Marketing Your Small Business on a Budget and Why PRINT is Key to Your Success
My aim with this blog post is to share with you the little ‘ah-ha!’ moments and useful tips I’ve learnt through marketing AC Print Ltd over the last 3 years. It will help to save you a lot of time, lead you into spending your money in the right direction for YOUR business and hopefully make sense of some things you’ve already heard of but are perhaps a little unsure of where to start.
Marketing for your small business, quite simply, falls down to this:
Do little bits of everything you can afford, regularly, so that you are seen in lots of different places, regularly, by your prospective customers.
In doing this you are reminding them on a regular basis who they need to go to when they need your product or service, so that they recall YOUR business when the time comes for them to buy.
But I have a very limited budget…
Setting up a small business is always a drain on finances, and often there is little if anything left in the pot for marketing it… But if you don’t market your business ie. tell people who you are and what you do, how can you expect to make any sales?
‘You can have the greatest product in the world and be giving it away for nothing, but if no-one knows about it you won’t sell a thing.’
Luckily for you we live in the 21st century and there are many FREE and low cost options that you can invest in right now. There are more expensive, but often more lucrative options to consider too, and I will open up to you about these further along in this blog – it’s really useful to read this section too as it gives you insight into something you can look to do in the future when your business has started to grow and you want to continue on the upward trend.
Things YOU can do right now, with ZERO budget to get your name on everyone’s lips:
Get on Social Media.
This might sound a bit scary if you’ve never done it before, but we all know someone who is already doing it so it’s simply a case of picking their brains and very nicely asking them to help you set up your profile(s).
Don’t be tempted to join every single social network – you’ll very quickly find you don’t have any time left to work! Instead pick the one(s) which sit most favourably with your business:
- Facebook is great for B2C businesses (however dont rule it out if you’re B2B as it’s the first place people look for you)
- Twitter is fantastic as a B2B tool (I’ll explain why and how later)
- Pinterest is fantastic if you have an online shop, by linking everything you sell to your Pinterest Boards people simply have to click on what they like in order to buy it
- Google+ is a must for every business, by posting regularly to your Google+ page you improve your SEO ranking in Google (ie if people search for what you sell, on which page you’re website will appear – everyone wants to be at the top of page 1)
- LinkedIn is a professional version of Facebook, your posts should reflect that and remain business-like in the sense of how you would behave in front of a business client in a meeting
- Instagram is great for any business which has regular items to photograph and show off – it works particularly well for the food & drink trade, posting images of your latest creations to entice your customers through your door
Get a Hootsuite (or similar) account.
Hootsuite is a website which you can use to look at all your social media accounts in one place. Use it to schedule posts for specific times and dates and also to choose which networks to post to. I find this invaluable as it means I can post to 5 different social media accounts at once, essentially getting my social media posts scheduled in 1/5th of the time. There are free plans and paid for plans on Hootsuite, I’ve always used the free option.
If you’re on Twitter get involved in networking hours relevant to your business.
These networking hours occur on a set day and time of the week, everyone involved adds the networking hour’s hashtag to each of their Tweets so that everyone else involved can see them. It’s a great way to get your business in front of the right people and the best bit is that they are all there ready and waiting to talk to you.
Remember though, don’t come across as too salesey – it’s called ‘social’ media for a reason! Instead get involved and spark conversation – treat it as an opportunity to network and get your name out there, people will come to you then when they need your service.
Here are the details of the networking hours I get involved with, you certainly don’t need to do all of them, just the ones that fit with your businesses. There are sure to be others that could work for you too so have a search on Twitter and see what you can find relevant to your industry:
- Monday 8-9pm – #TorbayHour
- Tuesday 8-9pm – #DartmoorHour and #PlymouthHour
- Wednesday 8-9pm – #DevonHour
- Wednesday 8.30-9.30pm – #SouthHamsHour
- Thursday 8-9pm – #OurNewtonAbbot , #ExeterHour and #SouthWestHour
Send out regular email newsletters to all your contacts.
This is made easy by websites such as MailChimp where you can use one of their professional looking newsletter templates and send it out to your contacts for free. Only about 25% of people you send these newsletters to will actually open them, so make sure for those who do, you are giving them something worth reading.
You should also use it as an opportunity to get the recipient to interact with you, rather than just read it and delete it, be that ‘click on the link to buy’ or ‘click on the link to like our facebook page’ etc. You want to get something in return for making the effort to send them a newsletter, whilst deepening their connection to your business.
Add a newsletter sign up box to your website.
The aim here is that people who visit and like your website, can then sign up to your newsletter so that they can keep up to date with news/offers etc that you have going on. Building your newsletter database is vital in building your potential customers, and reminding people who have bought from you before to keep doing so!
Become a Blogger.
Ok, that makes it sound rather daunting… I promise you it really can be quite easy. The purpose of bogging is to regularly (at least weekly) add useful and interesting content (text / images / video) to your website, for two reasons:
- To get people to keep coming back to your website, they won’t if there’s nothing new to look at
- So Google knows your website is still active – if it thinks it’s inactive your website will fall off of Google’s radar which means it wont show it to anyone searching for things that you sell = no sales for you!
A blog post can consist of anything you want to share, as long as it’s relevant, informative and will be interesting to your prospective customers. It doesn’t always have to be a long essay (like this!!), here are some ideas for you:
- images of new stock with descriptions and links to buy
- before and after photos, with a little description of what you’ve done, how and why, with links where possible
- a video of your machines in action
- a video tutorial showing how to use your products
- a written piece sharing your knowledge on your area of business
- a written update on what’s been going on recently
I like to include links to other blog posts I have written so that if the reader found that interesting, they can easily read more (which means they are connecting further with your business).
A few tips on successful blogging:
- Write naturally ie don’t constantly by pushy and salesy
- Include ‘key words’ in your blog post. For example AC Print Ltd are a commercial printer specialising in digital, litho, large format and direct mail – so I like to make sure I get those words into as many blog posts as possible (see what I did there!!). This helps Google recognise our website for the things we want people to find us for, and that specific blog post for people searching for that topic.
- For you, it simply means writing a list of your products/services and the sort of words people might use to search for them. You don’t need to include all the keywords in every blog post, but you do need to ensure you’re using them naturally within your sentences.
Things YOU can do right now, with MINIMAL SPEND to get your business booming:
Book your place at local networking events.
By going to these events you are getting yourself in front of the local business community, and guess what, they are all there to talk to YOU about YOUR business. Don’t feel shy or intimidated, people here have a genuine interest in you and love to meet new contacts. Networking meetings usually cost between £8-£15 and that includes the price of your breakfast, tea and coffee.
My top tips for networking success:
- Take a stash of business cards to hand out to people you talk to, if there’s a ‘business card exchange’ table be sure to leave a pile on there too
- Remember that everyone there WANTS to know all about your business, they are keen to talk to you, learn and create new contacts – so don’t feel anxious about going, being the newbie makes you the most interesting person in the room
- Don’t feel the need to speak to every single person there on your first meeting, but make sure those who you do connect with get your business card, and you get one of theirs
- As soon as you get home add all your new contacts to your contact database and send them each a personal email to thank them for making you feel so welcome – it makes sure they have your contact details and gives you an opportunity to extend the conversation further
- If there’s a ‘list of attendees’ available make sure you take a copy away with you, you can then contact any you missed at the meeting, find and like their social media pages (hopefully they will then respond by liking yours too) and learn about what they do ready for the next meeting (this gives you plenty to talk about, and flatters people when they can see you have taken such an interest in their area of work). It also gives you an opportunity to highlight any people who you would like to do business with, so that you can make a bee-line for them at the next event.
Here are a handful of local events which I have been to or have been recommended to me, all very welcoming, this list is by no means exhaustive, doing a quick Google search will bring up many more:
- Torbay Business Network at Pier Point Restaurant
- SOS Club Business Breakfast at Living Coasts
- Torbay Business Breakfast Forum at Riviera Centre
- BNI (Torbay Group)
- BoB Club at the Shoreline Restaurant, Paignton
Set a budget for spend on Social Media.
It really can make a powerful difference to your social media efforts from as little as £3. The main ones you can spend on are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I have the most experience in Facebook, as I prefer to use networking hours on Twitter and groups on LinkedIn – both free options reaching the right people.
On Facebook you have a couple of options of how to spend your money by boosting your post – this is very useful when you realise that Facebook doesn’t automatically show your post to everyone who has liked your page. In fact it’s more like 10% of those who have liked your page. You can use the Boost Post feature in three ways:
- 1. Target people who have already liked your page – perfect if you want to reach the people who already know about you so you can tell them something new such as a new product
- 2. Target people who have already liked your page and their friends – ideal if you’re running a competition, as presumably their friends would also be interested in this
- 3. Target people you choose through targeting – here you can select what people you want to talk to based on things like location, age, gender and interests. This is ideal if your aim is to draw people who may be interested in your products/services to your page
Whichever of the above 3 options best suit the post you want to boost, you can then set a budget (from £1 per day) and how long you want to run it for. Facebook will then show you an indication of how many people you are likely to reach given your budget and your targeting.
Advertising on Google is a clever way of getting your business to show up in front of the people you want to reach, because Google already knows they are looking for a business just like you, so are likely to click on your ad. You can have a play about with it to see how much you want to spend, though it’s worth noting that a consistent daily spend is something you should consider as an ongoing expense, as once you stop advertising you lose the effectiveness. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune though as you can set your daily limit.
A wise man from Rame Marketing (he’s based in Brixham and really knows his stuff, it’s worth spending some time on his website) once told me to pay to advertise on our own company name, so that when someone types in ‘AC Print Ltd’ not only do we appear in the organic search section (which starts about 2/3 of the way down the page), we appear right at the top in the paid for section. The idea behind it is that anyone can pay to advertise against your name, and who might do this….your competition!
Printed promotional materials such as posters, flyers and banners can be a really quick, easy and cost effective way of reaching people. The print itself is a minimal cost then it’s down to a bit of time on your part delivering leaflets or handing them out at relevant events, putting posters in shop windows and getting your banners put up in prominent positions (check with your local authority that it’s ok to do so first though!). People will keep hold of your flyer if they like what you’re offering, and will often refer to it weeks or months later when they need your product or service.
You can make your promotional materials work extra hard for you by using the same artwork on your social media pages, blog and email newsletter. If you’re going to be at an event it’s also an easy way to tell people you’re going to be there and to look out for your flyer or special offers (for example).
Exhibitions and events.
Find out when and where exhibitions will be held locally to you, within your industry sector. They are often relatively cheap to exhibit at (some as cheap as £50-100) and give you the opportunity to meet with 100s-1000s of prospective customers and business contacts.
Be prepared with plenty of business cards / brochures / flyers / posters (whatever is suitable for your business, not necessarily all of them!) so that visitors have something in their hand to walk away with. A competition is also a great idea as a way to build a connection with visitors and obtain contact details from those who are interested in what you do – make sure the prize is something relevant to your business attracting only the people who are interested in your sector and potentially buying from you.
Exhibition stands, graphics and pull up banners are really affordable and durable these days, so that they can be used at event after event rather than just as a one off expense. They instantly make you look professional, tell visitors who you are and what you do and draw people in. If it’s not clear from the aisle what you do, people will walk past.
The best tip I could give you when exhibiting is to find a lull in the day and use that as your chance to introduce yourself to every other exhibitor, get their business card and give them yours. You never know what new contacts you might make and who could need what you do, plus you can add them to your contact database.
Business stationery is by far one of the best things you can do to make yourself look instantly professional and a trustworthy business to buy from – yet it is often the cheapest! Printed letterheads, compliments slips and business cards are the bare essentials and as these items are usually printed digitally you can have as many or as few as you need, so if you just want to dip your toes with a small order it’s easy and cost effective to do. You can use it in lots of ways to promote yourself too, such as:
- Compliments slips in every delivery, invoice and quote with an offer for their next purchase (for example) to encourage repeat business
- Use your letterheads to write a personal letter to existing customers with a recommend a friend offer
- Use your business cards at every networking event, exhibition and event you attend, put them everywhere you can think – this is what people will take away and remember you by so please make sure if nothing else, you spend your money on decent quality business cards – a cheap tatty looking card will really devalue your service and not give people any faith in you
My top tip – once you have a better idea of how much you’re likely to use, ordering larger quantities can often save you money. Just be careful not to over-order, as anything you never get round to using is a waste.
Things to consider in the future that can have a MASSIVE impact on your success:
You will be surprised how cost effective a radio ad can be. I spoke to the lovely people at Palm FM and for the sort of thing we were discussing I was looking in the region of £300 per month. This obviously can seem like a massive investment when you are just starting out, but once your ball is rolling and you can handle the extra work this could generate, it is worth taking a serious look at.
One thing to be conscious of, as with everything, results won’t come overnight. You’ll need to be looking at least at a 6 month investment (ideally 12 months) so that people hear your ad on such a regular basis they instantly recall you when they need your product or service.
Advertising in spaces such as bus shelters can give you brilliant exposure (assuming your prospective customers would see it here) and if you decide this fits with your business then it’s worth looking at booking regular advertising slots so that you’re regularly reaching your prospective customers. Companies like Fernbank Advertising, who have a lot of presence in the Torbay area, often advertise packages from £50 per week.
Direct mail is still considered to have the biggest impact for many Marketers, across all the marketing options available to them. It can be as cheap or expensive as you want to make it, and largely depends on how many people you want to reach. You can use direct mail to contact a small portion of your database for a specific promotion, to contact your entire database, or you can buy lists of contact details (we recommend using a trustworthy company such as Corp Data in Teignmouth) to send out a blanket promotion to. Most printers are able to offer reduced postage costs too, at AC Print Ltd we have our own Direct Mail machinery and facilities which allow us to design, print and distribute under one roof.
Things to avoid:
Don’t pay people/pages/companies to give you likes or follows on your social media pages.
I was recently offered 1000 extra likes on my facebook page for £85, it sounds very tempting but they are false likes, not real people and it will only damage your page. Facebook will very quickly realise that the likes aren’t real and penalise you for it by showing your posts to fewer and fewer people, so everything you have worked so hard for becomes ruined.
Believing it’s a numbers game.
On social media you are far better off having only a few people who like your posts, but who actually like, comment and share your page; than 1000s of likes from people who do not. That handful of people who care about what you offer are more valuable to you than 1000s of people who don’t – because those people will never buy from you anyway.
Never pay for SEO ranking in Google.
Anyone who tells you they can get you to the top of the first page on Google is not someone you should trust with your money. Every user who types in the same words to Google has a different outcome based on their search history and internet experience, so there is no set way to get to the top of the page for everyone. The only way to improve your SEO ranking is to:
- Pay Google for advertising
- Make sure you are regularly (at least once a week) posting relevant and informative content to your website (this could be blog posts, images or video etc)
- Make sure your website is SEO friendly and mobile friendly (speak to your website designer who will have a thorough knowledge on this)
In marketing your small business you need to do lots of everything you can afford. Try to be seen in lots of places that your prospective customers will be so that you are regularly reminding them of your business, then when they need your product/service they will automatically think of you.
Use a range of marketing methods: not everyone is on social media so reach them with a direct mail campaign. Not everyone has access to email, so reach them with a posted newsletter. People aren’t constantly sat in front of their computers so reach them in other ways during their day such as with posters, banners, radio ads or outdoor advertising. Get better results with everything you do by backing it up with every marketing option open to you – if you do an offer via email, follow it up with direct mail and promote it on social media – that’s just 3 ways you can reach 1 person and remind them to come to you.
Good marketing is about regularly reminding customers and prospective customers that you are there for them, so that when they need your product/service they immediately come to you.
My last tip for you is to regularly (quarterly would be a good start, but every business is different) evaluate what you do so that you can see what is and isn’t working and where it’s worth spending your money. You may need to set up a system so that those within your business answering the phones / emails / social media queries know to ask, and record, where the caller heard about your business.
Your to do list
Now you have read all my pearls of wisdom(!) I have compiled a shortened ‘to do list’, not everything will be relevant to your business but it gives you a neat starting point.
- Decide what budget you have to spend on marketing and what would be the best areas to spend it on
- Set up your free social media accounts and get posting
- Find out which networking hours on Twitter you want to be involved in and get tweeting!
- If you’re using LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+ find relevant groups that you can become part of
- Set up your free Mailchimp account and put a date in your diary every month to create and send out a newsletter
- Set up your Hootsuite account
- Set up your blog and put a date in your diary each week to post something to it
- Add a newsletter sign up to your website
- Book onto some local business networking events
- Get some promotional materials printed and spend a few days distributing them
- Order some business stationery, including good quality business cards
- Set a budget for advertising on Social Media
- Look into advertising on Google
- Find out when there are relevant events and exhibitions going on in your area, if you can afford to exhibit then do so and be sure to go looking professional with your exhibition display stands and banners. If you can’t afford to exhibit then visit, you can still network with all the other exhibitors.
- Plan for furture growth – put a note in your diary for 3months, 6months and 12months to re-visit some highly impactful options such as direct mail, radio advertising and outdoor advertising, when you have the budget available, and the capacity to cope with increased workload.
Bear in mind it will take a while to complete this list, but the only way to get there is to put a bit of time aside each week, and make a start!
I hope you’ve found this useful and picked up at least one thing you want to do for your business. I’d love to hear how you’re getting on so please feel free to comment!