There’s no denying that starting a business is exciting, but with running a startup comes responsibility and often a shoestring budget. This is why we’ve selected eight simple but effective marketing tips that any small business can use to squeeze the juice out of their small marketing budget.
1. Analytics & Targeting
While we will be discussing ways to market on a shoestring budget, it’s important to remember that your time is money. While many of these activities are free or low-cost, you’ll want to make sure your efforts provide value for the time spent doing them. Marketing is all about understanding your audience. So before you start anything, you’re going to need data.
Analytics tools are a perfect way to help you understand your customer’s behaviours, including what content they consume and what drives clicks and engagement. Google Analytics is among the most popular platforms for monitoring analytics. It’s a freemium service, but you can break down most of your website’s key metrics completely free so anyone can get started. Popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, also provide their own analytics tools, which can be awesome if you’re looking into a specific social media platform’s performance. Analytics tools give you everything you need to start making informed decisions on how to approach your marketing communications. They can also significantly increase the success rate of your efforts. There are plenty of free tutorials online to help you get started, so what are you waiting for? Check ’em out.
Humans are visual creatures. We process images tens of thousands of times faster than text. In our fast-paced online environments, presenting an eye-catching brand design is crucial when trying to get your foot in the door. Visual communication is sometimes overlooked, but plays a critical role in modern marketing practices and shouldn’t be ignored.
Don’t have an artistically creative bone in your body? No idea where to start with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator? No worries! For small design jobs, you can always try reaching out to friends or family, or even educational institutions. Many studying or up-and-coming freelance graphic and web designers offer their services at an affordable cost and with reasonable flexibility. While it may not be as easy to measure compared to other investments, investing in a strong visual identity for your brand has a lot of potential to pay off its initial cost many times over.
3. Social Media
Which social networks do your customers use? Every business is unique with customers who have different needs and lifestyles. While social media might have varying success depending on your industry, understanding what platforms your audience uses is key in establishing an online presence. If you’re looking for a quick, low-cost and effective marketing tool to kickstart your visibility online, it might be worth investing in your social media game. We say ‘might’ because it can still work well in some industries but for others, like our own industry, it doesn’t have positive ROI any more. It’s become flooded with spend and is no longer effective.
Facebook and Twitter pages are staples of modern social media marketing. With people on average spending over an hour on social each day, social media has become a powerful one-stop shop for a lot of users seeking news, information and updates from the companies they do business with. Perhaps for this reason alone, it’s worthwhile to set up a Facebook page and Twitter profile for your company. Just don’t forget to include links for direct contact with your business. Facebook is a particularly effective platform to easily distribute your website content (such as blog posts) to reach a larger audience. Spreading your content via social media allows it to reach and engage audiences who might not ordinarily be exposed to it.
While you may not be able to afford a full ad campaign, if you have a tiny stash of marketing budget, you can also run targeted ads on Facebook. If you make good use of analytics and other information at your disposal, you can keep things as targeted as possible and get the best bang for your buck. As we stated earlier, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc. all provide their own analytics on their platform that track clicks, views, demographics and other relevant information. Making use of this data can help you formulate effective marketing strategies.
While also a form of social media, I think it isn’t at all in some respects. This is because such a large segment of the audience doesn’t engage in commenting, but instead just consumes the content. Thus, I have kept Video separate from Social Media.
Video is an incredibly powerful channel to take advantage of. Improvements to internet accessibility (such as wifi, 4g, and mobile technology) continue to bring high-quality video streaming to the palms of the mainstream majority. Not only is video content incredibly valuable, but it’s also some of the most shared content on the internet. A lot of people are visual learners and appreciate a good How-to video for learning. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video might be worth a million. Your videos can be as flash or as basic as you like, but if you haven’t already dived into the world of video streaming, now is the perfect time to have a think about it.
Youtube dominates this space, but one of the negatives is that it is increasingly difficult to get noticed now. It’s almost too late without huge sustained effort and spend promoting your Youtube channel. There’s simply huge amounts of content you’re competing against. The dollars you get for monetising your videos (getting paid for your content basis the views you get) is also much lower now than a few years ago. Youtube is milking it for commercial gain at the expense of their loyal content producers. They are also actively controlling video listings via their blackbox algorithms that have recently been seen to have commercial and political drivers behind them. Try alternatives like Vimeo and Dtube for you content where there are less videos but still good audience size. Be a big fish in these smaller ponds.
Assuming that you already have a company website, you can also set up a section dedicated to blogging. Maintaining a blog is a great way to communicate with your current and potential customers while improving your SEO. In-house blog content is absolutely free and gives you the freedom to express your opinions, knowledge and company philosophy. It’s a chance to be authentic and communicate in a longer form than social media. If you blog a few times per week about interesting and relevant topics, visitors to your site will see you as a trusted source of information and may be more likely to convert into paying customers.
Word of mouth marketing is a consistent and well-performing marketing technique. That’s why websites like Product Review and Yelp! are so popular. Ask some of your satisfied customers to review your product and spread the word! Product review websites are some of the most trusted sources on the web and are quite powerful at compelling or dissuading potential customers. You could also showcase testimonials or case studies which promote the benefits your product or service directly on your website.
A series of good or bad reviews could be the tipping point for a potential customer choosing your brand or a competitor. It’s obviously not the end of the world to get a negative review, but an honest review goes a long way.
One significant negative to watch out for in reviews is that competitors will actively post negative reviews, so unless you have the volumes of reviews high they will use this as a way to make you look bad. Saasu has been a victim of this in the past, unfortunately.
7. Referral Incentives
Your customers are your best salespeople! Much like word of mouth marketing, referral incentives are a valuable method to target those potential new customers. Chances are if you’re providing a fantastic product or service, your happy customers are already spreading the word of your wonderful business, however referral rewards are a great incentive to give things a little push. Consider offering a discount or business relevant free gift to your existing customer for referring a friend or relative to you. You could also offer the incentive to both the new and existing customer to make it even more appealing!
One of the biggest strengths of small business is the incomparable attention to individual customers that big businesses simply struggle to compete with. This is a huge strength. Happy customers are chatty customers. Give it a shot, you could be surprised how it pays off!
Send out customer emails using MailChimp or Campaign Monitor to let them know what you’re up to and encourage people to subscribe via your company website. Provide interesting content, such as tips and advice that your readers will find helpful. Don’t just sell to them. Gaining trust from your readers can be one of your strongest selling points.
Email can be a very competitive arena, so it’s important to constantly be in a state of improvement. A/B Testing is one of the most popular methods used to improve email content. AB Testing involves creating two variants of an email with a single variable. An example might be two identical emails but with different subject copy. It’s almost like pitting the emails against each other, survival of the fittest! The email with the more engaging subject copy should win. Review your results after each email campaign, and simply do more of what worked and scrap the bits people didn’t click. Keep in mind the larger the audience the more conclusive the results should be.
Another tip is to keep your emails targeted. Segment your email contacts and create crafted messages that have the best chance of resonating with your audience’s interests. It’s a great idea to make your emails personal wherever possible. People are more likely to engage with emails that appear tailored to them and not simply automated spam to ignore.
The last tip (but definitely not the least important!) for email is to create an enticing call to action or CTA. No clicks means no sales, simple as that. As the human attention span shrinks by the decade and generation, creating visually striking CTAs can be the difference between a sale and a bail. Make sure yours are on point.
Image by Nikolay Tarashchenko