The news media always seems to be reporting on big corporations and multinational companies that trade in global markets and declare profits in the billions. Small businesses might operate with a handful of staff and serve their local communities or a tiny niche market, but they are an essential contributor to the wealth of the country – both in financial and social terms. One thing these businesses that operate in such different spheres do share is a need to have an effective marketing strategy.
Marketing or advertising?
The two terms are often seen as being interchangeable, but advertising is a specific element of marketing. An advert is a description or stylized representation of your product or service that you pay to have published or displayed by the media. Advertising is one tool that forms a part of your marketing strategy, which covers various other activities that you use to promote your business. If you only use advertising, you’re likely to be spending more of your promotional budget to less effect. Many marketing activities are free or very low cost, so you could for example set up your website and purchase your chosen domain name for the year for the same price as a couple of weeks’ worth of adverts in your local paper.
Which approach is best for a small business?
The most effective way to promote your business is to start by making use of all the tools that are available for setting up your online presence, such as building a website, creating social media accounts and registering with online directories. These are basic steps you can take to lay the foundation for your marketing campaign, and there are plenty of free resources on the web to help you with these tasks. Once you have your online presence sorted, you can look at other opportunities and decide which will be the most effective for your business on the budget you have allocated. If you operate a mobile catering service in your local area, a leaflet drop with a promotional discount voucher is an effective way to introduce your business to potential customers and encourage them to buy from you. Or if you have something newsworthy to report, such as an author visiting your bookstore, a press release prepared by a PR marketer could be worth the investment. The important thing is to use the most relevant methods to promote your business and monitor the effectiveness of your efforts.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to promoting your business, and if there were, the marketing industry would be considerably smaller! If your strategy isn’t delivering, have a look at all your building blocks and make sure they are doing their job. Is your website well-designed and carrying up to date information, or does it look a bit tired and in need of a freshen up? Have you been posting regularly on your social media pages and offering rewards to followers, or is it something that rarely gets viewed? Once you’ve been through the basics, look at the methods you’ve been using and see how you could tweak them or what alternatives there are that you could try. Keep assessing and evaluating your strategy, and you will soon discover what works best for your business.