The formative phase of any small business is crucial. You’re trying to build a reputation from scratch, spend your budget wisely, and keep enough money coming in to sustain yourself long-term. Getting a foothold to expand your customer base is a delicate process – you don’t want to alienate anyone by being overtly ‘salesy’.
Consumer behaviour is always prone to change, so every marketing approach will have an element of trial and error.
It’s important to be able to measure your results and adapt your marketing strategy accordingly. While word of mouth is arguably still the most reliable driver of new business, it can be a slow burn to generate organically.
Here are some tried and tested outreach tactics that won’t make you feel like a door-to-door salesperson:
Networking sometimes carries bad connotations – you’re probably picturing someone schmoozing the crowd at events, always angling at an ulterior motive. Instead, the goal should be to build genuine relationships.
Quality trumps quantity – five genuine leads are better than 100 superficial ones.
Leverage existing contacts who already know and trust you. That doesn’t mean you should shamelessly exploit favours from them – instead, think of ways to provide value. There’s a golden rule in marketing (and in life) – if you want to connect with someone, find a way to help them first. Gain their interest and ask for feedback.
Business communities are a great way to start making connections – coworking spaces like Hub Australia let you connect and work alongside a diverse range of motivated businesses, and host regular networking events so members can get to know their community and how they can help each other’s business grow.
In the early stages, focus on fostering relationships more than pushing sales. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of trust. Trust is the foundation of everything that follows.
Finally, if leads go cold, don’t hound people. Simply step back courteously and offer to stay in touch.
A great product or service without visibility is a waste. Make it as easy as possible for people to find you. You’ll need a solid approach to your content marketing strategy. This calls for a strong emphasis on SEO. A lot of people still think SEO just means throwing a bunch of keywords at the problem. In practice, it’s a little more sophisticated.
Machines are getting smarter. Not in a terrifying sci-fi movie way. Rather, SEO is becoming more intuitive and geared towards what offers value to the user. Therefore, clickbait and liberal keyword clutter probably won’t get results. If anything, bad content will scare off prospective leads. Start by identifying your target demographic. Analyse their needs, wants and behaviour. That way, you can tailor your approach. What social media platforms do they engage with? What devices do they use and when? What questions do they need answered?
Very simply, if you know who you’re talking to, you know what to say and how to say it.
Make the most of your resources with targeted ads and content. For example, Linkedin skews to an older, more corporate crowd. Facebook is more social and its algorithms favour video content. Instagram is a primarily visual medium, so your posts need to really pop. And Twitter is not a place to go rogue – the backlash can be ruthless.
Data / Measurement
To inform your SEO marketing strategy, gather search data from free tools such as Google Trends, Quora, Reddit or answerthepublic.com. This will guide your content by showing exactly what people search for on any given topic. Use key terms to improve the page ranking, while making sure the content addresses specific needs.
Back that up by tracking your own results to see what elements are performing and where people are tuning out from your online presence. Consider analytics tools such as Google Analytics, or other free options.
Once people start to engage with your business, you need to keep them interested. If people are discussing your product on social media, be helpful when answering questions or complaints. Auto-responses or copy-and-paste replies are a surefire way to get people offside. Capturing lead details through landing pages is useful to keep customers engaged. Send promotions and updates to people via email. If you have a newsletter, you can also encourage people to subscribe – use email marketing tools like HubSpot, MailChimp or Campaign Monitor.
This way your customer base expands while rewarding existing customers, all with a much lower risk of annoying anyone. If you can find a way to get people through the door, your product should be able to sell itself from there.
Your marketing efforts will be futile if you can’t deliver for customers once you’ve got their attention. Word of mouth spreads quicker when feedback is negative. Make sure you’re equipped to deliver quality when people engage with your product or service.
Marketing is an ongoing learning process. Your approach can be fluid.
By constantly measuring results you can continue to refine your marketing strategy and adapt to user behaviour. Don’t rush people through the sales funnel – make them want to navigate through it. Create content that generates awareness, nurtures interest, and prompts conversion, but not all at once. Help them to take the next step.