Small Business Advice

Five free marketing tips for small businesses

Running a business is hard enough, marketing it can feel even harder. Here are five tips to help you win at SEO, website optimization and analytics, and get your business more clients in no time.

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Whether it’s a gig, a side job, or your primary business, marketing is crucial to getting the word out about what you offer. But in the chaos of accounting, networking, and the actual job itself, marketing can get forgotten, feeling like a  low priority in the scope of other things. It also can get expensive, and it’s tricky to know what’s a good investment of (sometimes very very limited) marketing funds. Everything on this list is free and designed to not only get your business in front of customers, but give you the information to better market yourself and your business. 

Tell Your Story Across Platforms 

The biggest challenge of being a “doer” can be  framing what you do and proving its value for potential clients. This is especially true when you’re selling a service and not physical goods. But just like any store, your business has and needs a story. Dare I say a vibe. Your social media, website, and email signature should all have a similar look. Use your website’s About page to tell potential clients how you got started, what you bring to the table, and what your goals for collaboration are. It can be simple and clear, but you should have a message or elevator pitch that tells the client:

  • What your business does
  • How it can benefit people 
  • What you’re like to work with

The best place to start is by building your website, and yes, you need a website

Optimize your Website

Speaking of websites-- even if you’ve built it, and it’s got your story and contact information, have you optimized it? For starters, I recommend you claim as many profiles online as possible, Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc. Even if you provide services to clients in any part of the nation or world, having a “home” online helps build your SEO profile. 

SEO sounds really complicated, but the shorthand is that you want your website to be one of the most visible when people do a web search for your name or your service. Some websites offer plugins for this (Wordpress has Yoast SEO for example), but you also can teach yourself about how to maximize your website and digital footprint for free. You’ll be casting a wider net online and showing up in more searches. 

Look at your data

Most conversations about marketing include marketing data and analytics, but it’s hard to know what the numbers you’re looking at mean and how to use them. For data like advertising, whether it’s on Facebook, Google, or Yelp, each ad will have the amount of views and clicks recorded so that you can determine if the ad is helping your business. A great research option is a survey of your clients to see how they heard of you. If you’re getting clients from ads, paid advertising might be worth keeping in the budget.

There’s also market research that you can use to create a profile for your ideal client and how to reach them. If you’re running a kayak business where the primary clientele are lesbians in their 50’s who like to do paddleboard yoga, that’s going to influence your marketing and approach. 

There’s many free resources for marketing trends, and research like this can be developed into a marketing plan in the event you want to expand your business. 

Ask for Review and Referrals 

The best marketing is always word of mouth, and reviews can be put on your website, used as social media content, and stored on  high-traffic sites like Google Business, Yelp, and Facebook. Having reviews also boosts your visibility in searches. Asking for referrals can feel awkward, but most clients will be happy to pass on your information. Include the ask in your email signature, thank you notes to clients, or on invoices.  

Create an Email Newsletter

Monthly email marketing helps your name stay relevant to potential repeat clients , build a  network, and allows you to share your successes and good news

Depending on the type of business you have, you can share resources and articles you find relevant, fun videos, cool photos - anything that your clients might appreciate. It doesn’t all have to be specifically about work either, lifestyle newsletters are really popular and the experience of hearing from you personally might be what sells your services to your clients. 

Depending on which platform you use, you might be able to pull open rates and analytics from your emails (Mailchimp is especially great for first-time email marketers). This data helps you refine your subject line technique, which days people are more likely to open, and the amount of engagement with your content. 

Although marketing can feel like something at the bottom of your to-do list, once you learn which strategies generate repeat customers and sales, it can become a true joy. The best marketing is the kind that feels natural to you. Try a few strategies, and be sure to track your progress with clear goals. After some time has passed, lean into the methods that work, and refine or let go of those that aren’t. Either way you’ll know more about your customers and what works for your business.

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