Tips to help you market, engage and grow as if you had a whole marketing department focused on it.

By Sid Suri

If you’re running a small business, you are likely facing the same two challenges nearly every small business confronts. You won’t survive if you don’t grow. But you don’t have the time or expertise to properly market your business and engage with prospects. Besides, you didn’t major in marketing or advertising or social media — that’s not why you’re in business. Fortunately, today you don’t need to hire a marketing team to expand your reach and connect with your target audience. Instead, you can easily take advantage of online tools and resources to build a virtual marketing department that can save you time and money while generating leads and helping you close sales. The following five growth hacks are my favorites for marketing your business without a marketing department.

1. Use Facebook to precisely target your advertising 

Facebook had over 2.32 billion monthly active users as of last December, and the company collects tons of information about every one of us. This means that when you advertise on Facebook, you’re taking advantage of one of the most powerful sources of marketing data available. Facebook also lets you target your ads to very specific groups. Want your ads going to under-30 males in New York City who like dark beer? Facebook can do that. You’ll get more warm leads for your advertising dollar and drive down your cost-per-conversion. And with the right supporting platform, you can automate your advertising and leverage quizzes, giveaways, coupon code redemption, webinar signups, daily challenges and much more to increase engagement. Facebook even has ads that automatically open Facebook Messenger upon clicking, so users can start a conversation with your business as soon as they’re interested. You can even use information on the people who respond to your ads to target future ads more effectively.

2. Automate conversations you don’t need to have 

One of the best ways to increase engagement with prospects and customers without increasing your staff is to automate providing answers for common questions. A chatbot allows you to automatically and instantly provide accurate, consistent information that is still personalized. For example, if a customer asks, “Where’s my order?” the chatbot can immediately respond with “It’s scheduled to arrive on the 3rd.” Some AI-powered chatbot solutions can even help you provide the right emotional context for your responses. For example, if a customer complains about a product or service, the automated response can begin with an apology or statement of understanding. With effective chatbots, you can give prospects and customers the information they need when they need it — 24 hours a day — letting you focus on more strategic tasks.

3. Use live content to build a following

Live streaming has become an extremely powerful way to engage your target audience and encourage growth. Today, live streaming isn’t just for pro athletes or world-class chefs. Julie Siomacco, for example, has turned her wreath-making business into an online sensation using members-only videos. If you can create visually appealing demonstrations of your products or services (see #5 below), sites like Facebook Live enable you to precisely target your live events — and you can use Facebook Messenger to advertise it. The videos appear in a Facebook fan’s newsfeed, and fans can comment on them in real-time. The broadcasts are also automatically saved as a video post to your Facebook page. When used properly, Facebook Live events can distinguish you from the competition, establish credibility for you and your business, create buzz about your products and draw new fans to your site. Other great options for live streaming include Instagram Live, Twitter Live and YouTube Live.

4. Build a nurture funnel for increased personalization

Not all queries about your products and services deserve the same response. Let’s say you offer singing lessons. If someone shows only mild interest in your services, you probably don’t want to overwhelm them with options and costs that could turn them off. Instead, perhaps you share a fun video about amateur singing competitions and ask if they’d like more information. If someone is moderately interested, perhaps you invite them to a local event, such as the appearance of an a cappella group. If someone appears very interested, that’s when you provide all the details about your service.

Providing the right response for the right level of interest is called a “nurture funnel,” and this is just what the best sales reps create to guide prospects step-by-step toward a decision. The key to a nurture funnel is figuring out the typical stages and decision points of the customer journey for your specific products or services, and then what information you can provide to increase their interest or encourage a decision. While this is one of the most important sales support activities you can do, you probably don’t have the time to do this for each prospect. That’s where automation comes in. Platforms are now available that use AI to assess the interest level of a query and respond with just the right type of information.

5. Easily afford an assistant or an expert with the gig economy

Wouldn’t it be great to have an assistant who could handle simple tasks like maintaining your calendar, scheduling travel, setting up a webinar, writing a quick blog post or doing your monthly billing? Think you can’t afford all these different skill sets? Here’s how you can. The “gig economy” has created a massive pool of experts who prefer the flexibility of offering their services on an hourly basis instead of taking on a full-time job. Sites like Fiverr, Freelancer and Upwork provide experts for just about every service you can imagine: accountants, bloggers, app developers, even graphic designers, actors or narrators for your live streaming events or online videos. You can even find someone who will run errands for you a few hours a week. All these services are offered at very reasonable prices, and the various sites have ways to gauge the experience and dependability of the freelancers to help ensure your satisfaction.

Marketing is the growth engine of your small business, but you don’t have to be a full-time mechanic. With a few growth hacks, you can create a virtual marketing department that will help you stand out from the crowd, generate leads and engage your prospects and customers with the personalized content they crave.

Longtime marketing expert Sid Suri is currently the CMO at ManyChat, the largest messenger marketing platform which helps SMBs grow by leveraging popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger to engage customers. Follow ManyChat on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, or Twitter.

Marketing stock photo by iQoncept/Shutterstock