Did your small business grow last year? What are you planning to do in the coming year to extend or trigger growth? Every business should take time to evaluate their marketing strategy, determining what’s working and identifying areas for change or improvement.
While there are many general small business marketing tips for 2016 that everyone should follow, you can take a more fine-tuned approach based on your industry.
1. Home services
Plumbers, electricians and other small businesses that serve their customers in the realm of home services often have a lot of competition. How do you stand out?
- Search engine authority: Generally speaking, your customers give you a call when something is broken or needs maintenance, so it is critical to rank well in search engine results. Build your authority -- and therefore your rankings -- with on-site search engine optimization (SEO), authoritative content about your business and services.
- Email marketing: These days, people are bombarded with emails. Despite the inbox-saturation, it is still a great way to remind your potential customers that you exist and can help them out. Every campaign should be sent for a good reason, such as important educational or newsworthy content and / or a promotion or special. And each one should be personalized.
- Educational content: “Content is king,” as you’ve probably heard. Not only can good content build your website’s authority in search-engine rankings as we’ve noted, it can also do some selling for you, or at least save you some time educating your customers about your business or services.
Fitness made up 66 percent of the resolutions made last year. Your plan for fitness marketing in 2016 should be focused on reaching and engaging with your current and potential clients -- both online and in person -- to help them maintain their fitness, beyond their resolutions.
- Freebies: Keep your clients on track with their New Year’s resolutions and beyond with free resources, tips and other goodies. If you can, help support their fitness regimen or New Year’s Resolution by offering a special promotion or giveaway to incentivize them to reach their goals -- and incentivize potential clients to sign-up).
- Engaging content: We all need a little encouragement, especially when it comes to exercising regularly and avoiding the junk food we can crave. Use your blog and social-media pages to share words and stories of encouragement, stories to motivate or entertain, and those before-and-after pictures that make us all feel like normal, yet awesome people. This encourages your audience and / or clients to engage and form a supportive community.
- Reputation / brand management: There are so many different kinds of fitness -- methods and practices. Not only do you need to stand out among those in your niche, you must also compete against other niches due to the market of potential clients who are researching fitness methods they haven’t tried. Get your Yelp and other review profiles in order, respond to reviewers and practice good customer service to try to increase five- and four-star reviews and minimize the one- and two-star ones. With a good online reputation, you can stand out among your competitors.
3. Food and beverage
We all have to eat. There are some quick things you can do to keep your establishment on your potential customers’ minds in 2016 while increasing your foot traffic with traffic through online avenues.
- Email marketing: The primary benefit of email marketing for restaurants, bars and cafes is the reminder it provides to potential customers. Don’t oversaturate your contact list with daily or weekly email campaigns. Instead, use a monthly or twice monthly email with a promotion, coupon or special -- a good way to keep your establishment on their mind when they’re hungry or looking for a place to socialize. Grow your list with a website homepage pop-up to gather more contacts. And hey, while you’re at it, include a social follow to increase your audience on your social-media pages as well.
- Re-targeting ads: This kind of pay-per-click advertising with Google can pack a powerful punch, even with a small budget ($75 to 150 per month). The way these ads work is to re-target your potential diners by showing them your ads on sites they visit, after they have visited your website. This keeps your restaurant, bar or cafe front-of-mind.
- Social-media advertising: The top social-media networks for restaurants are Instagram and Facebook. Use Instagram to share timely photos, and incorporate Facebook’s advertising tools to increase the reach of your posts, photos and videos to customers. Even a $50 per month budget for Facebook ads can go a long way!
4. Personal services
Loyalty is a key feature to the customer base for a small business that offers personal services, such as a spa or salon, or practitioner in natural medicine, like a massage therapist or acupuncturist.
- Loyalty programs: Encourage people to come back to your salon for every haircut or return to your spa for every hair removal or nail service with simple loyalty programs. Offer a discount after a set number of appointments, exclusive specials or packages for your loyal customer base, free services for referrals, etc.
- Social-media engagement: Facebook is great for expanding your reach to a wider audience, Instagram is perfect for showcasing your services, Pinterest is ideal for visual how-to’s and inspiration, and Twitter is a go-to network for customer service. Use social media to engage with your clients.
- Reputation management: Since loyalty is so important to your ongoing business, it’s important that your online reputation reflects your brand correctly. Follow up with all reviewers on Yelp, whether their comments are good or bad. Encourage (and reward) brand ambassadors to emerge from your loyal customer base who will talk about you to their friends and improve your word-of-mouth reputation.
5. Professional services
Attorneys, real-estate agents, accountants and other small business professionals that provide services to individuals and other businesses typically have to compete with dozens of similar providers. Standing out and accessing clientele beyond word-of-mouth and referrals can be tricky and typically requires a lot of work or a large marketing budget. But there are some ways to set your business apart in the online community without breaking the bank or spending massive amounts of time.
- Search engine authority: The easiest way to acquire new clients online is to be visible in the top couple of search-engine results when your potential clients search for related keywords associated with your services.
- Video production: Video is already a powerful marketing tool. For instance, last June, Facebook modified its News Feed algorithm to show users more videos and expand the video-interaction experience. People are engaging more and more with videos, which means that it’s the best type of content to share on social media in the way of expanding your reach and increasing engagement.
- Educational content: As part of your on-site SEO strategy, you should be publishing educational content on a consistent basis (once monthly, minimum). The easiest way to do this is to update your website blog with educational posts about your services, trends or updates in the industry, educational or expose-type posts about information your clients may not know, etc. The posts should be well-written and 500 to 700 words each.
After the holiday season, it can be tough to work through the sudden slowdown in business. Start the year off strong with a strategy for supporting your brick-and-mortar business using online tools and tricks.
- Mobile-friendly ecommerce: Mobile really matters, regardless of your industry or business type. For retailers, mobile-friendly websites are an important feature for showcasing your products when your customers aren’t physically standing in your store. With an ecommerce website, you can also increase sales locally and even nationally.
- Reward return customers: Most retailers struggle to build loyalty and increase their return-customer base. Get creative about ways you can encourage customers to come back, such as including a coupon with every purchase (or purchases above a set amount), providing punch / stamp cards to work toward a discount or giveaway item, etc. You could even offer a small discount or free item for customers who sign up for your email list, creating a greater opportunity for re-marketing.
- Email marketing: An effective method of reminding your customers to visit your store is email marketing. Grow a list through a pop-up on your website or sign-up form in your store, and send monthly (or twice-monthly) campaigns to showcase new or popular products, offer a timely discount code or in-store coupon, and announce any upcoming news or events. Remember, personalized campaigns are more effective than "batch and blast" emails.
These tips are just a start for effective small business marketing in 2016 but should help get your year off to a great start -- no matter what industry you’re in!