So this morning I took myself along to our local small business networking group – a group I have found invaluable in reminding me who I am over and above a wife and mother. This week it was my turn to do the 10 minute skit where we talk in a little more detail about what we are all about.
I can’t pretend this wasn’t a challenge for me on many levels. Firstly because I’m not the greatest fan of public speaking – on this I know I am not alone! But I’ve spent the last 3 days with the collywobbles, trying to balance the right amount of witty one liners with words of wisdom. I also struggle to stay on track – my brain is like a rabbit warren, and I was worried I would never make it to the end without diverting disastrously off course. And then finally because I am still trying to work out which direction I want to take with all that I do.
I decided to focus on something that is relevant to just about every business, no matter how big or small. I decided to remind myself just how much knowledge and experience I have of marketing. And I decided to acknowledge that I had done a pretty good job in keeping myself in touch with the changes in the marketing landscape through my little waste reduction business and general obsession with knowing everything. I also decided it was time to scratch a very big itch of mine and implore everybody running a small business to take marketing seriously, not to treat it as an after thought, and give it the respect it deserves for the sake of their own business. After all there is nothing worse than wasted opportunity!
As a small business you are inevitably expected to do it all – the accounting, the legal bits, the HR role and somewhere along the line, the marketing. That is over and above whatever it is you are doing as a business. So it’s not surprising that sometimes, marketing slips down the list of priorities – there is no legal requirement to do it for a start!
But the purpose of marketing is to generate sales and revenue in whatever sense that might be, and without sales, as we all know, you haven’t got a business. Some people seem to think, to coin a baseball analogy, that if you build it, they will come, but in this day and age where our attention is dragged in so many directions by so many different things, it is more important than ever to stay at the forefront of your potential customers’ mind. You’re not going to do that unless you are active and committed in your marketing.
The good news is that in this highly technological age, there are plenty of tools out there to help you do it relatively cheaply. You are also not in this alone – an increase in freelancers and homeworking means that help really isn’t that expensive. And if you really haven’t got any cash, don’t despair – there are ways and means! But when you look at the maths, the more you invest, the more customers you are likely to get (if you do it right) and that seems to make sense!
To get everybody started in their thinking I wrote up the fundamentals in my Top Five Marketing Tips for Small Business:
- Invest in Your Brand
My first piece of advice is to think about your brand. What is it? What are you trying to convey through your logo, your marketing materials, even your tone of voice. Take your brand seriously – be consistent – invest some time and even some money into creating one – one of which you are proud and truly love!
Why do I put this so high up the list? Well think about the reasons why you choose the brands that you do. Usually it is because they are familiar, you trust them, and you recognise them. Traditionally marketeers talk about the marketing funnel and that funnel represents the point from which a customer comes into initial contact with a brand, up until the point of consumption, and beyond to loyalty – that funnel contains five levels which explains why you have to be consistent and persistent in what you do.
2. Plan Your Marketing
My second piece of advice is to plan! Plan a budget and plan a strategy! Set aside a marketing budget no matter how small, and plan how you are going to spend it. Planning is absolutely key to me, because it will help you to ensure that you maximise the return on the budget you invest – it is the only way to use it efficiently.
And consider this – in a larger organisation they will routinely invest a percentage of their gross revenues as their marketing budget. It is a matter of maths – no finger in the air stuff! So if you can, it is a good idea to come up with a formula that is right for your business, based on your own business objectives, where you are in your business journey and stick to it. It also means that you can compare your activity and results year on year, and adjust as necessary.
3. Embrace Social Media
Please take social media seriously – it is by far the most cost effective way for a small business to market itself and it is accessible to all. I hear so many people saying they don’t understand it or they can’t get their head around it. I have every sympathy – it is an ever changing beast, and you have to watch it like a hawk. We may be uneasy with the amount of control that social media platforms have over our lives, but as a small business you they are marketing bread and butter. For now it is most definitely your friend. It gives you a very quick and easy way of reminding people you are there, and that is worth its weight in gold.
And Facebook is no longer a place where people post photos of their pets and holidays – these days it is a thriving network of communities and groups all caring and sharing, and driving their own agendas forward. It is basically a giant version of the people in this room. It’s a marvellous place to network and you can do so much more than just post to your page. If you are selling product, particularly on line, there is no match for Instagram, and Linked In, Twitter and Pinterest might be right for you for different reasons.
For me, in an ideal world you are the best person to do your own social media. You know your product better than anyone, you will convey your brand most authentically – your passion will come through. If you don’t think you’ve got the skills, those can definitely be taught if you’ve got the inclination, but if you really haven’t got the inclination, then don’t even try – you just won’t be able to do it. But DO call somebody that can do it for you. It can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. For me Lil Sussex have found a great niche and provide an ideal and affordable solution for businesses who needs that extra bit of support on social media.
4. Don’t Be Scare of SEO
You hear so much about it – what you should have on your website, and blah, blah blah. Google is king of course, but don’t let that scare you! I got into a major battle with Google once and I won! Anyway, I digress! There is no doubt that there is a huge science and indeed industry dedicated to making as much money as possible out of people trying to reach the top of the rankings. But for most small businesses the absolute basics are more than enough, supported by some strategic social media. You don’t need to spend a fortune using a specialist – it’s about coming up with the objectives that suit your cause, thinking about what your customers are searching for, and using a few very good tools that are out there. That might include coming up with the right name for your business in the first place, but more often than not it’s about a few housekeeping tweaks.
5. Use the Free Stuff on the Internet
There is a wealth of resource out there in the form of apps and websites that you can use to aid and support your marketing activity. The great news is that they are all designed to be used by Joe Bloggs! From graphic design to website building and even SEO – its all out there and lots of them are free and easy to use. Some require a small monthly fee to get the most out of them, but all of them are affordable. Here are the ones I use regularly and would recommend. There are plenty I use from time to time on top of this, and others I haven’t found yet, but that doesn’t mean they are not out there!
- Graphic Design – Canva.com – logos, posters, adverts, social media graphics, even magazines — it has loads of templates, graphics and photos, and with a little practice can make anyone look like a pro!
- Website Building – Wix.com – certainly the most intuitive out there, and well supported. My websites are actually on WordPress which is the most popular, but I don’t find it easy at all. Wix may lack some flexibility but is probably good enough if your budget is non existent.
- Database Management and Email Marketing – Mailchimp – there are others, but that is the most common and again the most intuitive. It can do as much or as little as you want it to. It can be worth getting a professional to set it up for you, but then you can just crack on and do it yourself.
- Social Media Scheduling – Buffer.com – designed to save you time, and effort, because you can post all of your social media in advance in one place. There are some other popular ones, but this to me is the best for the price, and does what it needs to do. And if you are only on Instagram, then Later.com is the one for you.
- Logo Design – there are loads out there – Tailorbrands.com is a good one and so is Fiver.com, but unless you have a really good eye, I would definitely say get a professional to do it. Apart from anything else, even the free apps will charge you to download your artwork, so it’s not always as much of a bargain as it looks. You can get a great logo designed especially for you for less than £100! And if it’s a good one, it will last you forever!
- Free Images – Pixabay – a great resource I use a lot! Although more often these days it tempts me into it’s paid for partner, Shutterstock for a huge range of high quality images.
5. Help is Out There – Ask for It!
Finally, and most importantly, ask for help – there are some fantastic and affordable freelancers out there all offering top quality skills for a bargain price from their kitchen tables. Kitchen table means lower overheads- no West End office and staff – they can afford to charge you a lot less, but they have just as much experience!
There are also plenty of online courses and local workshops which can really support you in your efforts. I can recommend some to you for sure.
But if you really can’t afford a marketing budget, there is still plenty you can do – don’t despair. I can tell you that Waste Not Want Not has literally no marketing budget and has grown into a little nugget of which I am proud. But I did invest in having the website professionally designed and creating a strong brand. And of course, I have the skills. Many of these skills however, were entirely self taught, so it can be done, and I’ll be happy to show you how.
If you need any help with the planning, budgeting, strategising or copywriting, call me! By copy I mean anything from an entire website, to tarting up a blog post, to coming up with some words for an ad.
Finally, a little word about Waste Not Want Not! If you are in the market for some waste reducing advice, we’d love to help. You can book us in for a one to one or invite us round for a cup of coffee with a group of your friends. We are hoping to start workshops in the new year, and you’ll always find us at the Village Market!