Serenity Gibbons Contributor
I share insights gathered from purpose-driven entrepreneurs
Although the economy is doing well, it’s not time for small business leaders to slacken their marketing efforts. Nearly half of small business owners in Capital One’s Small Business Growth Index expressed concerns about a possible recession ahead, and 35 percent thought tariffs and trade difficulties would pose an additional hurdle. At the same time, 44 percent expected to see improvement in their financial position over the next six months.
Given these mixed sentiments, it’s hard to know what to expect. As a small business owner, you can’t control the markets or the economy, so it’s important to focus on what you can control. The stock market and the new tax law may be out of your hands, but the way you reach customers is a strategy you own.
While changes in marketing trends may temporarily subvert your plans, you always have the power to try novel strategies and learn more about your market. Online innovators keep creating new means of reaching customers and promoting brands. For example, Instagram has become an important marketing tool for small businesses, enabling brand awareness, advertising, and e-commerce in ways that have changed rapidly since the platform’s launch in 2010.
Savvy entrepreneurs know they have to be ready to pivot in their approach as the marketing landscape quickly shifts around them. How have you adapted your marketing strategy this year? To stand the best chance of success, consider these three approaches to getting the word out about your small business.
1. Identify as “local.”
The term “small business,” while accurate, doesn’t capture customer attention online. It's dry — more like a term from a college business course than something that will excite potential brand advocates. What’s more, the term can be confining as you look to scale your business up.
Instead, marketing your business as “local” can improve public perception. To fully embrace the local tag, make sure you're taking advantage of options to broadcast your location. That includes managing a Google My Business listing, running a local SEO campaign, and remaining involved in your community. Be sure to advertise with local media outlets and run promotions in your area.
You can also consider organizing niche events to network with nearby business leaders and funnel in qualified leads. I’m From The Future, a Philadelphia-based digital marketing consultancy, has found success using Meetup.com to organize technical SEO events in its area. Not only does this engage interested community members, but it could also lead to sponsorships and other business partnerships in the future.
2. Own your marketing data.
While platforms like Facebook are powerful ways to reach potentially billions of customers, there's a disadvantage to how your marketing data is used and owned on some social networking sites. These services collect and feed customer data into their ad placement algorithms, but in many cases, they own that data — not you. Consequently, you can’t use that customer data to benefit your brand beyond the platform. Even worse, if the site diminishes in popularity (hello, Myspace), some contact information could be lost.
You should strive to own more of your marketing data so you can continue to leverage it off-site, promoting your brand no matter what happens in the social networking sphere. Closely examine agreements with social networking providers, and pull back your marketing efforts with those that don’t let you control your own data. Social media is still a great avenue for engagement, but not as much for lead generation. Be sure to include a call to action (such as an email newsletter signup) on social media posts so you can gather data yourself.
Work on building your own data set of leads, including phone numbers and email addresses, to convert followers through email marketing campaigns. As Tyler King, CEO and founder of Less Annoying CRM, advises, “You can’t take followers, views and likes to the bank, but you can take phone numbers and email addresses with you no matter what system you’re using.”
3. Broaden your scope with a partner.
Partner marketing is an effective and low-risk technique for getting your brand in front of a fresh crop of potential customers. There are significant ROI opportunities associated with referral programs, and partnerships benefit your brand by leveraging your partner’s brand recognition and network of customers.
For a recent example of this approach, consider the collaboration between Harry’s, a company specializing in men’s shaving gear, and skincare shop Heyday. Based on their overlapping target audiences, these brands were a good fit for effective partner marketing. The collaboration resulted in a co-branded facial mask for men, which the companies hope will engage more men in skincare and further their marketing message of skincare accessibility to a broader audience.
Michael Pollak, co-founder and chief brand officer of Heyday, describes the partnership enthusiastically: “To be able to have a conversation with Harry’s audience around [skincare] is incredibly exciting for us. We admire what they’ve done in terms of helping men open the door to grooming and self-care.” Together, the brands aim to snag their share of a men’s grooming market that's expected to grow to $78.6 billion over the next four years.
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