The best marketing methods for small business are any strategies that you can afford and are capable of following through on consistently. There’s no use starting a marketing campaign and then running out of money to keep it going before it has the time to succeed. But I bet you’re looking for something more concrete than that to help your business.
Slow Build or Fast Money?
When I build out marketing plans for my clients, we choose three strategies to follow. They usually have varying time frames for results. For example, blogging is often a slow build strategy. It provides an internet presence, increases a person’s authority and credibility, gives the people the information they are searching for, but it seldom leads to direct revenue. Is it a marketing strategy? Yes. It helps position a person or company in the marketplace. It is a place for prospective clients to “check you out” before hiring you, so it can and often does tip the scales towards a sale. But most blogs, unless they are specifically set up for advertising and offers, are not revenue generators.
Compare that with the four video launch campaign. You create a series of videos with the goal of selling something at the end. The first three videos give information on the topic, get people excited, show the results and benefits they will get when they work with you, but it’s not until the fourth video that you make an offer and send people to your sales page. The first three videos build your know, like, and trust factor with your audience. You give people information they can use to make their lives better so they like you, and you over the time they spend with you on these videos, you build trust. People feel like they have come to know you a little. You’ve been in front of them for three days. So when you make your offer, your audience is warmed up and receptive. They may feel an obligation to buy because you’ve given them so much information (and time). You’ve also given them reasons why buying whatever you’re selling will help them. A four video campaign leads directly to an offer and sales.
The best marketing methods for small business are usually the ones that will bring in revenues fairly quickly. But don’t ignore the longer term strategy of building your credibility and reach. Short term fixes bring a quick influx of cash, but you also need to build relationships with your clients. The most successful businesses have repeat and referral business, which saves you marketing dollars in the future. However, in order to get repeat and referral business, you need to have that initial business. What methods can you use?
Here are three:
#1: Give away something for free.
This is usually done to build a list of people who are at least mildly interested in what you sell. It’s a simple enough process. You can create a downloadable piece of content (eBook, infographic, video training, etc.) and put it behind an opt-in page. You can run a contest either online or offline. You can offer a physical product. It doesn’t matter what you offer as long it is something people want, connects with what you sell, and you set it up to collect contact information.
Mistakes People Make:
The free item has nothing to do with what they actually offer. If you’re a career consultant, don’t offer a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Anyone in town would be interested in a free meal; it doesn’t mean they need career advice. Offer a skills analysis, interviewing tips, even pair up with a stylist and offer a career style makeover. Make sure what you offer will attract your target customer.
The free item has little perceived value. It seems every coach and consultant offers a free 15, 20, or 30 minute consultation. And the consultation is a come on to work with you. It devalues what you offer and people are suspicious of it. Or perhaps you are offering a free, downloadable cheat sheet. If your cheat sheet is merely information people can easily find on the internet, you may get some names and email addresses, but you won’t position yourself as being better or different from everyone else who sells what you do. Your free item has to have a WOW factor, so much that they say, “I can’t believe this was free.”
There is no strategic follow up campaign to all the people who entered. This is huge. Building a list of people who have at least some interest in what you sell is hard. Yet so many businesspeople neglect those folks once they are on the list. You need to have a welcome nurture campaign of seven to ten emails over the first two to three weeks they are on your list. Then you need to keep in touch with them on at least a weekly basis, whether it’s a quick newsletter, a helpful tip, or an inspirational quote. Something that keeps you and your company top of mind.
#2: Speaking Engagements
The fastest way to establish your expertise and authority is to be the speaker at a meeting or to be interviewed on a podcast, radio, or TV show. Many people are nervous about speaking in front of an audience. You may feel more comfortable being a podcast guest as you work on building up your confidence as a speaker. My good friend, Chris Krimitsos (of Podfest fame), ran a large, in-person business mastermind and he would bring in “ordinary” businesspeople who were doing extraordinary things in their business to speak to his group. Because they weren’t professional speakers and were often nervous, Chris would interview them onstage. This created a comfort level where the person could talk enthusiastically about his business and Chris could bring out important points that the business person might have forgotten to mention or that they might not have seen as important.
Mistakes People Make:
Taking any speaking engagement available. When you’re first starting out as a speaker, you may want and need to practice in front of an audience. That’s fine. But you want to get in front of your target audience as soon as you’re ready. (Not sure who your target market is? Get my Target Market Analyzer. See what I did there?) There are thousands of Meetup groups, networking groups, Chambers, Rotary Clubs, niche clubs and associations—you name it—that are looking for speakers for their groups. Target the groups that will have potential clients for your business.
They don’t have a free offer. (See #1.) If you’re in front of someone else’s audience as is the case with speaking engagements, including podcasts, radio and TV programs, you need to have a way that people can engage with you—a way to collect names. You will often see authors on talk shows hawking their books or actors promoting their latest movie. This results in sales of the book and movie tickets, but it doesn’t directly build a list of people they can contact. When you work for yourself, you need to be able to contact people directly. Always check with your host for permission to make the offer but most love it when you can give their people something of value for free.
Don’t showcase their results. Use case studies and stories within your talk that showcase how you help people and the fabulous results they had from working with you. This is not an ego thing—you’re not saying “look how wonderful I am.” You are celebrating and sharing the success of your clients with the audience. If you’ve ever read a diet book, you will see that the “case studies” show people of various ages and situations. That is to reach and resonate with as many different types of people as possible. You can give the audience solid information and steps to take within the context of the stories. Use examples of your work that depict the type of problems you solve and kind of people you work with so that people in the audience can identify themselves as prospects for you. And don’t forget to tell them how they can work with you.
#3: Strategic Networking
Most small business people join one or more networking groups to help generate business. But some are better than others. And there are levels within networking groups that you need to be aware of, whether it is an inner circle, being on the Board or a committee, or a paid upgrade that involves a different level of business people. Before you walk into any networking event, you need to center yourself, decide what your goal is for that event, and keep focus while you’re there. It’s business.
Mistakes People Make:
Not able to clearly state what they do. Everyone in networking talks about having an “elevator pitch” or “30 second commercial.” That means you need to be able to state what you do, who you do it for, how it benefits your clients in a way that people will understand immediately. If you can’t convey those three things succinctly, then no one you meet is going to be able to refer business to you. I actually devoted a blog post about this here.
Trying to sell to people in the meeting. The people in the networking meeting may or may not be potential clients for you. But most of them know people who are your potential clients. Bob Burg, in his book Endless Referrals, states that the average person has a network of at least 250 people. If you’re in a meeting with 30 people, trying to sell to those 30 people is a mistake, a very annoying mistake. You want to create a good impression so that those 30 people are disposed to telling their 250 connections about you. You have the ability to reach, in this example, 7,500 people, not 30. Now, of course, all their connections are not going to be good prospects for you. But what if 10 are? It’s much better to have those 30 people willing to refer business to you than saying, “Oh, he’s pushy.”
Not leveraging the meeting. Have you ever been asked for your card and not had one on you? You shouldn’t go anywhere without your business card yet many people show up at business networking events without them. First, you should be able to write on the back of your own card—that means don’t use a glossy finish and leave room on the back to make notes. I have often handed two of my cards to people at meetings: one for them and one for them to write their contact information on the back and give to me.
Many meetings have a table set aside for flyers and brochures. You can put more information on those than you can on your business card. Make sure your flyer or brochure has a free offer that sends people to your website. If possible, you should offer up a prize at the meeting. Many times you can’t get the names of people who put their cards in the drawing, but you can position yourself as an authority or provider with what you give away with a carefully worded explanation of the prize.
Have a box in your car that holds business cards, flyers, and prizes (usually certificates or a book) for your meetings. Check and replenish it once a week.
What are the best marketing methods for small business?
Again, the best marketing methods for small business are the ones that you can actually do. The three I have just given you meet the criteria of being affordable and easy to set up. There are tons of marketing tactics and methods. Not all work for all businesses. You need to take into account your product or services, your own disposition, strengths, and experiences, and your marketing budget, both time and money. Most of all, you need to carry out your marketing on a consistent basis. Send me an email to let me know what marketing strategies you are implementing and how they are working for you. Barbara@BarbaraGrassey.com
I specialize in marketing plans that are Practical, Implementable, and Effective—easy as PIE. I lay it all out in my book, The 8 Step Marketing Plan. On sale now at Amazon.