What do you think of when you hear the word 'marketing'? Do you think of people in suits sat around a board room table coming up with the latest advertising campaign for big brands, like in the film 'What Women Want'? (If you're too young to understand this reference, it was a film starring Mel Gibson from 2000, where he worked as an Advertising Exec).
Small business owners often have visions of marketing being a really expensive activity and feel that they don't have the budget or time for it. The reality is small businesses can be really clever and effective in their marketing without having to spend a lot of money.
If you'd like some tips on how to market your business on a small budget, come along to my workshop on February 11th titled 'Marketing on a budget'. This is part of the Steps workshop series which will guide you through the various aspects of starting a business. I know, I can never resist the opportunity to plug one of our events!
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. For the purpose of this blog, I'm going to focus on one area of marketing which can be really effective for small businesses and it often doesn't cost a penny. That area is content marketing, which refers to any form of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers. So, things like social media posts, blogs, vlogs (video blogs), infographics and podcasts. In today's digital world content marketing is gaining traction all the time while traditional media are often struggling. If you get it right, it can help to grow your customer base, enhance customer loyalty and therefore increase profits. Here are my top five tips for getting content marketing right.
1. Don't just sell!
There is nothing worse than following a business on social media and being bombarded with posts about price cuts, sales and promotional giveaways. You wouldn't buy a magazine if it was full of adverts and the same if true for social media platforms. Of course you need to tell your followers about your latest offers but this needs to be carefully integrated with other interesting and engaging posts that people want to read. So, for example if you were selling a nutritional food aimed at fitness enthusiasts you could share articles on the importance of consuming protein after a workout. This isn't directly advertising your product but the chances are if your followers are interested in your product they will find articles like this interesting too. They will be much more likely to share articles like this which will increase your follower base further and they will be more likely to buy from you when they are in the market for your product as they will view your business as informative, insightful, helpful and well-informed.
2. Involve your followers
Social media is a great way for getting immediate feedback from customers or potential customers. You could, for example, post two photos of alternative designs for a new product and ask your followers which they prefer. This could extend to lots of other areas of the business from the logo and website to the packaging of your product or the timing of an event or service that you're providing. Asking your followers for their preferences will give you really valuable customer insights at no cost and will also make your followers feel more involved in your business, which should in turn make them more loyal to you.
3. Let people in
As well as using social media to gain feedback from customers at various stages, you can also use it to keep customers informed during the different stages of your business. If you're planning an event for example, don't feel that all your social media efforts have to be concentrated on the final execution of the event itself (though clearly this is important). You can also share photos, videos and updates as you're planning the event. You could take photos of your branded merchandise and various event paraphernalia, share updates as and when new guests are confirmed for the event and post teasers giving little bits of information to encourage people to attend the event. You could apply these tactics to other areas of business e.g. a new product launch, the official launch of your business, taking on a new member of staff - the possibilities are endless.
Sharing what you're doing with your followers creates a sense of openness which they are likely to value. Often business owners feel quite protective or secretive over their activities and I'm not suggesting that you post all your industry secrets on social media but giving snippets of information can help to make your more approachable and also helps to keep your content fresh and keeps you at the forefront of your followers' minds.
4. Create your own content
In point 1 I mentioned sharing interesting articles with your followers so that your posts are not just sales-orientated. But why stop here? As well as sharing posts and images from others, why not create your own? You can create your own blog for free and start writing your own posts about topics that interest you (as long as they are related in some way to your business). This will help your followers to see you as an expert in your field and therefore enhance their trust in you. Remember your blog should not be seen as an opportunity to sell (although clearly I broke that rule earlier in this post!). You should use it as an opportunity to show your more human side, write about your opinions and tell your followers about your experiences. An example could be an artist who uses their blog to talk about things that have inspired them and new techniques or methods that they're interested in. This doesn't have to stop at written blogs. You could also create your own vlogs or make videos about your business or industry.
5. Use images/videos
Statistics show that content with images or videos gets 94% more views than content without. I've already given some examples above of the types of photos you could take of your business. Some businesses are clearly more visual than others but if you don't have a product/service that lends itself easily to being photographed, think about other ways to use images. For example you could create or share infographics, take photographs of your office/working space/your morning coffee/anything that shows your human side and lets people into your business as described above. You can also create quotes or pieces of text with a visual background using free website such as recite.com. Don't overdo it as it can become predictable and boring but using these types of images every so often when you're having a quieter period can help to keep your social media platforms active.
Blog post by Lauren Davies, Entrepreneurship Coordinator