“I saw your product on a billboard!” said no customer ever … well, at least not in the past decade. The marketing game has undergone a dramatic transformation, especially since advertising’s golden era when “Mad Men” like Don Draper reshaped our buying habits.
Today, smart marketing is no longer just about creating a TV commercial, magazine ad, or killer radio spots. Consumers are now finding new products and services on the web thanks to a slew of digital platforms, from mobile advertising and social media campaigns to influential blog referrals.
What does that mean for the small business owner? Large corporations could once use the deep pockets to dominate print, television and radio advertising. But increasingly, so-called “traditional media” is reaching fewer and fewer people as effectively as it used to. Radio disrupted print, and television disrupted radio. Now digital media is disrupting all of the above.
All of this disruption means that if you’re savvy, you can get a lot of marketing bang for your buck. But you’ll have to be very targeted in how you use your marketing dollars.
So what’s a small business to do? Get back to the basics: check out these four effective advertising techniques:
Tool 1: Branding
Our collective obsession with all things technological often means that we overlook some of the more basic and highly effective ways to market your business.
You, my friend, need a sign.
Today’s signage, though, isn’t just something that hangs over the door to your office. It can’t get rusty. It can’t fall down and hit someone on the head. The signage of today is all about branding: a sharp logo, a well-designed website and compelling cover images on social media sites. This is the essential first step of your digital marketing journey. Your future customers need to see consistency in your brand’s image and messaging.
Still relying on the DIY graphics of your early days? Enlist a reputable graphic designer to create polished, cohesive look for your business—a visual identity that builds credibility and elevates your business above the competition. Your company’s image is worth the investment.
Tool 2: Social media
You have a Facebook page. You have a Twitter profile. Maybe you even have a few other social media profiles. Today, all that may be meaningless—unless you do something with it.
Having a social media page isn’t the same as having a true social media presence. Using social media effectively means actually being part of a larger conversation with your customers and prospects. What does that mean exactly?
Your business needs interesting content that people want to read. It’s your job to provide your customers—current and prospective—with helpful, relevant information. Spend an hour once a week to comb the Internet for relevant articles, tips, and tools. Keep a document with these links and the corresponding one- or two-sentence Facebook or Twitter post text. Even better: Make a Google doc so your team can contribute when they find a great social media-worthy link! Posting on Facebook isn’t a chore when you have an arsenal of killer content ready to go.
OK, so you’re regularly posting actionable content on Facebook. Now what? Interact with your customers! If they have questions, answer them. And in a timely manner, to boot. My advice: Set up some community moderation guidelines, including appropriate response times and guidelines for handling negative comments or concerns. Don’t let unanswered negative comments or reviews kill your business. In fact, 80 percent of consumers will reverse their purchase decisions after reading negative reviews, according to USA Today. That way your entire team is on the same page. While you don’t have to live on your social media pages and pass out each night sending out the last tweet for the day, you do need to address your customers in a timely manner. Above all, be responsive. It makes your business look good. And looking good equals more business.
Tool 3: Mobile advertising
Mobile’s growth is nothing short of explosive, and mobile advertising is changing the game.As more people increase their mobile use, its role has taken on a tremendous level of importance. In the coming years, hundreds of millions of people in developing nations will get their first smartphones. Is your business ready?
The heart of mobile advertising is making certain that your website is optimized. You want your business’s website to look great and function smoothly when being viewed on various devices. As Google’s mobile update showed us, driving web traffic only to have the website function poorly on mobile just won’t cut it.
People are increasingly using mobile for researching and making purchases. You have to be in the mobile game. Mobile advertising, such as SMS, can be highly effective and affordable. But your website still needs to be mobile friendly.
What’s that mean exactly? First, what good’s a site if it’s too slow to load on your mobile device? Make sure to optimize images and minify code so your future customers don’t X out of your site during a slow load time. Avoid Flash, and make sure your clickable buttons are the right size for a finger. It’s also a good idea to optimize your website for local search—that means including your city and state in the metadata—and don’t forget to make your address and phone numbers text-based so users can click ‘em.
Tool 4: Blogging
Blogging can do wonders for local search engine optimization. If you have a limited budget, forget about attempting to grab the top keywords in your industry, and instead focus on local search results. In this way you can attract local customers and keep one step ahead of the competition.
Combine local search engine optimized blogs with discounts, deals, loyalty reward programs, referral programs and other incentives, and you will start to see the results.
Not interested in blogging yourself? Take advantage of the huge pool of bloggers who already have a dedicated group of followers. Let’s compare two scenarios.
1. You post one blog a week for a month; they get 10 likes on Facebook collectively.
2. An influential blogger with 50,000 fans supports your product or service.
Which one do you think will have a bigger impact on your bottom-line?
There are more effective and cost-effective advertising options today than ever before. Small businesses have an entire collection of tools to propel their products, ideas, and services to the forefront of customers’ minds. You have the tools, now it’s time to put them to use. Social media, blogging, and incentives can be very effective, but it’s up to you to create a winning strategy.