Is your small business marketing working as well as it could be? Marketing even the smallest businesses has gotten both easier and more complicated in the digital age. Easier, because online marketing is so affordable; more complicated, because there are so many options to choose from. To find out how small business owners are keeping up, Vistaprint recently surveyed “micro businesses” (U.S. small business owners with fewer than 10 employees). Here’s what they found.
Despite their small size, micro businesses in general have moved into the digital marketing age. More than two-thirds (68.8 percent) say they market their businesses both online and offline. Over half (52.7 percent) say their online presence is “very important” to their marketing efforts, while 30.4 percent say it’s “fairly important.”
However, there’s still a long way to go. More than one-fourth (28.9 percent) of small business owners surveyed say they don’t market their businesses both online and offline. And even those who do market both ways often fail to present cohesive branding. About one-third of micro-business owners say developing a more consistent online and offline marketing identity would have a “substantial” financial impact on their businesses, and one-fourth think it would have a “significant” impact.
How can you maximize marketing a micro-business (or any business)? Here are five tips:
- Make sure your business website is up to snuff. Less than one-third (32.7 percent) of small business owners in the survey say their website is their primary means of marketing. However, even if your website is not your main focus, it needs to be in good shape. Make sure your business website is mobile-friendly; most people search for local businesses on their smartphones these days, and Google awards higher rankings in search results to mobile-friendly sites. Make key information — your business address, hours, and phone number — easy to see, and keep it updated.
- Give online advertising a try. Just 6.6 percent of micro-business owners in the survey describe online advertising as a marketing priority. However, when properly executed, online advertising can be highly effective and affordable. Since prospective customers search for businesses online, having your ads show up when they search for what you sell can only help your business.
- Get listed in online directories. Only 5 percent of survey respondents say online directories are a key marketing method. But if your business is one that attracts local customers, online directories are vitally important to getting customers in your door. Plus, it’s easy (and generally free) to list your business in local search directories such as Google My Business or Yelp. To get the best results from online directories, make sure that your business name, address and phone number are exactly the same in all of your listings — if they vary at all, search engines will view the variations as different businesses.
- Don’t rely solely on social media marketing. Social media is the dominant marketing method used by micro-business owners; 53.3 percent say it’s their primary marketing focus. However, while social media marketing is important, putting all your efforts into social media marketing can leave you vulnerable. What happens if the key social network you rely on makes significant changes to its algorithm or has a sudden decline in popularity?
- Promote a cohesive brand image. More than half of small business owners surveyed say business cards are their primary print marketing method; print advertising and signage are also used. Whether your marketing online, on social media or in print, you need to convey a unified brand image throughout. That means using similar graphics, colors and images, as well as reinforcing trademarks and taglines. Last but not least, make sure that your print materials drive customers to your website and social media presence, that your social media accounts link to your website and that your website prominently displays your social media icons.
By integrating all of your marketing — print, online and social media — you’ll get better results from each method you use.