So you’re running a small business. You did the planning, you’ve set up shop, customers have been coming in. It’s been challenging but fulfilling. And now you’ve gotten to a sort of stable pattern, and you’ve started thinking about what’s next. How do you grow the business? How do you reach more people, get more customers?
Marketing a small business is tough, because of the many constraints. You’re not going to be able to hand over a big budget to a glitzy agency and tell them to ‘make it rain’. You’re not going to have the luxury of coming up with an elaborate, multi-part plan – you’re going to have to keep things simple, and get them done fast.
Here’s a list of things you could and should be doing.
1. Make sure your social media accounts are active and your site is search-friendly
It doesn’t actually need to be stylish, clever or gorgeous – it just really needs to be user-friendly.
The Oatmeal has one of the funniest ways of putting this across:
What your customers would want from your website (say you’re a restaurant):
- Specials and happy hour info (including social promotions such as Foursquare, Groupon and Twitter specials)
- Address with a link to Google Maps
- Online reservation system that actually works
- Operating hours, parking and contact info
2. Incentivize your customers to share their purchases on social media
People pay attention to word-of-mouth from their friends and peers more than they do to any other form of marketing.
So one of the best ways to reach new customers is through the friends of your existing ones.
Give your customers a hashtag to use, and you’ll start being able to see when they post their purchases on social media.
2. Clarify your story – make it sticky and contagious
One of the most powerful things you can do for your business’s marketing efforts is to improve your story.
How do you do that? You start by finding out what your customers are already saying about your store. Literally ask them – what brought you here? What convinced you to give us a shot?
Once you understand this well, you want to work this into your messaging.
Your end goal would be to make your store more remarkable – literally.
3. Guerilla marketing – make a strong impression with a bold statement
Guerilla marketing is all about creating maximum impact for minimum cost.
One of the best examples of this of all time was Warby Parker’s hijacking of the New York Fashion Show – they invited the editors from the fashion show to a ‘secret event’ at a public library, where they had staffers staking out all the seats. Just before the editors showed up, the staffers exchanged seats with models.
What about if you’re just a little brick-and-mortar retailer along the sidewalk?
Well, you could always get creative with your signage:
4. Do some niche marketing for your target audience
Every good product solves a problem for somebody. Even if your business serves a diverse group of people (say, a donut shop), there’s bound to be some pattern – you might notice that most of your best customers come from the nearby offices at a certain time of the day, for example. Maybe you could host some sort of ‘networking event’? Talk to your customers, and look for patterns.
Here’s a fun example – some Lululemon stores turn their stores into yoga studios after hours. This gives potential customers a judgement-free place to explore the brand, and help them to create a positive association with it. If they end up learning yoga and making friends at the store, and they’re going to need some yoga apparel and paraphernalia, Lululemon becomes the obvious choice.
Communities are everywhere, and they tend to aggregate around brands that they love. Whether it’s tea drinkers and a Facebook page or enthusiasts for Frank body coffee scrub and cosmetics, you can find your niche from your customers – and deliver what they want.
5. Try a loyalty program
Ever tried running a customer loyalty program? In the past, you had to do this with loyalty punch cards and painstakingly punch tiny holes in flimsy paper cards. This is often a tedious process – we’ve heard from our retailers that they spend too much money paying for the printing of the cards, and that customers get frustrated when they realize they’ve misplaced it at the bottom of their other bag or threw out their cards with their old wallet.
That’s why we made CandyBar – a modern customer loyalty rewards software for small businesses. No download necessary.
Test drive a free trial of Candybar.co today!