You want to build your business, but you don’t have a marketing department. Here are 5 more things you can do with limited resources to expand your brand.
1. Partner with nonprofits.
Build goodwill in your business by demonstrating that you support a good cause.
Pick a favorite charity and sponsor an event to help them raise money. Perhaps you have the space to hold an event at your location? Or hold an event at a local community center, or even city hall. Consider finding corporate cosponsors to split the costs and hold the event at a large venue.
If a special event is beyond your means, consider giving a percentage of your profits to the organization of your choice, and promote this fact. (Potential tax benefits and lots of good will.)
Working with a charity can earn some media coverage for your efforts. Make certain your logo is on all event promotional material (especially on the press releases sent out to the media). The press release should announce what you expect to accomplish for the community with your event. The media, especially local television stations, love to cover positive news to offset all the negative being broadcast on a daily basis.
Conversely, if you are a nonprofit, consider partnering with for-profits. As stated above, businesses may benefit from associating with your good cause. In addition, many creative agencies are looking for pro bono opportunities to build their portfolios, so you can gain professional design talent, and publicity (through their PR department) for your outreach efforts.
2. Promote your business through a complementary partner.
What better place to find new customers than through a non-competitive agency who also hits your target market?
For instance, many larger fitness chains will allow outside businesses to purchase temporary space in their facility to promote a product of interest to their clientele. Tables can be set up to hand out free samples, or roll up displays/banners promoting your business can be set up on a month to month basis.
Catering businesses can create a lunch spread for local business events, such as chamber of commerce meetings, or celebrations through other organizations. Initially, you may need to offer your food and efforts at no cost, but think of the new customers you may gain.
Another approach is to distribute promotional items, such as pens, bags, coffee mugs, etc. with your logo/contact information at community and business events. Everybody likes free stuff. Another approach is to make your business card serve double duty as a coupon offering a discount off of your services.
3. Be a thought leader.
Demonstrate that you are the most informed authority on the solutions your business offers, by sharing the details with the world. Write a blog on issues your customers (and potential customers) should care about and how your business can help with these issues. Customers will follow the business leader, if the leader offers information of value to them.
Not everybody is a writer, so you may need to find outside help to spread your message. However, your business name should be on the blog, no matter who writes it. After all, you are supplying the message, even if somebody else is formatting your thoughts. Ghostwriters exist to polish your wisdom into gems (or memes if you are so lucky).
Just make certain your blog isn’t posted for public view until you review every word.
A thought leader doesn’t rest on his/her laurels, so you need to be prepared to create content on a regular basis. Think about trends in your business; past, present and future. Relate the reasons why you started your business. Humanize your blog with stories of positive customer experiences related to your business. Customer success stories can be the most interesting post topics.
4. Exhibit at small business expos and events.
Some business expos are sponsored through a national organization, while others are held through a local sponsor. Small business expo events in your area can often be found on business calendar websites such eventbrite.com and meetup.com.
If you’re unfamiliar with an event, it may be best to audit it as a guest first, walking the floor and speaking with exhibitors regarding their take on the business value of the event.
If enough exhibitors find the event to be worth the money and effort, then you should too. Of course, lack of value becomes obvious if there is little to no foot traffic at the expo.
If you should decide to exhibit at an event, make certain to have a professional booth presentation. Roll up banners, or backdrops can be designed and created at many local sign/print shops, or trade show display companies. Also consider having promotional giveaway items at your booth with your company logo displayed. (See point #2 above.)
You might also consider creating your own small business expo with other businesses in the local community.
5. Experiment with keywords.
How will customers find your business if they’re not already familiar with you?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization is a way to determine which keywords your prospective customers are using to search for your type of business.
Create a list of keywords which best summarize your business. Then run a Google search for these keywords and see if any of your competitions’ businesses pop up. Maybe they’ve already discovered which keywords are most effective. Perhaps your keywords are too generic, and can refer to items that have nothing to do with your business. (Or perhaps they are inappropriate in a manner that you didn’t consider when you came up with your keyword list.)
If you have the budget, consider trying online advertising such as the Google Adwords program to drive traffic to your website, or other social media. These programs can be setup to limit your expenditures to predetermined dollar amounts. However, be aware that the competition may have deeper pockets. The more you pay for your Google ad, the more prominently you are featured. If enough competitors outspend you, you may find your own ad being relegated many pages deep into a Google search. (Most people end their Google search after the first page of results, or the second page if they’re feeling motivated. If your ad appears on page 3, or 5, or 10, you are wasting your efforts.)
However, organic (unpaid) keywords can drive traffic to your business if you don’t have a lot of competition, or if your keywords are unique to your efforts. Plus, many people don’t like clicking on ads.
Experiment to see what works best for your business.
Which of the 5 marketing points above will best create customers for your business? Only one way (or 5 ways) to find out.