Struggling to Market Your Small Business? Read This

As a small business or a start-up, investing a lot of time in your marketing efforts isn’t always at the top of your list of priorities. But at some point, you’ll need to deal with it.

Look at big brands such as Facebook, Apple or Virgin. They didn’t begin with a colossal marketing budget; everyone has to start somewhere remember. But, if you look at where they are today, investing in marketing was probably the best decision they ever made.

You might not be the Head of Development at Apple. You might not have a whole department of marketing gurus behind you. You might not have investors falling over themselves for a stake in your company yet. But, if you know the basic principles of how to market your business, you could be one step ahead of your competitors already.

I’ve put together three important tactics that you need to consider when marketing your business.

Get Your Website Right

Everyone is online – even my 70-year-old mother who I never thought would ever own a smartphone is now a proud owner of the latest iPhone 7. AND an iPad (FYI, I’m not paid by Apple to write this article).

She is now pretty tech-literate. She searches for hair products online, books her holidays using her phone and is fully capable of reading up on restaurant reviews before she decides where to dine.

So you see, as a business, it is crucial that your website is optimised, looking presentable and user-friendly. If I search for a product online and click on the first result that comes up, you've almost got me as a customer.

However, if your website looks old, outdated and doesn’t load on my iPhone 7 (again, I’m not endorsed by Apple), I’ll quickly move on to your competitor below.

You just lost me as your customer. I made the effort to find you on the search engine, but your website didn’t really compel me to hang around. Therefore, why should I waste my efforts and money by buying your services or products?

Obviously, building a website can cost an arm and a leg. But there are some companies out there that offer sites with ready-to-go templates. You can personalise them by adding compelling images and engaging information about your brand.

This might not always be the best option if your company offers web design services. But let’s say you’re a small local café, you don’t really need a comprehensively built website with all the extra cool features to show off your mad web design skills. What you do need is a mobile optimised, user-friendly website with high-quality images to show off your delicious coffee and baked goods. And last but not least, where your prospective customers can find you.

Content is ALWAYS King

“Content is king.” Yes, it's an overused phrase. Yes, you've heard it thousands of times and more. Yes, it's getting well into cliché territory. But it's true.

American business magnate Bill Gates was the man to coin those immortal words back in 1996. And two decades later digital marketers are still harping on about it. And for a good reason.

Consider: Do you zone out when TV adverts come on between your favourite shows? Do you grab your iPhone (actually, Apple should pay me) and start to surf sites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook? I do. Sometimes I stalk people, but mostly I read and share funny content. Sound familiar? We all do it. What we don't know is that it’ll often be a brand behind the content. Clever or what?

Yesterday, one of my friends on Facebook shared a BuzzFeed article titled: ‘We Know Your Sign And Location Based On Your McDonalds Order.’ Of course, I had to find out more. After ticking off a few boxes, the quiz concluded that my sign is Cancer and that I’m based in Mexico City. It blew my mind - last time I checked, my sign is Aries and I live in Leeds, UK.

Jokes aside, the quiz did make me giggle a bit because it was so silly. How can someone know your sign and location based on your McDonald's preferences? Despite knowing this, I still clicked on the link and did the quiz.

Do you see what McDonald's did there? The idea of it might seem stupid, but the quiz was fun and light-hearted, and it did the deed. What is the deed? It was to make the iconic golden arches stick in my brain for a bit. It also made me crave chicken nuggets.

How much do you think it cost them to do that? Not much.

This barely touches on the topic of content marketing – you could write a book on all the ins and outs of it. But, in a nutshell, that’s pretty much it. It’s the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. Who reads banners and leaflets anymore? Nobody.

Instead, as a customer or a prospect, we want businesses to make us more intelligent by educating us through valuable, fun and sharable content. So, if you don’t have a blog section on your website, make one and start writing.

That Social Media Again

We all know what it is, but do we know what to do with it? I went to a networking event last week and spoke to a guy that runs a HR consultancy firm. He said that he doesn’t 'get' social media, but still tweets here and there. He is what you call a social media sceptic, but he still possesses an acute awareness of its importance in the world of marketing. Hence the 'tweet here and there'.

We spent half an hour chatting and I truly tried to convert him. But I could relate to his views as well. What he said was, as a small company with limited staff, he had too much on his plate with running the business itself. ‘Faffing around' (his words) on social media wasn't on the top of his to-do list apparently.

I do get why some business owners feel like this. You want to go out there, network and grow your brand. But at the end of the day the person you’re trying to win over will go back home and check you out (aka stalking) before they decide to do anything. And where do they check you out? Definitely not the yellow pages.

So you’ve got your fancy, optimised website in place and it’s full of valuable content. Great; your stalker is pretty impressed. But what about social media? If you are on there, what are people saying about you? Is your Twitter feed or Facebook page full of unhappy customers? If they are, it's your responsibility to change their minds.

Social media is the best thing that’s happened to consumers since sliced bread. They now have unlimited ways of complaining about a certain service or product.

Just bought these - way to go @Tesco

— Ben Clarke (@djbenclarke) October 28, 2016

Great for consumers, but what about for businesses and brands? Yes, it means more work, but instead of seeing it as a burden you should see it as an opportunity. One to create a voice that resonates with your company’s vision.

You can choose to live in denial and not be on social media, but wouldn’t you want to know what people are saying behind your back? If you’re present, you can have your say. Plus, you can engage, build and nurture the relationship with current and potential customers. And btw, it costs approximately: NOTHING.

@djbenclarke Hello Ben; I'm very sorry the mushrooms you purchased from us today are out of date :( Thanks for letting me know! 1/2

— Tesco (@Tesco) October 28, 2016


In my humble opinion, these three points are essential in marketing your business. They are the bread and butter. If you passionately believe in these basic principles, that underpin the entire industry, you can't really go wrong.

IMPORTANT: Dear Apple, please let me know where I should send my invoice.

Ann is the Marketing Manager here at ICS-digital. Follow her on Twitter: @ann_nguyen1