Ah, the allure of owning your own business. It starts with a dream and a passion ... we add in buckets of heart and soul ... yet somewhere after the initial steam wears off, we find ourselves wondering why our endeavor isn’t as fruitful or successful as we’d dreamed. Worry not—you most likely simply made the common error of thinking marketing is something you just do to start your baby in motion. Whether you realize it or not, when you signed up to be an entrepreneur you also agreed to become a queen (or king!) of marketing. And although it’s a lot of work, that job is not as hard as you might think.
As a small business owner, we are often required to be a jack-of-all trades. And seeing as how there are not too many degrees to that effect, it is often through a combination of entrepreneurial intuition, diligent research and experience from school of hard knocks that we learn to run a business successfully.
Coming from a background heavy in accounting, I truly felt that marketing was my nemesis in business. I like the math involved in exact cause and effect relationships... and although some things are predictable, there is a decent amount of risk and unpredictability involved in making choices where to spend our time and money when growing our business. Nothing drives me more batty than when something that makes perfect sense has no effect, and yet something you’d hardly expect to help is fabulous. That, my friends, is the beast we call marketing.
Having taken a business from zero to gangbusters in less than a year—and with almost no marketing budget—I’ve become known amongst my entrepreneurial peers as a marketing and PR guru, which I find quite ironic, to say the least! Here’s my special recipe:
1. Always, always, always use strong branding.
Do you have a constant, memorable logo? Do you use your themed colors, fonts & feel on everything from your business cards to your newsletter? So many small businesses let this slip through the cracks. We all know it takes a few impressions before people generally take action, and unless you connect your customer impressions for them your potential client may see your marketing over and over yet never remember you (insert sound of flushing money down the toilet!). Make sure to look from a customer’s perspective as you choose your branding and then stick to it 100 percent of the time.
2. Know who your customer base is and be where they are looking.
I know that sounds like a given, but we so often overlook the simplicity of this. Do market research to identify who your target client base is and then walk a mile in their shoes. Where are the places they should see information about you, what would make it memorable and when are they most likely to retain it? Educate yourself on marketing options and then test the ones that make sense. And don’t overlook the simplicity of the many, many free options out there. For example, a great rating on Yelp will do wonders for many, many types of businesses.
3. Be diligent.
In a perfect world, according to me, marketing would be something that we only have to do once. But alas, I have come to peace with the fact that this is not the case. So you submitted a press release last month? Well, do it again! Keep it fresh, fun, and interesting—and stay in their face. This principle is true of both your customer and of media reps. Send out your regular newsletters. Keep creating reasons for new clients to choose you, and keep broadcasting them. Keep showing your current clients how much you appreciate them - and their referrals. If the gal that hates marketing can do it... you can too.