The first step to marketing a small business would be to create a Corporate Identity (CI) for the business. This step has a cost implication but like most things in businesses it will pay off at the end of the day.
My advice, don’t go too big.
This step should come immediately after the registration of your business. A CI makes your business look professional and that in turn makes you more trustworthy to investors, potential employees and customers. You need to design a logo (this will be what the public will identify you with), letterhead and business cards. Please remember not to give yourself a big title like “CEO” on the business cards if you just started your business. You will be a CEO when the time is right. Business Manager or Manager will do for now.
Simplicity works in such cases.
The next step would be building a website, an attractive website that follows your CI makes your business look professional. The real benefits of having a website will depend on the functionality and ability the website has in helping you acquire customers for your business. If your website is outdated, then you are good as a company that doesn’t have a website. Your website needs to be constantly updated. If you need to change one line, then change it. If you cannot afford a professional website, you could use the many free website builders on the internet like WordPress, WIX or IM Creator. These sites allow you to create a simple website using their free templates.
Have you ever received an email from a marketing campaign that uses a free email host like gmail, yahoo, etc? I hope not.
Using such email addresses is acceptable for personal email but not for business. To be taken serious you will need to register a domain. Registration of a domain will cost less than R80 a month, which is not much to pay to build your CI. When registering your email address always have an email@example.com email address for more information requests. Make sure you monitor this address.
Step three is all about being found on search engines. Your website will be of little use if no one can find it on search engines. To get good coverage on search engines, you will need to work on your website continuously, if you own a hair salon in Soweto and someone is searching for a haircut in Soweto, your business should be one of the top results on the search engine. For your website to rank highly on search engines you will have to update your site frequently with keyword rich content. Having social media accounts and relevant content being posted on those accounts will help you rank higher on search engines. The main social media platforms are Facebook and Twitter.
Do not create social media accounts to gain ranking if you will not use the platforms for this will negatively affect you ranking. Social media in its totality can provide a lot of benefits but it’s something that has to be worked in on a daily basis. To maximize the benefits of social media, you need to leverage or build your own community. Follow relevant people and organisations. Follow thought leaders, know what’s happening in your field and provide input on those topics. Be seen as a thought leader yourself.
Another way to be seen as a thought leader is to blog. Blogging is an excellent marketing tool for businesses. It takes time to establish your blog but the results are well worth the effort. To get most out of your blog, you will need to write quality content about your products and trends in the industry. This will build more confidence in your clients knowing that you are well versed with trends and search engines will start viewing your website as a reputable source for content and therefore rank you higher.
Once you website is built create a mailing from the visitors. Are you on those mailing lists? Yes you are, remember visiting a website where they ask for your email address?
That is how you create a mailing list. Once you have collected those email addresses you can start sharing content with them. People will read your mails, the more they see your organisation’s name and that in turn helps them remember you. Many small businesses fail to leverage their website to build an email list. An email sign-up form on your website can produce great results. You can start creating and sending newsletters to your mailing list. The content for the newsletter can be gathered from your blogs.
How about a networking session? You’ll be surprised at how many small business networking events are taking place every week so take advantage of this. These events will not only give you access to potential customers but they will offer you an opportunity to market your business, these are sometimes free. There are regulatory bodies in the industry you work in, get in touch with them and look at their events calendar and get involved, not only with them but with relevant expos and business summits.