Small business marketing is always challenging. Most small businesses lack a sizeable marketing staff and many do not have a budget that allows for massive marketing campaigns. So how does a small business determine where to spend the limited marketing budget they do have?
The key to smart small business marketing is to think of the money you are spending as an "investment". Do things that can benefit you not just today, but that can also provide value on an ongoing basis. I believe the list below gives any small business a good foundation for their marketing. Over time you can build on this, but the investment made in these items continue to pay off over the long haul.
1) Quality Business Cards - That's right, business cards. Many people don't see business cards as a marketing piece. However, it's often the first item that you give a prospective customer. The business card carries your logo and thus is representative of your business. If you've ever been handed a poor quality business card in a meeting, you understand the impression that it leaves. Do not underestimate the value of a quality business card.
2) A Simple Logo Design - I've seen so many bad logos that I can't even begin to count. Remember this when creating your logo. Keep it simple. The most recognizable logos in the world follow this rule. Apple, Google, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Mercedes Benz, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are all very simple designs.
3) A Quality Website - A large number of buying decisions begin with a web search. Simple, clean design, good navigation, and good content are all key components of a quality website. Your website should be informational to the visitor and reflect your understanding of your industry. Having a website just for the sake of having a website could actually create a negative perception of your business. Take the time to do it right.
4) A .COM domain extension - if at all possible, get the .COM. Other extensions like .NET, .CO, .INFO, .TV, etc. just don't hold the same level of credibility as .COM. Additionally, people remember .COM. If you have a different extension, you will have to educate everyone to use it. Most people just assume .COM and may actually end up going to the wrong site.
5) Copywriting - Some people just don't like writing. Don't let your dislike or even fear of writing reflect poorly upon your business. Have you ever picked up a marketing piece or browsed through a website that looked like there was zero effort put into the content. Or even worse, if there are grammatical errors or misspelled words, what is your impression of that business? I would guess it would not be positive. Not only will people get a negative impression of your business, search engines such as Google will actually downgrade your website from a ranking perspective due to misspellings or grammatical errors.
6) SEO - SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Simply building a website generally isn't enough to get your site to the top of search engine rankings and a website that no one can find is simply a waste of time. Make sure your website is optimized so that you are more likely to be found by people who are searching for products and services like yours!
7) Social Media Accounts - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest. Each social media platform provides a different opportunity to communicate with potential and existing customers. It's important to understand the unique benefits of each platform and which ones fit best for your business. Additionally, understanding how to utilize social media for business is critical. Tweeting about your kids’ soccer game or posting pictures of your night at the bar on your Facebook page are NOT helping you grow your business.
8) A Good Designer - Last and certainly not least, DO NOT wing it when it comes to designing your business cards, sales materials, website, or anything else. I can't stress enough that everything you produce leaves an impression. Professionally designed materials give the impression that quality of work is important to you.
So, if you are just getting started with a new business venture or maybe you've been in business a while and it's just time to get a little more serious about marketing, remember to look at your marketing spend as an investment in your brand. How do you want to be perceived? As a company who values quality or one who cuts corners to save a nickel?