The Top 4 Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

There’s no question: running a small business is tough. Getting your startup off the ground requires a significant commitment in terms of time, energy, and–of course–money. You can’t count on anyone else to do it for you: after taking on the responsibility of launching your own business or firm and taking the entrepreneurial route, the success of your venture rests on your shoulders.

Of course, if you have an entrepreneurial personality, you probably wouldn’t have it any other way. So, assuming you’re steeped in the intense demands of the self-employed work week, you might be asking yourself: how do I reach the next level? I’d working hard, but am I working smart? What else can I be doing to get a leg up?

As a startup, it’s easy to focus almost entirely on your products or services themselves. After all, that’s why you got into this in the first place, right? The problem, though, is that you need to let other people know about what those products or services are. Without an effective and concrete marketing strategy, it doesn’t matter how perfect your offerings are: no one will know about them, and no one will be buying.

Nowadays, though, you’ve got to be both comprehensive and creative with your marketing strategy if you want to stand a chance as a small business or firm. Why? Because in 2017, you’re competing with huge, highly capitalized companies in just about every industry. Obviously, e-commerce stores have a tough row to hoe with the likes of Amazon out there–but it’s important to recognize that even if you’re offering a service, there are probably large, well-funded competitors in your sector with expert marketing strategies already in place.

Don’t despair, though: there are things that set you apart as a small business. Maybe your customer service is ten times better than the big guys. Maybe your expertise in a particular niche outshines the competition. Whatever it is that makes you unique, you’re probably already aware of it. The key is to communicate it to your customers, too.

The question is: how? You’ve heard about SEO, email lists, content creation, PR, pay-per-click, and more–but how does it all work? Which of these strategies are actually worth investing in? We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to answer those questions. Read on to learn more.

1. Build your email list

If you’re like a lot of small businesses, your relationship with email marketing might be a little fuzzy around the edges. You know that it’s important to have an email list, and you’ve probably already captured some emails from both customers and prospects. But, you’re not sure how to maximize the stream of new customer data, and you also aren’t entirely clear what to do with that data once you’ve got it.

Here’s the bottom line: the return on investment for email marketing can be as high as 38 to 1. There are a few things you can do to ensure that you’re doing the right thing when it comes to your email list.

First and foremost, ensure that your website has multiple email capture opportunities. Have your developer set up an “exit intent popup”: this is a window that appears when a user attempts to leave your site. Give users an opportunity to give you their email address before leaving. But don’t ask them to give you something for nothing: offer them something in return, too (see item #6 below).

Sign up for an email marketing platform, and use it to manage your list. As your list grows, think about what you want your customers to know about your company. New customers can automatically receive what’s called an “automated campaign” of emails: a series of several emails delivered at specific intervals to educate them about your products or services. This is a great way to effectively induct new customers into your company culture. You can set up separate campaigns for leads and prospects, and nurture leads into conversion. Don’t skimp on email: it should be one of your main marketing focuses.

2. Ask for blog reviews

You’ve got a great website. It’s pretty slick: your developer did a great job, and you’re happy with the content on each page. There’s just one problem: your daily traffic is abysmal.

If you’re experiencing this issue, you’re not alone. A lot of small businesses aren’t sure about how to drive significant amounts of traffic to their site. While a comprehensive SEO strategy is important, there are some specific things you can do that are capable of providing quick results.

Blog reviews are a great way to increase your site traffic. Here’s how they work. If you’ve got a product or products that you sell, identify the “thought leaders” in your industry. These are the people whose blogs are read by both professionals and consumers: they set the standard for what’s “in” and what’s not. Make a list of these bloggers. Send each of them a sample of your product, and reach out to them via email as well. Let them know that you’re a reader, that you appreciate their insight, and that you thought they might be interested in giving your product a try. Follow up with them later and ask them what they thought. If they seem amicable, politely ask whether they’d be interested in reviewing your product on their blog. Depending on the blogger, they may have already done so by this point.

If you offer a service rather than a product, don’t worry: you can apply a similar strategy. Instead of sending a product, find something that a thought leader’s blog is missing. Identify a topic that they haven’t hit on, and which you think could you’re an authority on. Reach out to them as above, but instead of sending a product, offer to write a guest post. Whether you’re writing as a guest blogger or getting your product reviewed, you’ll end up with a backlink to your website from an authoritative blog with lots of traffic. Watch the analytics on the backend of your site: you’ll likely see a significant uptick in new visitors. Take note of which sites sent you the most traffic, and reach out to them again in the future with a new product or guest post idea.

3. Feature case studies

If you’ve put the above strategy to work, you’ve likely already seen a measurable jump in your day to day web traffic. It’s kind of amazing how a single site can send you so many new prospects, isn’t it? Well, stop and ask yourself: how did that site get to where it is today? How does it generate so much traffic that it’s able to send a significant stream of visitors to your site with a single blog post?

The answer is both simple and elusive: industry authority. As mentioned above, certain bloggers and sites are the “thought leaders” in an industry. They’re the sites that everyone goes to when they want to find out what the newest, latest thing is in industry X, Y or Z.

You’ll notice that we haven’t made one of the items here on our list, “become a thought leader.” That’s because telling you to “become a thought leader” is tantamount to saying, “be good at marketing.” It’s not a single task unto itself: it’s a goal that you aim towards, one which requires the implementation of a wide range of individual and interconnected strategies. Most of the tips here will push you in the direction of “thought leader” status, including this one: use case studies.

You don’t need a dedicated research team to conduct a case study, as this case study guide from HubSpot should make clear. If you can pinpoint a particular set of data that people in your industry want, that’s not currently available anywhere online, and that you can realistically come up with yourself: bingo. Jackpot. Do enough of those case studies and feature them on your website, and you’ll be well on your way to “thought leader.”

4. Invite expert input

In the meantime, though, you’re probably not a “thought leader.” And, becoming one takes a lot of time and effort. It could be many months, even a year, before you start to see major shifts in traffic to your website. In the meantime, you need other strategies that can drive more traffic in your direction. So, the question is: how can you make your site look expert-like, when you’re not yet regarded as an authority in your field?

Simple: invite experts to offer their input in the form of guest blogs and/or long-form articles. This can take a couple of forms. First, though, go back to that list of industry leaders that you compiled above. Make sure it’s fairly comprehensive: run some more searches and add other names to your list if you can.

Reach out to these industry leaders and bloggers, and ask if they’d be interested in contributing to some content you’re creating. Make sure you appeal to their particular expertise in a specific niche: ask them to write about the thing they’re best known for. You can have them do one of two things: either write an entire blog post, or contribute to a longer, in-depth article. If you ask for a blog, understand that people are busy and may require a reminder (or three). Be sure to give them plenty of direction, too: you want the blog they write to be usable.

An alternative, and sometimes more successful, approach is to ask for input on a long-form article you’re putting together. You can reach out to, say, half a dozen experts on a particular topic, and ask each of them to write a paragraph about some specific subtopic you’re including in your article. In order for this to work, you’ll need to put together a fairly detailed outline of your article first, and request input for each subtopic from a specific industry authority.

When done well, this kind of content can be a heavy hitter on two levels. Firstly, it’s valuable content that people will actually want to read, and it can drive traffic to your site through search engines. Secondly, though, and perhaps more importantly, you can ask every contributor you’ve contacted to mention the article on their blog, and link to it. You’ve now generated multiple backlinks from sites with high authority to a single, comprehensive, well-written article on your site. The traffic you receive from this kind of content can be astounding.

Bonus Tip: Connect With the Right Digital Marketing Consultant

Okay, this is a bit of a shameless plug. But let’s be honest: at the end of the day, you need someone executing on a digital marketing strategy who has the time, tools, knowledge, and experience to help you succeed. Ready to take the next step? Contact Lagom Digital Marketing today.