As a small business owner you have a lot on your plate — creating your product or delivering your service, managing your money, motivating your employees, ensuring operations run smoothly.
Phew! How do you find time to actually attract customers? For an overwhelmed small business owner, how do you manage to take care of one of your most critical business tasks: marketing?
Each year, I talk to thousands of entrepreneurs around the country. The one question I get the most: “How do I attract more customers?” Marketing is always top of mind, but often the lowest task on the to-do list.
The truth is you will have to invest some time into marketing. But think of it as just that — an investment. But how can you increase the return-on-investment? How can you get the most marketing bang with the least amount of time?
There’s no magic bullet, of course. But if you’re thoughtful, these seven marketing tactics can save you time and bring in customers.
1. Put your marketing on auto-pilot.
Email is still an extremely effective method of keeping your name in front of prospects and customers. Whether it’s a newsletter, announcement of special discounts, free content, regular communication into an in-box works. Fortunately, you can set up and schedule a whole series of such communications using services like Constant Contact, Vertical Response, MailChimp or others. You can easily set up a series to automatically go to every new prospect or customer who registers to receive communication from you. To entice prospects to provide you with their names and email addresses, offer them something of value in exchange. Once you have the addresses, auto-responders trigger so your series begins to go to their in-boxes.
2. Schedule a few hours for social media.
Your customers expect to see you on social media but that doesn’t mean you should be dealing with it all day long. Spend an hour every two weeks to plan what you will post for those weeks. Choose pics and write your brief posts. Use a tool like Hootsuite or TweetDeck to schedule your posts in advance. During the week, check in occasionally and respond to comments.
3. Focus your social media efforts.
Do you really need to be on absolutely every social media site? No. Stick to the social media sites that work best for you. If you have highly visual content — you run a restaurant or food company, a doggy day care or an art studio — Facebook and Instagram might work best for you. A company that sells creative items? Then Etsy or Pinterest might be the right choice. Are you running a B2B (business-to-business) company? LinkedIn might be your best bet.
4. Join a local organization and go regularly.
Nothing beats the effectiveness of face-to-face marketing. Yes, this takes time away from the office or shop. But it’s a great way to get new customers and generate referrals. If you schedule this, it becomes a regular part of your month.
5. Look for a strategic partnership.
You don’t have to do everything alone. A strategic partnership is a relationship with another company for promotion, distribution, product development, or add-on sales. A strong strategic partner that’s already serving your target market can give you a real edge in reaching that market. For example, if you run a yoga studio, you could work on a marketing campaign with a local spa.
6. List your company online.
This is a no-brainer. Make sure prospects can find you online when they’re looking for a business like yours. Spend a few minutes listing your company’s location, hours, photos and other business information on Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yelp.
7. Get help.
If you don’t have time to put some of these marketing strategies into place or to maintain them, hire someone who can.
Whatever you do, make sure you make marketing a priority. A bit of time now will reap rewards for months to come. The hardest part is just getting started.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015
This article originally ran in USA Today on September 18, 2015