why it’s important to embrace negative as well as positive feedback. Read more in our article on how to respond to online reviews of your small business.
It’s usually fairly simple – and often costs nothing – to set up an account on a customer review platform.
Here are some of the most popular platforms and information on how to join them:
It’s important to note that some review platforms will be more suitable for your business than others, depending on your industry.
Having a network can provide multiple opportunities — your community can support you in troubled times, help your business grow (via word of mouth), and you can use it to bounce ideas off.
A solid network can even help reduce costs by helping you find a good deal, or hunt down a piece of equipment that you might need. Crucially, it can help you understand your marketplace in more detail.
Peter, Development Manager at Simply Business, shared his tips:
Remember to talk to as many people as you can at events — you’re there to start building relationships that could be crucial for the development of your business.
And groups like our Women in Business Facebook community group can be a great space to talk, share ideas, and get tips.
Printed marketing materials have been around a lot longer than most of the options listed above. They include everything from flyers, business cards, and pens to water bottles, stickers, and hoodies.
Before you decide which printed marketing materials to spend money on, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions:
Ellie, Graphic Designer at Simply Business, said: “Relating your printed marketing items to your core product or service means you’re more likely to stick in people’s minds. For example, if you sell bottled drinks, you could market using branded bottle openers. Or, if you repair electrical goods, you could distribute fridge magnets among your customers.”
The first step is to be creative with your design so your business will be remembered. Then do your research to find local print suppliers – not only is this likely to save you money, you’ll also be supporting other local small businesses.
It may also be easier to build a great working relationship with your print provider, which means you’ll be more likely to get tailored service from them. It’ll also make life easier when you want to see sample prints and make tweaks to the design.
If finding a good quality, local printer isn’t an option for you, Moo is a good example of a high-quality online print marketing provider, offering great service and a variety of finishes to help you nail the right style and tone for your business. You can give them a go by ordering a free sample pack of their range of paper weights and print finishes.
Something to bear in mind is that effective marketing doesn’t need to cost lots of money. In fact, most of these forms of marketing can be done for free.
The digital world in particular has lots of ways to start advertising for free. Making the most of social media, blogging, word-of-mouth marketing, and customer reviews is about finding different ways to connect with your customers, making their experience positive.
And while SEO tools can be expensive, many come with free trials that can help you establish (and improve) your website’s ranking:
As you become more familiar with the different forms of marketing and the most useful tools for your business, it could be worth investing money into your marketing.
Local advertising is one of the most important marketing strategies for a small business.
An important step is to make sure your business is visible.
First you’ll want to create a Google Business Profile. It’s free and lets you create a business listing, helping you appear in Google search and Google Maps.
When considering where to advertise your business, think about where your (potential) customers are and the area you operate in. For example, can you put a pavement sign outside your shop? Or perhaps a flyer in a neighbouring café?
You can then consider things like loyalty schemes and targeted advertising (based on location). Our guide to increasing footfall has more tips like this.
You could also write a press release to share something newsworthy about your business and encourage local journalists to write about you. The best part? It’s free advertising for what you do.
Advertising ideas for small business retailers, trades, and services can be hard to think of at first. Looking at what other businesses are doing is one way to get unstuck and find your creativity:
We’ve covered a range of traditional and digital marketing small business approaches, but for more ideas here’s a guide to the latest trends.
Do you want to know anything else about small business advertising? Let us know in the comments.
Lucy McNeill, Sam Bromley and Lauren Hellicar
We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer
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