Marketing Channels for Small Businesses
If you run a small business, you will know how important it is to choose the right marketing channels - and just how difficult that can be sometimes.
The reason for this is that every business is different. With different goals, challenges, opportunities and audiences.
Then there are the sheer number of different channels to choose from. It’s difficult to know which will work, and which will be a waste of time and money?
This guide sets out to give you a brief overview of the main marketing channels available, as well as a few tips that might help you meet your goals and objectives.
The art of getting found, with SEO and fresh content
Search Engine Optimisation is marketing-speak for increasing the chances of your business appearing on popular search engines, like Google.
To understand how SEO works, it’s best to look at the situation from Google’s point-of-view.
When it comes to search, Google’s main goal is to help people find the things they’re looking for. To do that, it uses a very complex algorithm that ranks websites based on the information they provide, the speed they load, how long people spend on the site, how phone-friendly your content is, and a lot of other things.
Given that most people never make it to Page 2 of the search results you can imagine how important this is for any business.
The good news is that there some relatively easy ways you can improve your SEO game:
- Make your website mobile-friendly.
People are increasingly using their phones to search for things, which means your site will attract more visitors, and customers, if everything is clear to read and easy to find for users on smartphones.
- Consider Long-tail Keywords
Your website will probably already be rich in words that describe what you sell and what you offer - but the more specific you can be in your keywords, the more likely you will appear on page one of the results page.
You can do this by using long-tail keywords that your audience might be specifically looking for.
For example, there might be 40 restaurants in your city using ‘Chinese food’ as keywords - and you might appear on page 3 of the results. However, by focusing on more precise keywords, if someone searches for ‘Taiwanese dumplings’ you might well be ranked highly on page 1.
- Keep your content fresh
Search engines are constantly indexing pages and refining their results, to ensure they’re providing the best results to their users.
Another way to increase your ranking is to keep adding new content. This could be as simple as adding a blog-post once a month. Write about the subject or industry you know. If you’re a butcher, talk about different cuts of meat and what they’re good for. If you run a florist, talk about different presentation styles.
You might be surprised how much attention you can generate in your target audience. People will visit your site to read the post, and while they’re there they may browse your products, or even decide to buy something. While also increasing your search engine ranking.
Social Media ideas for business
With over 3 billion people using social media these days, it’s an obvious channel for any business to utilise. However it’s worth bearing in mind that for every success-story you hear, there are hundreds of companies who have invested a lot of time and money into social media, and have little more to show for it than a handful of meaningless likes.
There are also a lot of different social media channels to look at, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. The best way to discover what works for your business to set up accounts and try posting a few things. You’ll quickly get an idea whether or not any particular platform has potential for your business.
In the meantime, here’s a really top-level overview of the most popular social media platforms out there…
With billions of active users, Facebook is incredibly popular among a huge range of different demographics. Facebook users tend to login daily, making it a really useful way of reaching out to people, and sometimes other businesses too.
One of Facebook’s biggest strengths is its incredibly strong targeting options when creating ads. You can target geographic locations, ages, genders and interests. You should bear in mind, however, that Facebook is so popular that your business won’t be the only company targeting these groups and that can really push up the price.
LinkedIn has been created specifically for businesses and professionals. That makes it an obvious channel for any B2B activity, as well as an avenue for publishing white papers and establishing yourself as a thought leader around a particular industry or subject.
When using LinkedIn, you can also set up a personal account and a business account and treat the channel as an informal blog. It’s certainly worth trying it out for free, then you’ll have a better idea if Linkedin is good for your business, or not.
Twitter has become an increasingly important channel when it comes to networking, and for establishing yourself as a prominent part of any particular industry. It’s a fast-paced platform that requires constant monitoring and quick thinking, but the rewards can certainly be worth it.
You can also use Twitter to build an audience relatively quickly by making the most of its engagement features. Following people and other companies is quick and easy, as is starting conversations and making new contacts. That said, more than a few people have pointed out that a lot of the communication on Twitter tends to be very superficial.
With over 2 billion active users, Youtube is by far the largest video platform. Once you’ve set up a channel for your business, you can start posting videos and promoting them to a variety of different audiences.
One of the great things about Youtube is it really lets you get creative with the content you use to showcase your business. Whether it’s a timelapse of watching grass grow for a landscaping company, or simply a plumber using a video tutorial to teach people how to fix a leaking faucet, you might be surprised by just how many people are interested in what your company is doing.
If you have a business that creates anything that looks good in a photo, then Pinterest could be of interest to you. Everything from home-made furniture, to quirky cupcakes and even toned gym-bodies can create huge interest among its regulars.
Pinterest also gives users the option to purchase buyable pins that display prices, details and other relevant information, creating a direct channel between you and potential customers who like what they see.
Instagram is a platform that focuses on smartphone users. Giving them the ability to post photos and videos directly from their phone to an audience of people and businesses. Similarly to Pinterest, this is a really useful platform for businesses that have the ability to create striking images of their products, locations and services. .
It’s a platform that is especially popular among younger audiences, so if your business is looking to get the attention of teens and young adults, you should definitely look into creating Instagram Stories, or perhaps even live streaming.
Of course, to make the most of any social media channel, you need to have an established Social media strategy. Click here to read more about developing a social media strategy.
Creating more successful email campaigns
In recent years, the popularity of email as a business channel has soared. There are many reasons for this, but one of the main drivers is ROI - or Return On Investment.
In other words, you tend to get a lot in return for investing a comparatively small amount. And this applies to both time and money.
Emails and newsletters also allow you to engage with your customers on a regular basis, helping to keep your company to-of-mind. While also driving sales by promoting sales, special offers and communicating new products and services.
Here are five tips to help your small business start sending more effective emails:
1. When it comes to sending emails, less is more
There are exceptions, but the general rule for email frequency is that the less you send, the more that will be opened.
I know it can be tempting to want to drum up business by sending out emails every week, but the only thing this will increase is the number of people in your mailing list that choose to click unsubscribe.
On the other hand, sending out email once or month, or announcing sales twice a year, is far more likely to get people opening and reading your emails.
The reason for this is simply that people don’t like being harassed, and that’s how it will begin to feel if you abuse your audience's goodwill by spamming them.
2. Write from the heart, and write the way you talk
One of the big advantages a small business has, over the corporate giants, is that they feel more human.
While multinational giants might have hundreds of marketing executives, and 400-page brand guidelines, they will never come across as authentic as a simple business owner talking to his customers.
One tactic to use, is to imagine one of your customers is sitting in front of you, and to write exactly how you would talk to them in real life. Use your natural charm, colloquialisms and even local slang. And don’t forget to sign off using your own name.
It’ll help your readers realise that this has been written by a real person. Just like them.
3. Look into setting up an automatic email program
Automatic emails can be the single smartest marketing initiative a small-business owner can have.
Not only do they save time and money, but they can also reduce churn, increase sales and generate huge amounts of goodwill towards your business.
There are many different ways to do this, but essentially the idea is always the same. Choose a set of conditions, and then write a corresponding email. When the conditions are met, an email is automatically sent.
Here are a few automatic emails you might want to consider:
The Happy Birthday Email
If you have your customer’s birthdays, you can set up an automatic email to let them know you’re thinking about them on their special day. Alternatively, you could choose to send the email 2-3 days before their birthday. Then offer them a special birthday discount. This way they have time to include your business in their celebrations.
The Review Request Email
Regular customers are for more likely to leave positive reviews for a business. So set up an automatic email that is triggered when a customer visits for the 5th time. Thank them for their business, and ask them to write a review, ideally by providing a link to the review platform that fits best with your business.
The Long-Time No-Hear Email
Sometimes, with the hectic hustle-bustle of day-to-day business, you may not notice when particular customers start coming less often. To counter this, set up an email that is triggered if a customer doesn’t visit over a certain period of time. In the body of the email make sure to tell them how much you value their business, and possibly even add a discount code, to help lure them back.
Of course, to have an automatic email program, you need to have a way of capturing customer data. Some modern loyalty programs, like Piggy, help you to do exactly that.
Writing Newsletters people enjoy receiving
Newsletters are becoming increasingly popular amongst a wide range of businesses and customers. They’re the ideal way for businesses to stay top-of-mind, and provide both informative and entertaining content. While customers get to see what their favourite brands have been up to lately.
The secret to getting customers opening your newsletters and reading them is to make them regular, and to make them interesting.
You can do this by not just writing about your products and your business. Also take this chance to look at the bigger picture.
Write about your suppliers. Write about your industry. Write about your world.
And invite your customers to join the conversation.
There are millions of other regular topics you can include. Here just a few examples:
Word of the month:
Product of the month:
Customer of the month:
Recipe of the month:
Colour of the month:
Include news relevant to your industry. It might be a product development, or a new technique. It might be something silly from a different country.
You can include historical facts. Or obscure world record holders.
Feel free to even mention things happening in the greater world - but be neutral, and try not to polarise your audience.
Marketing channels, in a nutshell
Ultimately, the easiest way to find the most effective marketing channels for your small business is to try different things and see what works.
One channel might lead to more sales, but it might also take up 90% of your time, making it successful, but inefficient.
Other channels might be quick and easy to utilise, but bring in very few results, making them just as ineffective.
The best thing to do is to experiment, find a channel that works for you, then spend your available time optimising that channel.
If you’re also looking for a loyalty program that can also solve your marketing problems, then you might want to take a closer look at the Piggy loyalty platform.