We recently conducted some research amongst small business owners to discover what they thought their biggest marketing challenge was in 2023. It is something we do every year as a way of keeping connected to our clients and a wider audience, the results were insightful and will help shape some of the content that I plan to share over the next few months. As I reflected on the results, though, I thought of a quote by Henry Ford. When asked about customer input into the development of the Ford Model T motorcar, Henry Ford famously said:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
This got me thinking. Whilst I am an advocate of understanding your customer, to me, it is the foundation of any business, I am going to take a little artistic licence in how I respond to some of the questions small business owners have asked. If you are at a growth phase in your business, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. One of the biggest learnings from the research was that many small business owners only thought they had a small budget to invest in their marketing – hence the title of this blog “small business marketing ideas on a budget”, where I will try to answer that pain point.
I recently listened in on a webinar with a business coach who was talking about business growth. One of the topics presented was the idea that sometimes our mindset is one of our most limiting factors in business. For women in particular, we often undervalue the service we provide, our experience and the knowledge we have gained, often over many years. This leads me nicely to my low-budget marketing ideas, what if we change our mindset as we explore these? Instead of saying I don’t have any budget, what can I do; what if we change our mindset to say if I invest £500 in marketing a month – what is the return? Will I gain £2k’s worth of revenue, suddenly, it becomes a no-brainer to invest.
Before we get into specific ways to connect with clients, we need to do some thinking, without this, our media choice, proposition and creative often do not generate the results we seek.
1. Know your audience
As I have alluded to above, it is critical to understand your target audience, their dreams, and their challenges. With an understanding of their pain points, you can start to craft a solution to help them solve it.
For example, if, as someone who owns a coffee shop, I identify that some of my clients meet in the café after dog walks in the morning, I could create a package that includes a hot drink, cake, and a dog treat. I could offer a dedicated space in the café, providing great customer service and adding value to the service I provide.
2. Know what you want to achieve
My thinking on this is being challenged at the moment. My experience tells me that we need to set SMART goals to be specific, measured, achievable, relevant and timed. I still believe in this, but different people work differently with alternative approaches to their business. What if the detail of this approach feels suffocating? Or limits creativity? I was recently presented with another idea.
How about choosing a word which underpins everything that you do, this approach would provide the focus but, at the same time, open up a completely different way of working. When we explored this, we talked about using such words as balance, focus, consistency, curiosity and collaboration. Whilst there is fundamentally a need to understand your numbers in any business, how about you take a different approach with your planning and strategy?
3. Know your proposition
Once you are clear on points one and two defining your proposition starts to become easier. Without a clear understanding of the pain points your clients experience it is difficult to find a solution to help them solve it. Product-based businesses will work slightly differently but with a service-based business, it is always the aim to try to move away from setting a cost per hour, this can limit what we earn. By focusing on the value provide, suddenly, the sky is the limit. It is also advisable to be mindful and aware of what your competitors are offering and charging. Good customer service sits at the heart of any proposition, I don’t know about you, but I expect good service. How about stretching this thinking further to consider, what is the WOW factor I can add to my clients? How can I exceed their expectations?
I have recently joined a new networking group. They are a great group of people, and I am learning a lot, so they are meeting my expectations. I was not expecting the welcome gift sent to me a month or so into joining. The result? This experience exceeded my expectations, and I have now mentioned them to many of my contacts, helping them to grow.
Creative is an important part of the marketing puzzle. Whilst it is important to do your thinking, understand and create an exciting proposition – how you then communicate this is important. A couple of things to consider when you are preparing your next marketing campaign:
- Less is more, be succinct and focused on the messages you share.
- Ensure your visuals are impactful.
- Ensure you adhere to your brand guidelines, using consistent fonts and colours.
- Drive people to your website to discover more.
- Feature a clear call to action.
5. Routes to market
This is the meaty part that I suspect you have been waiting for. There are many ways you can connect with your ideal client, which way is right for your business will be based on the outcomes of your thinking noted above. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Social Media: Choose the right network that works for your business, post regularly and engage with others.
- Social Media Groups: Engage with Facebook or Linked In groups: Comment on other people’s posts, on certain days you will be able to promote your business – think about your call to action eg: likes to your page or sign-ups to your email.
- Email marketing: this is a gift to any small business owner. Cited to generate 40:1 ROI, used regularly and done well, it can be a really powerful tool in your marketing toolkit.
- Partnership Marketing: Think about other businesses that may have a similar target audience to yourself, and see if there is an opportunity to cross-promote each other. Do be careful to define what this might mean clearly.
- Guest blog. Many small business owners are often looking to source content, identify businesses with a similar audience to your own and work with someone to provide a guest blog.
- Social Media Advertising. Once your organic approach works in a coordinated way, consider boosting this and investing in advertising.
- Local PR. A great way to boost the awareness of your business. Media choices could include local magazines, radio or podcasts.
- Talk at an event. See if there are options to present your business and promote your campaign, if you are a member of a local network event, this could be a great place to start.
There are many media options, and each town and region will differ in what they can offer you. If you are presented with an idea, remember to check their media pack to ensure their demographic matches your ideal client definition.
6. Has your marketing worked?
As a small business owner, knowing where to start with your marketing can be overwhelming, as there are often many choices, and you have limited time. If you look online, everyone tells you, you should be doing everything. It is important to consider what is right for your business and what will make a difference. Make a list and start to work your way through. There is a process with marketing, start by building your strategy, update your website and then start to share more about what you do.
Ensuring you set KPIs at the beginning of any campaign so you know if something has worked or not. The kind of objectives you could set are: website visitors, email sign-ups, social media likes and follows or of course sales.
If you would like some help in starting to implement some of these small business marketing ideas on a budget and getting your marketing organised for 2023, please get in touch to arrange a discovery call.