You can't afford not to market your business. There are so many businesses out there that want the attention (translation: dollars) of consumers that getting heard is like trying to chat up a cute stranger at a rock concert: you may be yelling, but everyone's watching the rock stars. The problem is, the concert's not getting any quieter, and you probably don't have the money for a guitar, amplifiers, travel bus, and 25 piercings (goodness knows how much you spent on the darn concert tickets...). So what we need to do is get your name out there without breaking the bank. The good news is, it's not as impossible as it may feel.
Be a Somebody
When people see your marketing pieces, they experience two things in particular. The first is the association they've built with your brand in the past. If they don't know who Tim's Tires is, then you're probably in the clear. But if Tim's short-changed them or, alternatively, gave excellent service to a close relative, then the hard work you put into creating attractive and descriptive marketing materials will be shaped by that preconception. For this reason, we want to make you look like a somebody. Doing so will not only give your brand some word-of-mouth power, but make your marketing look good in the process.
This requires a little thinking. Look at your company and figure out what it is that you provide that no one else does. If you can't figure out what separates your company from all the others, then do a little research and figure out what you can provide that no one else does. Identifying your strength will help shape your identity and direct your marketing efforts in the future. If you make car parts and decide that auto care is your niche, offer a blog post or two about keeping an engine running. If you sell clothes and have a great eye for outfits, make eye-catching look books that show off the hottest fashions. Find your strength, then use it, and improve your company's perception so that potential customers see you as the real McCoy.
Spread the Word, FOR FREE
What we're doing here is what's known as implementing "content marketing" strategies. It's a fairly new movement that's growing, and for good reason. By promising your customers that you'll give them useful information and then starting a conversation with them, you can improve your status at a surprisingly low cost. Want to start a business blog? No problem! Setting one up on current web-hosting is a snap. Need to spread a useful how-to video? Facebook and Twitter are, and continue to be, free.
The only caveat is that you need to understand what each social networking channel is capable of and how to present your stuff in order to maximize its potential. Facebook allows comments, sharing and likes, so posts there should emphasize a conversation. Tweets are most powerful when retweeted so ask your readers to spread the word.
In addition to these kinds of considerations, knowing what kind of content breeds what results will help you nail down topics that help you toward your goals. In particular, content that demonstrates the kinds of values and emotions that people wish to be associated with, get shared. For example, a dog groomer could publish an Instagram picture of a roaring fire, a family with cocoa, and a happy dog around the holidays in order to tap into the spirit of community (and the awesomeness of cocoa), in order to maximize share potential.
Shine the Bat Signal: Tap “Super Users”
All this pushing and publishing may seem like it'd take up a lot of your time. But getting your content into the world isn't a solo act in the slightest. Each market and community has what are called "super users": people who actively blog or vlog about cool products or services and, because of their honesty and personality, have built a following. In addition to these community influencers, brands who create quality products end up with so-called "evangelists". Each of these individuals has a chance to make a difference in your business.
The key is to form a relationship with these enthusiastic people and work with them. Super Users can be tapped by sending samples or exclusive access to new features. You do run the risk of a bad review, but if you know the blogger, you can focus on those who are likely to give you a positive review. Giving Evangelists the same early access or exclusive product samples has the same effect. In addition, because they're already gaga for you, they're more likely to spread the word on social networks and in person. That is, when they're done talking about Breaking Bad.
Marketing effectiveness isn't a matter of price, it's a matter of smarts! Figure out what you can give people that no one else can and then lean on that identity in order to create a reputation. Use free distribution channels like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and try to embody values that people will appreciate and relate to. Finally, talk to influential community members and start a relationship with them so that they can spread the word for you. Between paying nothing and paying next-to-nothing for your distribution efforts, and utilizing content that shows your good side, your little business may not have the same budget restrictions for very long.