A Beginner’s Guide To Promoting Your Small Business
Want to start a business but don’t know anything about marketing? Or maybe you’ve already launched but the clicks and sales just aren’t coming in? No matter the stage, getting your business off the ground is always a challenge. Here’s some help.
Millennials are, apparently, the entrepreneur generation. In a study from Bentley University, 67% of respondents aimed to start their own business one day, and only 13% had any interest in climbing the corporate ladder of someone else’s company. Similarly, this survey found that one in three young Australians want to own their own business one day. Basically, we all want to run the world be our own bosses.
But to do this, you need to get your business in front of the masses, which can be tough. The internet, of course, is your main port of call, but it’s a two-sided coin: it’s an infinite empire of free/cheap marketing opportunities, and it’s also a deep, dark void full of easily-distracted and disagreeable people. (Just read any comment section for evidence.)
So, whether you’ve just opened up your novelty badge Etsy store or you’re about to launch a major tech startup, here are some of the things to remember when you’re gearing up to get the word out.
Figure out your niche
Before you start throwing money around or going gangbusters on your ad plan, figure out where your concept fits in the existing market and in the minds of your target audience. It sounds like a whole lot of boring business dross (and it kind of is) but it’s important to know what makes your concept different to anything else around.
How can you hook buyers or investors in? What can you provide your customers that no one else can? The broader your product or service range is, the more difficult it will be to target to a specific market. A great way to figure out if your concept has legs is to chat to family and friends and ask them some honest questions: would they buy what you’re selling? What could you improve on? What part of your range or idea is most appealing?
Here’s something on designing your own business model. It’ll help immensely to go through this process.
It’s time to embrace what you’re best at – scrolling aimlessly and endlessly through social feeds – and turn it into a business plan. Set up pages for your business on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (you can get more niche depending on your topic: Pinterest is great for visually awesome products and online purchases, Snapchat is great for businesses that want to showcase their content in a lo-fi, relatable way) and make sure you deck them out with profile photos and relevant links before you start posting.
Don’t assume that you know how to promote your business on social media just because you know how to post a Facebook; it’s far more complicated than that. Do your research first. There’s heaps of how-tos out there.
Give people free stuff
Cross promotion is where it’s at: work your existing contacts and make new ones to get online exposure from esteemed consumers. Working with influencers, like bloggers and prolific ‘grammers, is a great and somewhat organic marketing technique for those running businesses that have a visual presence. It’s always good to find a way to measure the engagement and return on investment so you’re not hurting your business instead of helping it.
If you work in fashion, send some clothes to a blogger who might like your range, and ask if they’d be up for doing a review or tagged Instagram post (pro tip: ensure that the influencer has decent engagement; someone with 20,000 loyal, engaged followers is worth far more than someone with 100,000 followers who barely has interactions on their posts).
If you’re creating novelty cakes, give freebies or discounted cakes to friends or family members who are social media savvy and ask them to share on their pages. Put business cards or flyers in cafes, bars, doctor’s offices, schools, and anywhere else that you can subtly leave them. If you can easily give out free samples of your product, advertise on your website that the first 50 or 100 customers will get a freebie – or hit up your favourite cafe/clothing store and ask if they’d mind you giving out some samples on a busy weekend morning (if need be, you can negotiate a small fee).
Become an expert
Make sure you know your product, service, business, and industry. Study like you’re in school (but with more wine) and ensure you know what you’re talking about, no matter who is asking. Try sending free sample products or offer free services to journalists and media professionals – even if they can’t ethically or legally take you up on them, it still puts your name and product on their desk, and if they ring you up for a chat you’ll be confident in responding.
Creating content is a great way to become an authority on a subject, so part of your website should ideally have a blog section where you can post regular content. In addition, think about whether or not guest blogging will work for you: invite other business owners (who are likely hoping to promote their own product) to write a post for your site and see if you can write one for them in return. Talk with authority, and own your concept – if you don’t believe in it and understand it, no one else will.
Chloe Papas is a journalist and writer based in Victoria. You can find her on Twitter here.