“My marketing budget is massive — money is no object.” These are words that are rarely uttered, especially by those working for a small business. Instead, the motto is generally “do more with less.” Fortunately, there are several ways to effectively market a business without having to pay through the nose.
In-person networking is especially challenging during a pandemic, but there are plenty of virtual events you could attend as you wait for the world to open back up. Join organizations that focus on entrepreneurship or ones that are specific to your industry, or ones that focus on marketing. The idea is to learn from others, share what you know, and broaden your contacts. If it’s relevant to your business, consider some local networking. Get involved in your area by sitting on the board of a community organization, or by becoming a sponsor of a local race, a kids’ sports team, or a fundraising event.
In whatever ways make sense for your business, support other small businesses and entrepreneurs. This may mean backing another company’s Kickstarter campaign, offering advice or expertise through an online forum, or suggesting a collaborative project.
Email marketing, while not a silver bullet, is still a very cost-effective way to communicate with your audience. True, some people will delete your emails without opening them, but if you’re respectful of people’s in-boxes and keep communications brief and maybe even useful, you should get a pretty good open rate. It certainly isn’t free to use a tool like Mailchimp or Constant Contact, but the return on investment is likely to make it worthwhile.
It goes without saying that you should be active on the big social media networks — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn (if you’re a B2B company), etc. — posting a variety of content that informs, entertains, enlightens, and even occasionally sells to your followers. If your posts are currently limited to a bit of copy and a nice photo, try something new, like a Facebook Live event, or a behind-the-scenes video showing how your product is made. And don’t forget about buzzy newcomers like Clubhouse. An event on Clubhouse, even if only a couple dozen people attend, is a great chance for you to converse directly with potential customers or future brand ambassadors. You’ll forge connections and have an unparalleled opportunity to go into detail about your offering.
Depending on your budget, consider investing in social media ads. It isn’t cheap, but it can be very effective in reaching an audience beyond your own email list. There are abundant tools available that enable you to track every aspect of your ads so you know right away which ones are working (do those again!) and which ones are not (take those down!).
Ambassadors & Influencers
A small business equals a small team, but you can magnify your team’s impact by building an army of supporters. This process could be as simple as asking your customers to give you referrals in exchange for a small discount or some other incentive, or it could involve persuading people who have a devoted social media following, large or small, to act as influencers or brand ambassadors. These arrangements can take many forms: you can offer influencers your product or service for free in exchange for positive posts, or you can simply pay them outright. Another option is to set up an affiliate or referral program, with participants — ideally people with some credibility to your target audience — promoting your product and generating leads in exchange for a commission on sales made through their efforts. In any case, at a relatively low cost, you can get a pretty big bang for your buck.
Consider conducting a viral giveaway of your product (or maybe a free subscription to your premium service, if that’s how you roll). Those who enter the contest increase their odds of winning just by sharing news of your giveaway through social media or in any other way that works for them. The enticing nature of a contest is a great way to attract some attention and build your email list, and the viral aspect is a great way to reach a whole new audience!
Organic Content Creation
The content you create can take many forms: podcasts, blogs, social media posts, email newsletters, videos, etc. The most important aspects of this content? It should be beneficial or at least entertaining to your audience, and it should be authentic. Be yourself. When creating this content, pretend for a moment that you aren’t trying to sell a product or a service; rather, you are trying to provide insight or expertise.
To make the most of whatever investment this content requires, anything you create should be used in multiple ways — your blog posts or podcasts should be promoted on social media and in your newsletter. Videos you produce should be edited for use in multiple ways: on your website, in emails, on social media.
Because you are, in fact, trying to sell something, every bit of content you produce should remind people to visit your website, follow you on social media, sign up for updates, and so on, with the goal of continuously building your audience and then keeping them warm and engaged. And don’t forget SEO: every piece of content published online should be optimized for easier discovery by those outside your orbit.