Today’s consumer is bombarded by hundreds of media messages every day. From the moment that radio alarm clock goes off, to the commute to work and back, to finally collapsing on the couch in front of the TV – everyone is trying to sell something to someone.
Is there anything you can do besides advertise on radio, TV, newspapers and billboards?
Small businesses have to deal with major competition when it comes to getting the word out. However, if you look for creative ways to spread your unique selling proposition, you’ll discover methods that can reach those coveted customers.
Using the Web 2.0 community in the small business world has now become commonplace. It’s no secret that social networking can be used to boost sales and credibility. But not many businesses are using social media successfully.
Simply starting a Twitter or Facebook account isn’t enough. In fact – it may not be worth your time at all. Before you dive right in to using social media as a marketing tool, you need to develop a solid strategy.
If you own a bar, restaurant or are part of the art and entertainment industry, it will probably be easy to build a social network and use it effectively. It will be a little harder if you own a used car dealership or landscaping business. It will be even harder if you own something like a carpet cleaning company.
Who would want to follow a carpet cleaner on Twitter?
That’s why you need to take a close look at what social media applications you use and how you use them.
The most important thing to remember is that today’s consumer (especially the typical social media user) does not want to be sold to at all. That doesn’t mean you never ask for the sale, but it does mean that only using sites like Twitter and Facebook for hard sells and promotions is a mistake.
Social media is intended to be a community for sharing information and asking questions. The way to use it most effectively is to establish your business as an expert in your given industry.
If you own a carpet cleaning business – you may want to offer advice for removing stains using home remedies. If you’re a used car dealer you may want to write reviews of different types of vehicles. If you’re a landscaper, you could answer customer questions about caring for trees and shrubs.
This seems like a mistake at first. You might assume that giving customers too much knowledge and information is bad for business. But if you set yourself up as a company customers can trust, they’ll turn to you when it’s time to purchase the goods and services you offer.
The basic idea is that you have to give potential customers a reason to become part of your social network other than in-your-face advertising.
Keep in mind that the majority of consumers now log on to the Internet to do their own research before they ever walk into a store. If you can provide them with the answers they’re looking for, they’ll be much more likely become a loyal customer.
One excellent way to create content that people can use is to start a blog. Use your experience and expertise to write about what your business is all about, educate others and answer questions. You can then use other social media avenues to promote your blog.
Just realize that keeping a blog can be a lot of work. But one big benefit is that it will hardly cost you a dime.
Video for the web is the fastest growing way to market your company online. It’s actually another aspect of social media, but is probably the most useful way to promote your small business on the Internet.
While small businesses will often struggle to reach the envied spots on a search engine results page, it’s much easier to rank at the top in video search results.
Don’t think that you can upload commercials or boring corporate videos to sites like YouTube and expect to get a lot of views. Just like other social media outlets, users are looking for something that’s either useful or entertaining.
Creating “How To” videos or adding videos to your blog are some of the easiest ways to make use of online video. This is another way of establishing your small business as a trusted expert.
Online video doesn’t have to have amazing production quality. With a little practice and some relatively inexpensive nonlinear video editing software – you can be on your way to producing very effective marketing content.
It can’t hurt to take a stab at using humor in an online video. That’s what many casual web surfers are looking to watch. But if you really want your video to make a difference, make sure there’s some real marketing value in the content.
For companies with some extra money, creating original television programming is an interesting opportunity. Many local television stations fill day-time and late-night time slots with infomercials. If you’re willing to pay more to have your content on broadcast television, you could create your very own 30 minute advertisement.
In this case, you’ll need to have some video experience and equipment, or the budget to hire a local production company to help you out.
The cost to buy the television time will vary depending on the market size in which your small business operates.
You may want to consider partnering with other businesses that are similar to yours. For instance – a landscaping business could team up with a florist or greenhouse and lawn care company to produce or sponsor a program that relates to all three businesses.
Most small business will have a hard time affording this type of marketing strategy. However, you can still get free publicity on local television by getting your business featured on local newscasts.
Sponsorship and Charities
When you’ve got a tight budget and want to do something in the real world instead of online or on TV, you can find other ways to get your company’s name in front of the public eye.
Sponsorship is one way to get your business some extra exposure. T-shirts for softball leagues and other sports turn into walking billboards for your small business.
You can also become an official sponsor of certain events by offering your goods and services in return for some advertising. For instance – if you own a small printing company – you could print programs for a film festival in your city.
Guerrilla Marketing is a term used to describe promotions that appear in unexpected places.
It involves a good deal of time and the ability to find unconventional ways to market your small business to the public.
For example, you could hire a sidewalk chalk artist to create a giant piece of art promoting your company.
Creating teaser campaigns is another example of this strategy. Your business could place stickers all over town that make people wonder what they are and where they came from. Eventually, you let the public know who’s behind the mystery.
Good guerrilla marketing will create a buzz. That means people will be talking about your business. And the best kind of marketing still comes through word of mouth.
Kasey Steinbrinck is a former newspaper reporter and TV news producer who now creates web content for Check Advantage. Visit the site today to find personal checks in hundreds of original styles and business checks your company can easily afford.
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