For small business owners, promoting your website can cause a serious case of choice paralysis.
There are so many options available these days and those in the advertising and marketing industries will often try to convince you that the shiniest, fanciest and latest methods need to be taken advantage of.
The reality, especially for local businesses, is that you just need some research, find a marketing method that works best for you and maintain a discipline of learning and repeating what works.
Marketing can be challenging but these tips can help you maintain focus on your goals, learn about your customers and experiment with different methods until you find what’s ideal for your business. Pay particular attention to points one to four as they are the constant, all other points are dependent on them.
1. Know Your Audience
Everything starts with understanding your customer and potential customers. As a business owner, you’re best placed to know who your customers are, what drives them and what they like/dislike about your products and services.
But you should also try to understand where they get their information from and where they are most likely to hear about your business. This can be challenging when trying to develop new customers so take time to understand where people heard about you and identify the profile of the customer you are trying to attract e.g. gender, age, location, interests.
2. Capture and Learn
Capture information on your existing and potential customers. This can help with generating leads, staying in touch with customers and in your research – three birds with one stone.
Bring your local users into your online world. Try to collect email addresses and phone numbers. This can be done online or in store on survey cards, or by incentivising customers to give you their contact details.
Make sure you have a good knowledge of GDPR and your responsibilities as a data processor. This data can be invaluable in some of the later points in this article.
3. Set Goals
You know your business and your customers. Now set short term, achievable goals on what you want to accomplish by promoting your business and try to measure your success against that. E.g. 30% increase in sales of product X by end of March.
4. Less is More
Below are some methods and mediums to put the previous points into action. Do not try to do everything. Aim to do two to three of the following points really well rather than all of them.
Once you’ve found the marketing methods that are effective for your business, see if you have capacity to try others.
Because each business is different you’ll need to test a mix of marketing methods. Test, test and test again until you hit the jackpot.
5. Get a Website
This is key for any modern business. Have a site that answers the questions your research raised. It should be easy to find and contact you.
Learn why this is important and try our tips on creating a website for small businesses – no coding needed.
6. Search and Find
Search is one of the most important ways customers discover local businesses these days. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) means making your business visible on Search Engines like Google and Bing.
If you have a website, it is key to put some effort into finding out how to make your site appear higher in search rankings. This can get quite complex but one thing you can do easily is to claim your business listing on Google and Bing and appear in local searches and on maps.
7. Be Social
Social media e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Linkedin, is a cost effective way of connecting with customers, promoting your business and publishing content. Your research should help you identify the social media channels where your potential customers spend time.
Engage with them here. Remind them of new products, offers and sales – direct to them in the comfort of their home. This can help you generate new leads and improve their customer experience.
The data gathered in point two also becomes useful here as you can retarget people with relevant messaging on social media e.g. target offers to people who have visited your shop.
Everyone, unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last quarter of a century, has an email address. It is potentially one of the most effective and low cost ways of promoting your business – and a reason why capturing data is so key.
Email is an excellent way to keep in touch with customers and promote your products and services to them.
Avoid spamming people. For local businesses, weekly or monthly emails will most likely suffice. Make your email content relevant, useful and actionable (e.g. “Use this code in store for a 10% discount”).
Mailchimp is a useful, paid for, tool for creating attractive email campaigns and tracking the success of them. There are many other options available, some with free subscriptions up to a certain amount of emails.
If you want to guarantee a local audience will see your promotion, paid-for advertising could be the right option for you.
On InYourArea you can use our location-targeted Sponsored Posts to get your message to local customers all over the UK. Your ad content is vital so we’ve created this guide to help you write compelling ads to attract new customers.
10. Encourage Reviews
Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful forms of advertising, and for local businesses this is essential.
Nowadays, when people are searching for accommodation on AirBnB, finding a tradesman on Checkatrade or looking for a restaurant on TripAdvisor they check user reviews – because reputation matters.
If you’ve claimed your business listing in point six, encourage users online and in-store to leave reviews for your business on Yelp, Google or any website where you have a listing.
Never pay for reviews as it can end up doing more harm than good. People respect authenticity and dislike being hoodwinked.
From time to time monitor what people say about your business online and use this as a source of research to help improve your products or services.
11. Get Listed on Directories
Directories like yell.com can be a great source of traffic and visibility for people looking for local shops and services. Try to get your business listed on an industry-specific directories like Checkatrade for tradesmen.
This handy tool from moz.com can help you identify some important sites where you can claim your business listing.
As you can tell from the previous points, most of the modern methods of promoting your business are online. But traditional print advertising can still be effective for the right audience and in locations where there is a strong local news brand.
If, for example, your target audience is skewed towards an older generation, or if there are popular local papers in your locality print advertising may well be a suitable method to promote your business.