Small Business Marketing Toolkit
Your great business idea is only the beginning. Whether you’re an entrepreneur just stepping into the world of running a company or a seasoned business owner, your customer base needs to know you’re out there, how you’re different from the competition and why they should choose you for their needs and services. Good marketing answers these questions
clearly and in a compelling manner, cultivating customers, loyalty and brand recognition for your business. But with the scope and efficacy of marketing changing so frequently, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the changes, especially under the time constraints of running the day-to-day operations of a business.
The Metro Chamber can also help you maximize your marketing and exposure through member-to- member discounts, commercials, enhanced directory listings, publication opportunities, and more. We reached out to Metro Chamber members on some time (and cost) effective marketing tools, services and resources available to small business owners. Here are some ways you can increase your visibility and exposure in the marketplace without monopolizing too much of your time or budget.
Identify Your Business: Branding Essentials
Before you have profits, customers, or even a website, you have a brand. A brand is comprised of much more than a logo, brochure or piece of collateral; it provides a way for customers to identify with your business. “Successful branding will create loyalty and awareness for the product, service or organization and will reinforce sales and marketing efforts,” says Scott Peet, owner of Sign-A-Rama Summerlin. His advice is to always begin with a great logo and a name that’s functional, aesthetically compelling, clear, consistent and original. While there are myriad options for signs, brochures, giveaway items and other marketing collateral to leave an impression on your customers, Peet recommends three “must-have” items: a website as a focal point for your company’s online identity; exterior signage for businesses with a physical location; and business cards, an important piece of your introduction, your brand and what makes you memorable. Once a business has those essentials, drilling down into informational pieces, such as brochures, rack cards, pens and other branded items, becomes a matter of understanding your core customer base, their needs and expectations.
In his experience in the branding and signage world, Peet’s best practices for establishing a strong brand identity, as well as periodically checking in on your brand and its relevance, is to define your brand, including your mission and benefits of your products and services; ensure your brand’s consistency across all branding channels, including both appearance and messaging; offer examples of what you have done for other customers, including testimonials; and make honesty a business practice, never overpromising and under-delivering. All of these components can create a strong, successful brand.
Peet also stresses the importance of building a strong offline community. “It is important to be active in local events, fundraisers, charities, workshops, trade shows and networking events to build trust and awareness in your community,” he explains. He encourages owners to be active “faces” of the business, creating a friendly and approachable personality to bolster the brand.
Search Advertising & Business Listings
Online marketing avenues may scare you, but the reality is, online presence matters when consumers make business decisions. According to a 2013 study from GE Capital Retail Bank, an astounding 81 percent of consumers go online before heading out to make a purchase, up 20 percent from the prior year. Perhaps even more telling is the 2013 BrightLocal Local
Consumer Review Survey, which found that 95 percent of consumers used the Internet to find a local business in the previous 12 months. So how do you maximize your online presence without having to learn sophisticated programming, hiring a specialist or breaking the bank?
“Basically, there are two types of online marketing a business should start with: search advertising and business listings,” says Gary Sargent, founder of Expert Internet Marketing. Be sure your business listing is up-to- date in the Metro Chamber’s online membership directory, and then get started with these listing services. Business listings are a free services offered by Google, Yahoo and Bing that function similarly to a phone book. To get started, a business needs to claim and set up their listing on Google Places, Yahoo Business Listings and Bing Places for Business. After claiming your business, you can set up categories that will help consumers looking for your products and services more easily find your business. When users search for local information using these search engines, a map displaying the locations of businesses that most closely match the search terms appears on the search results, including business name, address, phone number and website. This makes your business easy to find and convenient to reach.
Search advertising, Sargent explains, works by putting your business’ message in front of potential customers that are actively searching on Google, Bing or Yahoo for a product or service you provide. You are charged each time a searcher clicks on your advertisement, known as a Pay-Per-Click (PPC). There are no minimum budgets, and you can set a daily budget limit to ensure that you don’t exceed what you’re willing to spend. You can change the message, budget, geographic targeting and other specifics regarding your ad campaign as frequently as you’d like.
These online advertising platforms also provide simple reporting. Sargent explains, “You can quickly see what is working, and what isn’t, and make adjustments. They even give you tips on how to improve your advertising.” Executing search marketing effectively, however, requires regular maintenance. “Ideally, you should be looking at your advertising accounts daily. If a business owner or operator can spend time and effort monitoring their campaign, they can manage a simple and profitable marketing campaign themselves.”
When setting up your search marketing campaign, it helps to remember a few pointers on keywords, defined by Google as, “words or phrases you choose to match your ads with corresponding user search terms and relevant web content.” These terms, when searched by a search engine user, trigger your ad to appear. A few pointers that Sargent recommends:
- Use keywords that are short, to the point, but not too generic or specific.
Good: Divorce attorney Las Vegas
Bad: Attorney; Divorce attorney with 25 years experience
- Use negative keywords, which allow you to exclude word combinations that don’t relate to your business, to help control your costs and search results.
- Take advantage of the keyword research resources offered by the search platforms. Enter in a few core keywords into the tool and it will return several options for your campaigns. Since the information is derived from the search engines, it may give you new keywords to target or candidates for negative keywords.
- Start slow and set a small budget. When profits begin to grow, you can increase your budget knowing you’re doing something right.
- Be sure to monitor your campaigns for effectiveness, and modify based on the results you see from the reporting tools.
Social Media & Reputation Management
Social media has affected the way we talk to our consumers, respond to feedback, build credibility in the marketplace and deliver customer service. And these wildly popular platforms are not going anywhere. “Just having a presence on a particular social media site is not enough in itself to drive business advantage,” says Kristi Lutzenberger, director of business development for Orbis Solutions, Inc. “You need to first select the right media for your business, then work at it to build a following rather than just hope that the following will find you.”
Social media doesn’t have to be an all-encompassing exercise in vigilance and monitoring, however. Once you have determined which social media channels make most sense for your company (not all of them will), there are several social media management tools to help organize your accounts and manage your activities. You can even preload messages to deploy regularly. Lutzenberger recommends using a social media dashboard such as Hootsuite or Sproutsocial to help monitor, schedule and analyze your social media activities. This gives you an advantage in responding to comments, repurposing useful information and deploying messages across several channels at once – saving you time and increasing your presence.
Reputation management has become essential as online ratings and reviews continue to climb as major influencers for buying behavior. Addressing negative reviews on high-ranking websites such as Yelp, Google and TripAdvisor can minimize damage to your company’s reputation. Claiming your business on these sites can help you directly address negative comments and respond proactively to constructive criticism. Lutzenberger also recommends finding an app or service to help monitor your mentions around the web. Google Alerts are quick to set up, and can be programmed for your company name, employees’ names and other relevant keywords. Apps such as Mention will alert you every time your business is brought up online. Lutzenberger always recommends responding to comments and feedback, especially if they are negative. “Refer the user posting the negative feedback to contact you directly for quicker resolution,” she advises.
“You’ll build credibility and gain respect from your followers. Unanswered feedback may turn followers and potential business away.”
Google Business View
“Google Business View is the natural evolution of Google Street View,” explains Stormie Andrews, president of Yokel Local Internet Marketing. Through specially-trained photographers, search engine users can see panoramic photographs sewn into a 360-degree virtual tour of the interior of a business, giving consumers more data to help them make a decision about using a business. The technology can help a business’ transparency with customers, increase their search rankings due to the amount of time a user may spend on their website browsing their Business View, and allow consumers to interact more personally with a company. Companies can also infuse the personality of their business in their listing, helping to connect more potential customers with the brand. “When consumers go online, they’re looking for more validation [before making a purchase]. They’re looking for more of an assurance that this is a quality, reputable place. It gives them that ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling that helps influence their purchase,” explains Andrews.
The technology, relatively new to the Las Vegas area, is easy to set up and is a one-time charge to incorporate (not including updates to photography). Setting up the process, Andrews explains, involves calling a Business View Trusted Agency and setting up a site visit to your business to determine the number of panoramic shots required, suggestions for optimizing the shoot and scheduling the shoot. After the Google-certified photographer photographs your business, the tour is published to Google in about two weeks. For more information, visit Google.com/maps/ about/partners/ businessview.
While the ways you can market your business – in both traditional and new media – reach across the board and the budget, it helps determine your visibility and usually, your first impression, to potential customers and keeps you front-of-mind to your customers. And if you’re limited by cost, time or other factors, your marketing doesn’t have to be complicated to be successful. It just has to make sense for your company. As Mad Men’s Don Draper says, “Make it simple, but significant.”
Stormie Andrews, President, Yokel Local Internet Marketing, yokellocal.com
Kristi Lutzenberger, Director of Business Development, Orbis Solutions, Inc., orbissolutionsinc.com
R. Scott Peet, Owner, Sign-A-Rama Summerlin, signarama.com/nv-las-vegas-summerlin
Gary Sargent, Founder, Expert Internet Marketing, expertinternetmarketing.com
- Google: Google.com/adwords • Bing: Advertise.bingads.com
- Yahoo: Advertising.yahoo.com
Social Media Channels
- Facebook – Allows your customers to get to know the people behind your business and to portray your business in an approachable manner, while also allowing you to ask questions, solicit feedback and conduct conversations
- Twitter** – An ongoing conversation where posts are limited to 140 characters, especially useful for breaking news, updates, questions, surveys, and other frequent posts
- LinkedIn – A primarily business-
related social network, this gives you
an opportunity to grow your business connections and use them to seek business, service providers, etc.
- Instagram – A fun, more casual way to snap a photo, apply filters and other optional settings and then push out to followers. You can also use Instagram to post photos to other social media networks.
- Pinterest – Ideal for businesses for which visual imagery is a main feature or selling point
Protect Your Rep!
- Yelp: biz.yelp.com/claiming
- TripAdvisor: tripadvisor.com/owners • GoogleAlerts: google.com/alerts
- Mention: mention.com
Metro Chamber Business Directory