1. Get Active on Social Media
Whether you use social media in your personal life or not, your business should. Creating a web presence is absolutely vital in modern-day marketing. If a client wants to leave a good review, but can’t find your business anywhere online, they’re likely to give up… which means you’ve just lost free word of mouth online! The good news is, social media accounts are easy—and free—to set up. Which platform you choose should depend on how you want to engage with your current and potential customers.
Facebook for business
Chances are your business already has an unofficial Facebook page if one of your customers has ‘checked in’ at your location or mentioned your business name in a post—so that’s a good place to start. All you need to do is claim this page, fill out your details—trading hours, email, website address, services—the more, the better. Facebook offers a good balance of photos and text posts, and allows your customers to engage through reviews, asking questions and responding to your posts.
Other social platforms
Is your product or service highly visual? Instagram or Pinterest might suit you better. Sharing quality photos of your finished work, for example, a new lunch special or a kitchen renovation, with relevant hashtags can spark the interest of many new customers. If your clients are other businesses or professionals, try a networking platform, such as LinkedIn.Regardless of the platform and how much time you can invest, any client engagement is better than none, and just by being active you can potentially see an improvement in your search engine optimisation (SEO).
2. Engage Your Customer Base
According to Larry Myler via Forbes, it’s significantly cheaper to retain an existing customer than attract a new one. I’d go further than that and say you can engage your previous clients and encourage them to utilise your services again for no cost!
How to use email marketing to your advantage
The term ‘email marketing’ is likely to conjure up thoughts of spam and emptying your junk folder. However, it can be a great tool for encouraging repeat purchases or keeping your business ‘top of mind’. Providing you can deliver interesting and relevant content, particularly if there are savings or special offers to be had, you’ll soon have those incredibly valuable regulars.
Getting started creating an email campaign or newsletter is a lot easier than you might think. The first step is to build an email list. You can do this in person at the point of sale—competition sign-ups and loyalty cards are good ways to entice them to leave an email address—or through an online enquiry form if you have a website.
Next, you need some engaging and visually appealing content to entice your customers. There are many online programs designed to help you create beautiful emails and send it to all your contacts at once. Many of these are completely free, up to a certain number of emails sent. MailChimp, for example, allows up to 12,000 emails per month, which for many small and medium-sized businesses is more than enough!
3. Claim Your Online Listings
Try searching your own business name online, and chances are you’ll find your business has been listed on directory websites (such as www.localsearch.com.au).
Claiming your free listing allows you to take control of what is displayed, add basic contact and service details and ensure your business is properly represented. Not only does this help you attract potential customers who are using those sites, but also has a positive impact on your SEO.
Another valuable source you can take advantage of is Google My Business or Google Places. Completing the verification process and adding contact information ensures you have a place right near the top of the unpaid search results for your service. Please note: this is only available for companies with a fixed location, such as an auto mechanic workshop or a dental clinic.
4. Create Free Content
As far as free marketing initiatives go, content is king. Are you an expert in your profession with a unique perspective? Offer your knowledge to the world and you just might attract a lot of positive attention from customers as well as other businesses looking to network. Remember to keep in mind the type of content you’re producing and pick the right medium for it.
One of the simplest options is to do what I’m doing right now—write a blog! It doesn’t have to be in the form of an article, you might create an informative YouTube video instead. Regularly creating valuable content people actually want to read or watch will encourage sharing of your content which expands brand awareness to new audiences. Plus, a website with a full and consistent blog is almost always going to be placed higher in search engine rankings than one without.
Trying to market to other businesses or industry professionals? Consider producing an eBook about something technical unique to your company. Of course, this requires a significant investment of time, though the payoff can be enormous if it attracts a lucrative partnership deal. You can publish your work for free through Google Books.
5. Start Networking
Many companies underestimate the value of industry networking. By engaging with peers and industry bodies, you’ll get a lot more than a surplus of business cards. You don’t even have to go outside!
Building relationships in your field can be as easy as commenting on high-traffic blogs or forums. You’ll be able to market yourself as a thought leader in the industry, with the added benefit of capturing the interest of any potential customers who stumble across the post. Just make sure to keep your comments professional and on-topic.
Networking in person can be a lot more difficult if you’re not a naturally outgoing person. It may be in the form of a local fundraising event, an expo or a specified networking meetup. Talk to the right people and you could set up a mutually beneficial cross-promotion deal, or simply just direct clients to each other’s services. A referral from a qualified professional is always going to be valued highly by a client.
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