32 Experts & Business Owners Share Their Best Tips To Promote A Small Business Online
Need proven strategies to gain more clients and customers through the low cost, high return channels the internet has to offer?
We asked 32 experts and business owners to tell us their absolute best strategies that helped them make an impact on their business.
Digital Marketing Expert at Custom Creatives
Build And Army Of Advocates
Do you offer a good service? Chances are you do and your clients think so too. 90% of buyers said they have made a decision based on the result of a review. Ask your clients to review you online, have review cards on your table tops, put stickers on your entries and exits, email your customers for reviews. This will be a money maker for your business. Once you start hearing your clients say they like your reviews online, you’ll be a huge believer. Try it, it takes little effort for such high reward.
Email Your Customers And Stay in Touch
You know how hard it is to get a customer, so why not sell to the same customer over and over again? Increase the LTV of each customer by sending well prepared emails to inspire sales, promos or authority in your business. Sign up for a popular mail program like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact, add your email addresses of all your contacts and customers. You can segment them based on who they are – prospects vs customers or any method you choose. Then email targeted campaigns to inspire new orders, referrals, news or anything you like to accomplish your goal.
VP of Digital Identity at J IT Outsource
Compete Locally, Not Globally
When trying to get your site to rank, work on longer phrases that include your location. With single word searches, you’re going to be competing with the very big domains and that will be frustrating and almost futile. Build Local Relationships. Use your social media to build relationships and give value to your clients and prospects 10x more often that you share sales messages. Think of it as a communications channel, not a sales channel
President & Founder of Anvil
Claim, Optimize & Promote Your Local Listing On Google My Business (GMB)
With 50% of mobile searches having a local intent and Google owning a majority of search market share, it is essential that your local business have a strong presence in Google. Once you’ve claimed your GMB listing, ensure the name, address & phone number are correct and consistent with other business listings, then build out your profile with images, business hours, special promotions and reviews.
Manage Your Presence In Search Engines via Social Media
The most cost-effective strategy to “own” branded search results for your own company name, is to claim, optimize and promote profiles on popular social media platforms. Since your website can only rank up to four times in a given search, it is imperative to ensure you augment your visibility with content you control. Social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest and SlideShare are all highly trusted by Google and therefor rank well for branded searches.
Founder of RosyPost
Be Visible & Follow Up
Small businesses who stay ‘top of mind’ and easily accessible will win over new business easier. This means being where your customers are online and interacting on a personal level. This may be Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, or somewhere else. This tip may seem obvious, but most business owners don’t put in the time and effort to do this. The next, and most important step, is to keep in touch with current customers. Email marketing is the easiest and most cost effective way to do this. It costs far less to bring back a repeat customer than to acquire a new customer.
Digital Marketing Manager at Computrols
Answer Your Customers Questions
You know the most pertinent questions to your buyers, so answer them! By writing 100 to 200 words blog article about these FAQs, you are positioning yourself as an expert on the topic to both your customers and search engines. Don’t forget to push these out through your social profiles as well.
Think About What You Share On Your Personal Profiles – WWIS
When it comes to generating content for social sharing, always ask yourself the question “what would I share” (WWIS). Generally speaking lists, “how to’s”, and articles with the most compelling photos and titles get the most shares.
Founder of Vantage Internet Group
Polish Your Offering
Whether you sell physical products, virtual goods, or a service you MUST polish your product before showcasing it to potential customers. An easy example for a physical product is to make the necessary investment in taking professional product photos and then have an editor further polish the image before adding it to your site or advertising creatives. For virtual goods and services, hire a top notch designer to really make it stand out amongst the competition. Simple elements such as selection of font can make a huge impact on your efforts.
Do The Unconventional
Take a look at your competitors and you’ll probably see a lot of the same: Social Media Ads, Search Engine Marketing, Video, etc.
What most business owners don’t know is that some of the most effective ways to find customers is to go where they’re asking questions. Let’s say you’re a niche health supplement company. Have you tried looking on forums, communities, and Q&A platforms? You’d be surprised at the amount of opportunities available if you just take your time to provide valuable insight on these channels. Not only would you be helping those asking the question, but due to the authority and traffic of these sites, you would be attracting more eyeballs from others who’ve had similar questions from internal searches or search engine traffic.
President of Scrubz Body Scrub
Storytelling As Marketing
This is not a new thing, but it has been gaining in popularity lately. I believe it is the best way to resonate directly with your audience and how they feel.
Finding a way to effectively show customers how you can solve their problems and not directly selling to them is another way to market successfully.
Online marketing is most definitely the toughest thing we do. It is at best, the most rewarding and at worst, a reason to cry. There is such an abundance of information out there, and finding the right fit, specifically for my small business is like a puzzle.
Bill Corbett Jr
President of Corbett Public Relations
Focus On Video
Regularly create, publish, and promote videos about who you are and what you do. Local customers want to shop and do business with people that they know, who provide value and present on video. Mobile devices are the platform of the future and people prefer to watch videos. Do this and you will beat your competition.
Use Periscope & Live Streaming Video
Doing live video requires preparation and practice. Preparation forces you to work on presenting your value proposition, talking points and it allows you to show who you are. These videos attract attention but also at as preparation for TV and other video productions. Live streaming is hear and will be huge in the years to come. If you were trying to avoid being on video, you will have get over it and get in front of the camera.
Chief Solutionist at Business Solutions Cafe
A successful business owner knows key information about their target market because they need to know how to effectively market to them. Understanding your audience means knowing their likes, dislikes,emotional triggers, where they shop, eat, play and most importantly what willmake them spend their money on your type of product or service.
Stayin Your Marketing Lane
If you sell a service, do not mistakenly market it as if you are selling a product. Products and services, while similar because they both meet a need, require unique differentiators to allow them to successfully be supported by the way they are portrayed to the consumer.
Co-Founder of PhotoNote-It
Engage With Those Of Similar Interests
Google+’s “Communities” is an awesome outlet to connect with new customers and clients. With a variety of topics and interests that are constantly growing, you’re bound to find group members sharing a similar passion or need for your business.
More Feeds, More Exposure
Unless you’re a celebrity, chances are not too many people know you or your company! Do yourself a favor and let everyone know who you are as a company and what your doing by tagging all relevant people in your post. This is great for additional exposure not only for your business but others as well on sites like: Facebook, Google+, & Instagram. The more “feeds” you can appear on, the better the expose and engagement will be.
Your Brand by Nick Leffler
Get Local, Online
The Internet seems like a big, global place, but there are local groups. Use social media to find local groups and then participate in them, but don’t just promote in them. Social media is a free, authentic way to get to know local people who could become your customer.
Target Your Ads
Advertising is a great way to promote your local business if you have the budget. When you advertise online, target to your local geographies. Even better, if you’re advertising on Facebook, target people who have liked your competitors and then target that further into your local area.
Content Analyst at FSC Interactive
Partner With Like-Minded Local Businesses To Host An Event & Promote The Event Online
Two or three small businesses who work together are stronger than one. Have an upcoming business anniversary? Want to raise money for a local cause and get some press in the process? Partner with a few like-minded local businesses to host an event such as an after-hours VIP party. Promote the event via social media, including Facebook events and Instagram. Add the event to any online event directories, including Yelp’s event feature. Don’t forget to send a press release via e-mail to local news outlets. When local businesses partner together it can lead to big wins for everyone.
Keep Your Online Directory Listings Up To Date & Accurate
Local directory listings and reviews can have a big impact on SEO for local brick and mortar businesses. Be sure to claim your Google My Business listings and add as much information as possible. Use a tool like Moz Local to keep other directories like Yellowpages and Citysearch up to date. Encourage happy customers to review your business on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Founder of IVAN Real Estate
Organic Google Ranking
Local businesses should leverage the power of organic ranking in Google by writing articles about the surrounding market with topics that potential customers would search and read. This allows you to capture filtered traffic with essentially zero cost. An example we’ve used is profiling condo buildings, therefore driving online traffic to find us when researching condominiums.
Local Targeted Advertising
Utilizing Facebook’s postal code filters and demographic targeting allows you to display online ads to potential viewers filtered via these settings. Facebook advertising is relatively low-cost per click and is targeted, meaning your adversing budget is better spent. With integration on Instagram, it’s easy to custom tailor effective ad campaigns to drive business traffic and conversions.
Digital Advertising Analyst at DigitalAdvertisingWorks
Get On The Map
If you are looking to specifically promote your business locally don’t make the mistake of thinking just because you are in a prime location the people will come. Broadening your marketing efforts by getting online can help you capture a much larger audience of not just locals but those in nearby suburbs or the greater city limits. One of the first things you need to do is get your local listings in shape. First and foremost – get Google My Business set up and verified. Create business listings in local government and business directories to get your business name on the map. We all know that customers on the go are usually on a mobile device so making sure you are visible to these people increases the chance of them finding your business.
Social media is also important, but do your research and know which platforms are going to reach your target customers. There is no point spending time crafting posts for an audience that isn’t interested in your offerings. Once your accounts are set up don’t think that’s where it ends. Social media is just what it states – social! Get involved in the local community groups and conversations and we don’t mean just promoting yourself via these means. Offer something of value such as answers to questions with your local knowledge and expertise. Social media is also an excellent way of engaging with your own customers and bringing life to a brand.
Get To Local Events
Making an effort to get involved with local events and charities can be a great way to get some brand recognition. Offer to sponsor local events or become a speaker at an event. Most events will be promoted online with a list of sponsors and speakers. This can be an easy way to put your brand forward while helping out the local community and you don’t have to spend a fortune on advertising.
Co-Founder of Thrive Themes
Use Facebook Ads To Reach A Local Audience & Build A Potential Clients List
With Facebook ads, local businesses can target potential clients in their area. The best (and most profitable way) to use Facebook ads is NOT to try to sell immediately from your ad. Instead you should offer something for free in exchange for an email address. This way you’re building a list of interested potential clients in your area that you can market to over and over again. The way to set this up is by creating a “landing page” on your website. This page has only one purpose, getting the email address of the visitor. On the thank you page you can offer your gift (in the form of a downloadable PDF document)
The Marketing Quarterback at Clarke Inc
You are unlikely to go on a date without seeing what he or she looks like. It’s the same with choosing a business, particularly if it’s a professional such as a lawyer, an accountant or a dentist who you are entrusting your finances or health too. Staff profile pages are one of the most visited pages on a website. Images of an office can help the potential customer to imagine a visit. Take real images. Research suggests stock images can turn off potential clients.
Few small businesses have a blog on their website. Not only can it be difficult to write regular content about niche candles, soap or tires, but small business owners are often too busy or are not accomplished writers. However, a blog provides a voice, builds trust and gives your business a personality. Live content will be picked up by search engines and will help your SEO.
Chief Customer Success Wizard for Responster
Give More Than You Take, Way More
When your business is in its early stages, you’re essentially going to be asking people to drop their current solution to a problem and pickup you instead. The barrier for bringing someone into a relatively new business is high, and you won’t do it just by having a great product. The best way to stand out is to always be giving away so much more value than you’re asking for in return that you become a no-brainer for your potential customers. The other guys have a 14 day free trial? Yours is 30. And it includes free one on one coaching. The other guys are restricting a feature? You give it away for free and come up with something else that’s even better to help motivate an upsell later on. As a newcomer, the burden is on you to ‘wow’ people into your company becoming the obvious choice.
Use Your Scale To Your Advantage
You know what one of the best things about working in a business without a lot of customers is? You don’t have a lot of customers! Sound weird? Let me explain: In an ironic twist of business theory, one of the best ways to scale a business is to use your currently small scale to your advantage. For example, imagine if you took the time to write every single one of your customers a handwritten thank you note. It’s something you couldn’t easily do with 100,000customers, but that extra touch would probably go a long ways with your, say, 25, customers, and they might just tell a friend about it, If nothing else, they’ll recommend you when someone they know has need of your product/service. Think of creative ways you can substitute time and legwork for an ad budget and use your tiny scale to, coincidentally, scale up!
President of High Key Impact, LLC
Involve Friends & Family
If you consider your friends and family members your ‘Marketing Influencers’ and you ask them to spread your business-related posts throughout their networks, your business gets seen and noticed exponentially. By asking friends to share with a personalized post reading something as simple as ‘Here’s a post from my friend who owns this highly regarded _______________ business’, along with your business post, helps spread your message via ‘word of mouth’ advertising, all without paying a dime.
Join Lesser Known Social Networks
Share a blog article of your own on Medium or Triber and begin connecting with other content creators/influencers. When you comment and share on other posts, it gives you voice and opens up communications for others to connect with you. Quora is another platform to showcase your industry knowledge. Become familiar with these alternatives to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, comment and like other posts, connect with members and then start posting away!
Search Engine Optimization Specialist at SEOgeek
Be Unique In Your Space
For example, in my industry, there are hundreds of generic Dutch SEO providers. What makes me unique is that I work on the road, from whatever place I can get a reliable Wi-Fi signal. I work for lower rates as I spend most of my time in countries that have way lower cost of living compared to Europe and the US. Some people sympathize with my approach and choose my company. It also landed me some press mentions. Do not build an online business that breathes ‘me too. ‘It will probably not survive.
Henry McIntosh – Director of Content Marketing at Twenty One Twelve
User generated content is very hot right now. My suggestion for promoting a business, of any kind, would be to run a competition that asks for submissions. Whether it’s a picture of the person holding your product on Instagram or a witty tweet about your service, you instantly increase your exposure by utilizing other people’s audiences. It also creates you loads of free content for just the price of the prize. Remember to follow each social media platforms guidelines when running a competition and you will reap the benefits. Tip: If you currently have no fans, increase the size of the prize and advertise the competition, on social media, targeting potential customers.
If you’ve created a business it stands to reason that you’re an expert in the industry you operate in. That is invaluable to publications who are thirsty for expert led content. Find publications your potential customers are likely to read and offer to write an article based on your experience or expertise. You don’t have to be a brilliant writer, they will edit the grammar (as long as it’s not illegible). Make sure you get a link back to your website/blog and a bio that outlines who you are and what you do and after posting a few times within relevant publications you’ll be surprised at the exposure your business gains. Tip: Respond to comments- these are potential customers and people remember those who help.
Marketing Coordinator at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management MBA/MS Programs
When In Doubt, Google It Out
If you’re looking for ways to improve your online presence, why not start with Googling your company. Find out what preexisting information is already on display and how you are being represented. If you haven’t already-create a Google+ page to promote your business-this will help with SEO and Google search rankings as well.
It’s All About Analytics
If you have a website, make sure you are keeping tabs on your Google Analytics account. When looking at page views, try looking at a 12 month span and analyzing the spikes in page visits- what were you doing differently that month that could have initiated the increased traffic? I would recommend keeping weekly metrics of Analytics data in order to stay on track and set goals for the following year.
Founder of Cost Saving Marketing
A Fun Photo Contest
People love interacting with brands on social media. A photo contest can be an easy to execute creative way of building a range of customer-driven PR messages. Such a giveaway encourages shares and likes which brings a huge level of organic exposure for a brand. It takes seconds to upload an image on virtually all social media platforms, such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Uploading a picture tagging a brand means customers don’t need to do a lot to enter the contest while having a lot of fun being part of the giveaway community.
This Time It’s Personal
If your brand logo is all your customers know about your brand, then it’s time to make your marketing messages more personal. YouTube videos made in the office by the people who work for the company can be such a personal way of raising awareness for your brand and the wonderful things you do. Employees are every company’s best assets because no matter what we sell and how we sell it, ultimately people buy from people.
Owner of Derby Home Rental
Social-Media Engagement Is Overrated
Common wisdom is that for social media to pay off for small businesses, they need to actively engage with their audience. That’s wrong; small businesses can benefit from social media just by posting. My business, Derby Home Rental, relies on search engines for clients. And I’ve noticed a noticeable bump in my ranking by posting links to my site daily on social media. I don’t use social media to engage with other users at all (other than to answer questions posed directly to me).
Digital Content Specialist at iCare Phone Repair
Get Friendly With Google For Business
Customers are always looking at their smartphones to find what they’re looking for so your business website has to be search-engine friendly. Create a Google for Business profile and enter complete information about your business, such as the company description, opening hours, website, products, and services. When customers search for a nearby product or service, Google will automatically display your business in the local search results so you’re right there on the first page!
Co-Founder of Zeus Legal Funding
Promote Yourself On Instagram
If you have a unique product to sell, you can create an Instagram account and post pictures. You can pay people to post about you on their Instagram and other social profiles and that will help drive traffic to your Instagram.
Add Your business To Relevant Directories
We don’t recommend generic directories where any business can get listed. We do recommend specific directories that only list your kind of business. For example, if you are a translation services provider, you would post your info on all translation company directories.
Offline Networking, Except It’s Online
You can pay people in related businesses to mention you on their website. For example, we know of one translation services provider that pays an immigration services provider to talk about them on their website. The immigration services provider says on her website: Do you need a document translated? Go here. It’s just like offline word-of-mouth advertising, except it’s online.
Owner of Huntley Wealth Insurance
Focus On A Niche
The error I see many online marketers making is casting their net too wide, and trying to appeal to too big of an audience.
For example, when I built my first insurance website, I made the mistake of providing information for ALL ages and types of health conditions,but only 5% of my visitors request a quote on that site. Then I built a site exclusively for diabetics who need life insurance, which is laser targeted for diabetics and helping them solve their specific needs. The quote form on that site converts at an eye-popping 21%.
Bottom Line: Focus on a particular niche, provide the best resource online to serve them, and watch your traffic, conversion and sales jump through the roof.
Co-Founder & CEO of Zveil
Don’t Over Do It With Social Media Accounts
We regularly hear about how important it is for businesses have a social presents–and it is. However, businesses should beware not to stretch themselves too thin. It’s better to have fewer social media accounts where you actively post and engage than to have numerous accounts that are unmonitored and posted to infrequently. Businesses can do themselves and their customers a favor by only setting up communications channels where they can effectively manage and interact those accounts.
Create An Onsite Blog & Post Regularly
An onsite blog will not only give you a significant SEO boost (due to the keywords contained in them) but it will also give you an opportunity share that content offsite via your social media channels and attract your target audience through related topics. Stuck on where to start? Top 10 lists and blog posts that answer questions customers often have related to your industry work well.
President of Mystique Brand Communications
Set Up Your Google+ Page
With 70% of households starting their purchase research online… and 85% of those searches being done with Google… to assist your SEO efforts you need to ensure that your local business has a Google+ profile.
Ask Customers For Google+ Reviews
Google is here to stay. And while reviews are no longer shown on Google+ pages in the new design, they are still accessible on Google Search and Maps. And everyone likes a good review.
Founder & President of GMR Transcription
Control Your Online Reputation (Reviews) From the Start
Every business that has any online presence whatsoever needs to put online reputation at the top of their list. By online reputation, I mean reviews. As technology continues to improve in convenience and accessibility, buying and decision-making habits are constantly changing. More and more people are relying on these easily-accessible online reviews to decide whether they want to do business with your company, and it’s up to you to control what they see when they find you.
The most effective way to manage this is by developing a process for measuring customer satisfaction. You need to be consistently asking customers about their experience, which intercepts them for their opinion before they post a review online. If you can measure a recent customer’s satisfaction immediately, then you can rectify a negative experience before a review is posted — or even convince a happy customer to write a positive review.
CEO of Search Influence
Get Your Customers To Literally, Tell Their Own Story
Use video to capture a happy customer’s impressions of your business. You can use your phone and a few easy questions to get a bunch of great content. Once you’ve got the videos, use desktop tools to add some branding, transcribe and add it to video sharing sites and your own site and blammo, you’re in business.
Kill Some Trees To Get Social Proof Online
Keep a stack of greeting cards by the register or check-out. When you’ve got an obviously happy customer, hand them one – stamped and self-addressed, of course – and let them know how much you love hearing about their experience. Then, transcribe it and upload a picture of the card itself to prove a real person wrote it.
CEO of SocialPubli.com
Focus In Creating A Community
When it comes to social media, focus on creating a community versus on reaching a certain number of followers. You want your followers to be active and engaged. Social media is not about monologues but dialogues. Generate conversations and connect with your followers. A loyal fan base will serve as advocates for your brand/company and assist – in an organic manner – in your efforts to promote your business online.
Provide Content That Fits & Satisfies Your Audience
Pay attention to engagement metrics such as number of likes, retweets, replies and comments to determine what topics are more attractive and generate the most participation. The more your audience engages with your content the more buzz and promotion your business will receive.
Make Sure That The Content You Are Publishing Is Shareable
You want to facilitate this for your audience. Is it relevant? Is it valuable and useful? Is there a current events or pop culture tie-in? Every member of your audience has his/her very own communication channels in the forms of other social media accounts and perhaps even a blog so every time they share your content it reaches an even larger potential audience.
Engage In Social Media Promotion On A Larger Scale By Activating An Influencer Campaign
Tap influencers with a desired demographic, interest and geographic location to help you spread the message. Nowadays, there are completely automated platforms open to small, medium and large businesses that allow you to initiate social media campaigns with the click of a mouse across different platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and blogs. Monitoring is done in real time with detailed analytics. Collaborations with social media influencers will dramatically increase your reach and establish credibility for your business.
Senior Digital Marketing Consultant at 301 Madison Consulting
Try Google Adwords Express
Many businesses have never tried Google Adwords, also called PPC(pay per click) for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that there is a fairly steep learning curve. As a business owner, you certainly don’t want to be throwing money at search unless you know what you’re doing and are tracking conversions. If you’re like most businesses, you don’t have time to learn Google Adwords. In 2011, Google came out with a solution for busy owners and it is Google Adwords Express. Google Adwords Express is much simpler to use. You pick your industry, targeted area and set a budget; Google will do the rest. You can track clicks, calls, click through rates to your business, which are important metrics in any paid campaign. Plus, you can usually get $100 credit from Google after you spend $50 for trying it out.
Buffer For Social Media Publishing
Buffer is a must have for any local business owner that wants to promote their business in a time crunch. The app is free for the basic plan, which allows you to publish to up to four social media accounts. You create a message like: “20% off your entire order if you come in and mention “social media”, today only!”. Then publish that same message to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ with one click. Also, the app allows you to set up posts for a future time and day. Buffer is a must have free tool for business owners who want to promote their business in no time.
Now Go And Grow!
Hope you enjoyed all of the great info these experts shared.
Have something to add, we’d love to hear your best strategies and tips that helped you below!