Whatever your business is, you should have a website. That is a basic requirement in modern society. The first place people look when they hear about a business is on the internet. If you don’t exist on the internet then they won’t be able to find you and they will go with someone else instead. You will never know about the work that you lost.
Most businesses don’t need anything too fancy. A website that portrays your business well, shows what you offer and makes it easy for people to take the next step is usually enough. There are free services that will enable you to create these websites such as Wix or Squarespace. If you have basic design skills and the time to fiddle about, these sites are a good option. Make sure that you do not use pictures or graphics that are copyrighted. Pixabay gives you access to a wide range of pictures you can use for free. Or use your own.
If you want to have a professional looking website with special features (such as a shopfront) then you are best to get a professional to design this for you. If you do, this make sure that you will own the content and the url (the web address). There are some dodgy web designers out there who will try to lock you into using their services forever. The good ones know that you will stay with them because they are good at what they do.
Professionals will also help by making sure that your website is easy to find and ranks as well as possible on search results.
Having a website is not enough though, people still need to know you exist or they will not be searching for you on the internet.
Word of mouth is a fantastic way to get people to use your service and tends to be the key for most successful businesses. The only real way to get word of mouth referrals is to be a business worth recommending. That takes a lot of hard work. It requires providing excellent goods and superior customer service as well as having seamless processes. It involves meeting and exceeding customer expectations
Social media is a great method for promoting your business. Most businesses use Facebook, but many businesses also use Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok and many others. If you are not overly confident with social media then you should probably just concentrate on one social media channel with which you are comfortable, and which your target market generally use.
Make a social media plan around what you want to promote and think about the conversations you want to have with your customers. You need to be interesting. If you do nothing but advertise you probably won’t get many followers, but if you are posting useful information then over time you will become more and more popular.
Paid advertising on social media is a great way to get your message out there. We recommend attending a course on making the most of social media. ENC runs these courses as does the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce and many other providers. The money you spend on understanding how social media works will pay great dividends.
Personal branding can be great where you and your business are inextricably linked. This is usually done by professionals in very specialised roles where the business is unlikely to be sold (in the long term) and the business owner will always be the figurehead. Your personal brand allows you to stand out from the crowd so that when people see you they automatically think about your business. Think about how you want others to perceive you and dress, act and promote yourself accordingly. Politicians are a great example of this.
Examples of business-people who have used their personal brand successfully are Sir Richard Branson, The Mad Butcher or the Big Save Furniture Lady. However this can lead to problems when you sell the business, given that so much of the profile is tied up in your personal brand. On the flip side, if you start another business you can use momentum that your personal brand has already built up (such as with Sir Richard Branson’s multiple businesses).
You can hire someone to be the personal brand of your business (such as the Briscoes Lady), but if they decide to stop working for you then you will need to redesign your marketing campaign from scratch.
Sending e-mails and newsletters is a great way of get way of encouraging repeat customers. This is done by building up a database of customers who want you to communicate with them and sending them notifications or newsletters that are interesting and keep them informed. They advertise product, but often have related items that are interesting but do not lead directly to sales.
Think about what your customers want to receive. Not many people want wall-to-wall ads, but most don’t mind ads mixed in with stories that are interesting to them.
Businesses that are very successful at e-mail marketing build a good database of customers and break down what they are interested in. They then use automated systems that send notifications to customers that perfectly fit what the customer wants to know about, or personally tailored newsletters, such informing an individual customer about a new item coming into stock that they had registered an interest in.
Only send e-mails to someone who has expressed an interest in receiving your messages. No-one wants spam and you could be fined if you continue to send spam to people.
Coffee cards, Flybuys points, discounts for referrals of new customers – all of these loyalty schemes are designed to get people into your business in order to earn a ‘reward for loyalty’, or to use other people to bring new people in. Businesses do these because they work.
Community Sponsorship is good for your brand. You may not see many direct sales from it, but it makes a wide group of people feel more positively inclined to use your business. That means that in the long term you should see long term benefits from it while you are helping your community.
Don’t just give money away to a worthy cause though – put a little strategy around your largesse.
These can be a good option for advertising, but they don’t work for everyone. If you are going to advertise in printed media or through the radio, make sure you do it well and make sure you have a method to measure the results. It can be an expensive option, but for some businesses these forms of media bring great results.
Every region has the opportunity for you to attend business networking functions and groups. This can be particularly useful for any business whose target market is other businesses. Go in expecting to talk to people and push past your comfort zone to actually say hello. If you can find out who will be there before you go that can help you to identify who you want to talk to. There are a mix of different types of networking priced from free to very expensive and they all have different flavours. Decide which ones will be useful to you and attend a few to see how they go. It’s also a great chance to talk to other business owners and can act as a good way to build friendships within the business community.
Social Media is a great way to communicate with your customers, but different businesses will suit different social media types. Think about which ones will be more likely to be used by your clients. You are better to use one or two social media channels well, than to have many but not have the time to keep them vibrant.
When you build up a customer database, email campaigns are an extremely effective way of generating sales. Many email campaign platforms are free initially, and start to cost more as you add features or get above a certain number of customers on your database. So come with built in database management tools. It’s worth looking carefully so that the one you choose now will work for the business you are planning to be.