As a small business owner, marketing can be overwhelming and downright frustrating. You need to attract people so your business is viable and you can do cool things, like pay bills and eat. But sometimes, you don’t have a lot of money to attract those clients you need. It’s the old chicken or the egg.
These are issues I struggle with everyday. Frankly, when you rely on getting noticed and building relationships but aren’t sure where to begin or have oodles of resources at your disposal (aka time or money), it’s a very humbling experience. Do you develop a website, business cards, posters, use social media, traditional media? Argh…Where do you even begin?
When you don’t have any experience, dipping your toe in the marketing pool is kind of a fishing trip. First you need to get clear on what services you provide, who will primarily benefit and where to find them? That’s the tricky part.
When I first started, I relied primarily on my website, business cards and whatever free resources I could get my hands on (e.g., advertising on free classifieds, etc). I was dropping business cards wherever I could: into the hands of people I just met, pinning it on gas station bulletin boards, creating flyers, you name it. I also tried dropping off some posters in a mall parking lot once and quickly learned that mall administration gets all frowny when you do that. I tried paying for ads in the Yellow Pages, which was expensive and resulted in no calls. Not one. Trial and error.
There was a time that my website was my greatest promotional tool. I made sure to include it on all resources I created. With a little SEO and carefully crafted keywords, it was fairly easy for people to find me. That was before Google went on an algorithm change blitz. Now, a business who used to rank well in search might find him or herself on the back of the Google bus. And then the odds of potential clients stumbling on your site could be like meeting a celebrity in your hometown bar – possible but unlikely. Google has now hinted it’s no longer going to count guest blogging or Twitter and Facebook in its rankings either, so what does this mean for small businesses trying to build their brand?
Don’t get me wrong, having a web and social media presence are still important tools, but only if people know you’re there and if you’re using them effectively. But if you don’t market your site or online presence, it’s like being in the middle of the ocean, waving your arms back and forth and hoping someone will see you. You could try paying for SEO, Google AdWords or other online ads, but this could turn out to be a very expensive fishing trip that results in little return. Some companies spend thousands a month on SEO, way too rich for my blood.
This is where I’m at. I can’t really afford to go on a huge marketing fishing trip, so I’m looking to target. To do that, I’m learning more about my clients so I know how best to connect with them. Then I won’t have to fish. I can go right to them.
One thing that hasn’t been very helpful for me but may be for you is joining a local Chamber of Commerce. As a member of a Chamber you may have access to other entrepreneurs, advertising resources at discounted rates & networking opportunities. Now, TRIASTRUM is in the process of exploring additional marketing opportunities but I’m trying to be smart about it. Stay tuned and I’ll try to share what I learn in a future post: Marketing with Zero Experience on a Shoestring Budget.