Good to Grow
The goal of marketing is to connect your business' value to the right customer base. It may seem daunting but doesn't have to be hard or expensive.
Keeping a small business solvent means more than doing work and getting paid; it also means finding new clients and bringing in leads. That requires marketing. But many small-business owners don’t know much about the art of getting their name out and finding the right customers. Even if they do, the average small business doesn’t have a huge budget to throw at billboards, TV ads, and other options.
You have to promote the business somehow. But it’s not always easy to know which marketing method is most likely to get results. And how do you do it in a way that earns you a good return on your advertising dollars?
That’s where someone like Matthew Maennche of Maennche Virtual CMO can help. Maennche came into marketing by a nontraditional route, using his background as a software developer initially to look at data and trends, and assist people with their websites. But the more he did so, the more he realized how many small businesses needed help with marketing.
“For a small business, the moment you hang that, (We’re open) sign, you’re competing with everyone,” he says. In today’s world, competitors can include anyone from anywhere — the mom-and-pop shop next door, a business in a neighboring state, even global companies doing what you do. “There’s a lot more competition, but small businesses often know the least about marketing because they’re new. So, I focus on helping small businesses understand how all the pieces fit together [for effective marketing].”
A firm believer that small businesses deserve the tools to succeed, Maennche teaches many continuing education classes each year, including how to market a business on a small budget. Here are some of his tips for low-cost and no-cost actions a business can take to promote themselves and reach more customers.
Develop a clear strategy
Marketing is a scary area for most businesses. As a result, many business owners let it slide. That’s a mistake, says Maennche. “A solid marketing strategy is the difference between success and failure for a small business.”
Know your ideal client
Rather than work for anyone who will pay you, concentrate on finding your “ideal clients” — the ones you are best suited to serve and who make you the most profit for the least effort. Ask yourself what type of customer would make your life great. That’s who you want to market to.
Focus on your customer, not yourself
“The hardest thing for business owners to understand is that it’s not about them; it’s about their ideal client and what that client is looking for,” says Maennche. For marketing efforts that work, think about who your clients are, what they need, and where they spend their time. Put your marketing efforts there, and focus on helping them.
Get on the map
Many customers search for businesses via online map applications, so it pays to make sure your business is listed correctly. “By far, the most cost-effective tool for businesses today is to get registered on Google Maps,” says Maennche. “It’s free. You don’t have to buy their ads.” Bing and Apple also have maps, and your business should be listed on them as well.
Develop an email list
If you’ve heard email is dead, you heard wrong. “People think email is an old-school way of thinking, but it’s still a preferred, cost-effective method for people to get information,” says Maennche. “Email marketing can be effective. Even though people may delete the email, they still saw the brand and the subject you wanted to communicate. They got the message.”
Use free analytics
“Google Analytics is completely free and will give you insane amounts of information about the people who are coming across your brand,” says Maennche. In addition to telling you how many people came to your site, it’ll break down how long they stayed, where they’re from, what percent are male versus female, phrases they used in Google search to find your business and more. If you don’t know how to use Google Analytics, you can learn, and it’s well worth the effort.
Get a mentor
If you are looking for help learning about business, consider getting a mentor from SCORE, a nonprofit that connects volunteer mentors with small-business owners. SCORE also provides webinars each month, local workshops, on-demand online classes, and other learning opportunities. “I recommend people go to Tulsa’s SCORE website and request a mentor. There are over 50 mentors in Tulsa, all people who have grown and managed businesses, and it’s all free,” he says.
Know how to leverage social media
It’s not enough to be on social media. You need an audience. And engaging that audience through comments, shares, and the like is essential to using social media in a way that boosts your business. For example, says Maennche, don’t just run a Facebook ad. Clearly define the audience for the ad, and study the insights to see how to fine-tune your approach to get more engagement.
There are many ways to learn more about marketing, and many of them have no cost — YouTube videos, SBA webinars, even articles like the ones on Maennche’s website are free and useful. Continuing education classes at local colleges are also a great option; while they’re not free, they’re usually quite affordable.
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