A new business must prioritize marketing to get off to a good start. Whether you own a brick-and-mortar business or a business that provides digital services, you want and need to tell the world about it. But at the same time, most people starting out have limited marketing budgets.
I regularly work with businesses, some of which are just starting out, and help them come up with affordable marketing plans. While my own specialty is mobile marketing, I recognize the need for a diverse marketing strategy. Here are some ideas for new businesses to promote themselves:
Get listed locally.
Many of your customers search for businesses online. If you want to be found, make sure you’re listed with Google and other local business directories. The most important listing is Google My Business, which is connected to Google Maps so customers can easily find directions to your location. In addition to Google, listings on Yellow Pages, Facebook and other directories are valuable for local SEO.
Build a mobile-optimized website.
One of the first things every business needs is a website. Today, the majority of people searching for information online are using mobile devices. To meet this growing demand, either develop a dedicated mobile website (in addition to your regular website, as you still want to be available to desktop and laptop users) or build a website with responsive design, which makes it accessible to everyone. A mobile-friendly website works well with Google and other local listings. This is especially important for brick-and-mortar businesses where customers are likely to be searching on mobile devices while in the car.
Encourage customers to leave reviews.
People are increasingly looking at online reviews before trying a business. This presents a real challenge when you’re first starting out, as you can’t compete with long-established competitors in this area. You can, however, do as much as possible to encourage customers to leave reviews.
First, make sure you have listings on sites that publish reviews. If you claimed your Google My Business listing, people can leave reviews on Google. There are also Yelp, Facebook and more specialized review sites (e.g., Angie’s List for contractors, TripAdvisor for hotels and restaurants and Healthgrades for doctors). After being listed, gently remind customers to leave reviews. Place a sign in a visible place for Yelp or other review sites. Link to your review pages on your website and social media.
Leverage traditional PR tactics.
Don’t forget about traditional PR tactics such as press releases and interviews with local media when you open a new business. There are digital press release services that allow you to distribute press releases far and wide. However, for local businesses, it can be just as effective to manually contact local newspapers, radio and TV stations.
Don’t overlook free weekly papers that cover local culture and entertainment. Aside from getting an initial blurb about your business opening, developing relationships with local media is an effective long-term strategy. If you have contacts, you can let them know when you offer a new product or service, plan an event, expand or have any other news to share.
As my own company offers SMS marketing services, I’ll naturally recommend this one. The main principle to remember is that you must get permission before you start texting anyone. In this way, it’s similar to email marketing, but open rates are significantly higher.
You can text people about your sales, new products, changing hours or holiday promotions. You can also use SMS marketing to run contests. While text message marketing is a powerful form of engagement, don’t abuse it by sending customers too many messages. You want to keep people informed, but you never want to annoy them.
Create valuable content.
Content marketing is a broad term that encompasses blogging, social media content, videos and many other formats. Online businesses generally understand the value of digital content, both to build credibility and to rank their websites higher in search engines. However, physical businesses can also build a great deal of leverage by publishing content.
A blog, for example, is a powerful tool for ranking your website, building an audience and establishing yourself as an expert. You can use social media to distribute popular content such as images and videos. When you first start out, you won’t have a large following. One of the great things about content marketing, however, is that it yields greater results the longer you do it. Find the platforms that work best for your business and keep publishing.
While you have to invest in marketing, many of the best strategies are free or low cost. Keep in mind that marketing is an ongoing process where results take time. With content marketing, for example, the more you post, the greater the SEO benefits and the more authority you build.