Small businesses can’t afford huge advertising budgets. They need—no, have—to rely on strategies that fit their revenue streams. That means they won’t be able to rely on big, splashy ad agency campaigns. No million-dollar television advertising budget; no tens-of-thousands of dollars on radio advertising. For a small business, even the expense of local newspaper advertising may be beyond their budgetary allowance.
So, what’s left? A guy wearing a sandwich board and standing on the sidewalk on the corner? Not necessarily. Yes, the business’ budget may be small, but it doesn’t have to rely on attracting the attention of drivers passing by.
There’s something that’s a little more “in-between” the Park Avenue budget and the sandwich board guy. That’s the power of the internet. It has a vast reach, extending from the business’ community to going all the way around the world.
It may also extend the business’ ability to gain customers, moving from local to countrywide or even farther. Look at a few tactics and strategies that you and your business can use. These include testimonials, personal branding, influencer marketing, and email marketing.
Use Testimonials or Business Reviews
Business reviews build trust. Those online testimonials you read on websites that sell a service or product are usually real. Usually. When a small business uses testimonials wisely, they have taken the time and trouble to ask customers or clients to provide testimonials about the services or products they have bought from the business. Why?
Prospective customers read testimonials and they immediately begin to relate, not just to the customers who gave testimonials, but to the business. When the feedback is positive, the would-be customer begins to believe that they can trust the business and its products or services. Even more, people new to the business begin to think that it is good at what it does.
Those testimonials echo what the business says about its products and services. They fill out what the business’ owner or employees have said about their services or products.
If the small business offers a service or product that is similar to so many others locally or even regionally, the owner wants to make it stand above the other businesses. A customer’s testimonial can make the product or service more real, more personal. The customer can go into detail about how the product or service worked and, hopefully, changed their life.
When they are used wisely, testimonials can help the business achieve up to a 5 percent increase in customer retention. While this doesn’t seem huge, return customers can order more frequently from the business, which may impact profits positively. To put it plainly, customer retention costs much less than gaining new customers.
Customer testimonials that are quickly visible are the most effective. A webpage that is devoted solely to testimonials is also highly effective.
One caution: Small businesses should be honest and use real customer reviews. They should also not delete negative reviews. This backfires badly, especially when the public learns about the dishonesty.
Putting a brand on yourself may seem odd. It may feel strange, too. If you think of “what” you are branding, rather than “who,” it gets easier. You’re branding your own skills, knowledge, and professionalism.
When you brand yourself and your expertise, your curriculum vitae stand out above those of others who are also in your business. When you brand yourself professionally, you’re putting the focus on your business, products or services.
You’re going to get attention for your small business. Potential customers will think, “Hey, this person is putting themselves out there. I need to look at what they have to offer.” From there, they may find that you offer something they’ve been needing for a while.
If, for instance, you design and create items for wedding parties and weddings, you may choose to say, “We’ve been designing and selling wedding-themed items for the last X years. Our customers love the items they get. And, because we sell on so many platforms, that means that more people can order and get what they are looking for. Try us out!”
Before you create that branding webpage, you need to research what’s out there first. You’re creating a niche product or service and you want it to stand out. Who else does what you do? How do they do it? Why are they respected and why are they doing as well as they are?
Do this with every business that does what your business does. Look at their branding techniques. Once you’re done with all this, examine yourself and your business well and decide what you are the best at. What does your business do the best? Run with that.
Now, it’s time to come up with a slogan. Yes, like Nike’s “Just do it.” Speak to your customers and future customers. Tell them who you are in just a few well-chosen words. Your slogan should be short and concise, boiling down your value brand into a descriptive slogan.
Decide what products and services you’re going to offer. Don’t over-promise. Don’t engage in hyperbole. Be honest and true—your customers will sense your “realness.”
Once you have a brand, figure out how you can blend that in with your services and/or products. Once you have this figured it, it’s time to talk about that brand and your services, using all avenues available, with charts, videos, infographics, and memos. This is an extension of your personal brand.
You learned about SWOT analysis in your marketing classes. It’s an acronym for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.” Performing this analysis on your business helps you to understand what you’re good at and what you need to be better at. It also tells you who your real competitors are. It’s a simple process that you can complete on one sheet of paper, using four columns.
Once you know your strengths and weaknesses compared to other similar companies, you can make changes that bring you to a much more competitive level.
Once SWOT has been completed, it’s time to develop your own personal brand. Pinpoint what your company’s emotional appeal is. This is what leads people to think with their hearts, not their heads.
By pinpointing your emotional appeal, it may help you develop some ideas for personal branding.
“Ho, boy, WHAT? I’m not an influencer!” Think again. You may be. You don’t have to be famous, rich or a celebrity. When you get comfortable with the idea of thinking of yourself in this role and you make it a part of your company’s advertising, you may soon start to see more customers choosing to buy your services or products. Of all the brands out there, 65 percent do invest in influencer marketing. They have gotten back every dollar they invested in this niche marketing—plus.
First, what is an influencer? Anyone who has a strong online presence, whether through social media, blogs or blogs. Are all of them famous? No, not by any means!
They have developed their expertise in their business niche. Even more, they have gotten the nod from other businesses and their customers as influencers. They know their opinions and writings carry a lot of water.
They didn’t get there just by wishing for it. They worked for it! The opinions they give are true and real. When they give their feedback on an issue or product, they know they need to make it truthful. In doing so, they increase trust in that product/service and improve their own credibility even more.
Their own customers will listen to (or read) what they say and act on it. If, for instance, they tell customers and potential customers that XYZ stock is a good risk, those individuals will act on it. They may at least read more information about that stock, then, if they find what they read to be valid, they will buy.
What does an influencer look like?
- Active in social media
- They truly believe in what they are endorsing
- They have thought leadership
- They are an authority in their field or on their product
- They have an online personality that attracts and engages their audience
Understand the four following TYPES of influencers:
- Popular on YouTube—their videos grab peoples’ attention
- They are active on several social media websites: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest
- Celebrities: Yes, there are some celebrities, like Beyonce who are influencers. Think George Clooney, with his activism as well
- An influencer can have a blog with a huge following. This type of influencer knows they have a strong storytelling skill
Rising to the level of, and becoming, an influencer means you have “arrived” in your industry
Working with, or becoming an influencer has several definite benefits. These include:
- Education—an influencer can educate a target audience
- Social presence—their connection to a new brand or business may increase the interest of prospective customers
SEOranking: an influencer’s post can land higher in searches. Their followers look for their words
- Brand awareness: An influencer can drive attention to a new brand
- Reputation management—if a company has suffered bad reviews or a hit to their reputation, an influencer can help to correct this
- More customer trust—A brand now has a human face attached to it, which leads customers to buy this product more.
Returning to Beyonce, she has somewhere around 14.7 million followers. Her words are going to get peoples’ attention. Her fans engage with her, and this helps a new business that has connected with her.
You wouldn’t expect Beyonce to talk about STEM topics or software sales. So, look for a CEO who is an influencer to help you out.
Beyonce encourages people to wear what she’s wearing (within reason). If she is wearing a new brand of yoga pants, she gets her followers interested in that brand.
Email marketing, when done right, can be a wonderful strategy for your new business. Whether you use drip emails or follow-up emails, if you time them right and send them in the right quantities, then you’re going to see your customers engaging with you.
For those prospective customers who are still thinking about buying your service or product, promote that item with drip emails. For every dollar spent, email marketing actually brings in about $44 in ROI (return on investment).
Sending out repeated email blasts just to keep your business in customers’ minds may backfire. Why frustrate or anger them? Instead. use email at a rate that actually piques customer interest.
As you say what you need to say, make sure you’re sending the message you want to send. “Hello! Just thought I would let you know that I’m still thinking of you and your needs.” This comes across as much more personal than that email blast that tells people they “HAVE TO BUY!”
Emails are most likely to be seen, opened and read than marketing messages on Twitter or Facebook. It’s the easiest to create and send and also one of the most effective methods of digital marketing. (How many services have you signed up where the business asked if you preferred receiving communications via phone calls or emails? Sixty-eight percent of customers prefer receiving emails.