A lot of small business owners claim that they spend too much money on marketing. Often times, many companies have a hard time justifying the spend as it can be difficult to track its results in terms of ROI and, because of that, opt not to invest in any sort of marketing. Here in lies the ultimate double-edged sword: some sort of marketing is needed. Hands down. Initially, there are two things that might happen: 1. The company that you’ve opened in might be so popular that you might ride off the wave of newness for about 6 months to a year, and that’s only if all the kinks (customer service, quality of product or service, atmosphere and timeliness of product or service) are worked out before the doors have opened. 2. The second scenario is that you’re opening a SMB that might not be a huge as a Starbucks and you will have to do work to make a stand out in your community, educate consumers on who are and have to do far more legwork to attain and maintain clientele. That, second scenario is what we are going to zero in on as we understand what it takes to implement effective marketing when you’re the new dog on the block— and there’s no business like yours.
Okay, so what should you invest in when you have a limited marketing budget? It all depends on your marketing objectives. The first question you need to ask is: How well known is my company currently in the area? A good way to measure this is to ask around, see how many people know that you exist, how many know what you do and how many people have actually are interested in what products or services you offer. Many businesses think that by having a website and a Facebook page, with minimal spend is enough to make a dent and the truth is that it’s not. With anything, if you’re a tangible business and you physically exist, you need a marketing plan that is fully integrated. We know what you’re thinking— but I have no budget. I get it; we’ve all been there. So, that’s why you need to strategize smart.
The first thing you need to do is be fully present online and in your respective community. This means having an updated website, posting blogs/articles regularly and have your social media platforms updated a few times a week, if not daily. Take caution, don’t just post anything to your social media feeds as low-quality graphics, unrelated posts and posts that seem to have no branding or relevancy to your company or previously published messages will actually hurt you as they will cheapen you brand. However, if you’re populating your online platforms with applicable, solid content, over time, you will become a trusted resource and people will seek you out to learn, share and engage with your content. Unfortunately, platforms like Facebook have changed their ways since they started and, like most things, it’s about turning revenue. With that in mind, allocate some advertising dollars for boosting posts, promoting your business and Facebook digital ad campaigns. You have to do this as Facebook caps the number of people who will actually see your post despite having a lot of people who Like your page. In fact, only 3% of your total Brand Fans actually see your unpaid posts! So that means, even if you have 100 people that Like your page, on any given day only 30 out of those 100 people will even see the post (you’ll be able to see this when you see how many people the post actually reached).
Another way you can gain more customers for relatively little spend is by being present in your community. This means offering incentives such as free classes, volunteering for like-minded causes, and doing proactive things in your community to spread positive PR about your company or franchise. The most effective form of advertising is positive word-of-mouth advertising. It also cannot be bought. This is referral-based business that has 90% conversion rate, but it takes persistence, hard work and dedication in order to get it. The best way to look at this is pro-bono work. Throw in some freebies, ask your customers to kindly spread the word about you and be relatable. You’d be surprised to see how far these three things will take your company in the short and long run.
In terms of low cost/no cost advertising, digital in terms of social media and websites and community giving are two highly effective ways to spread brand awareness, educate consumers and attain solid customer leads. Like anything, your efforts must be authentic as consumers are trained to see the negative aspects of any business, when deciding to invest in it, first. When in doubt, start small, but whatever you do— definitely start advertising.