What is the biggest challenge for small businesses in respect to online marketing? Budget.
It is often the last piece considered when planning business funds. Understandably so – not many businesses have the time, expertise or resources to put towards online marketing. However, that does not mean that it should be overlooked or ignored. I am sure by now that everyone understands the importance of online marketing in driving tangible business results.
Fortunately, we’ve come up with a number of ways in which small businesses with little to no budget can take advantage of for their online presence:
Not all templates will work for you brand, and not all templates are good. But keep in mind that templates, as a starting point, can save you quite a bit of work and effort. This is in particularly true for landing pages and responsive websites. While a template may not look EXACTLY the way you may have envisioned – you can always (or hire someone) tweak certain things to make it all come together.
Some aspects of marketing where templates can help save:
- printed collateral (such as posters, business cards, brochures, flyers, etc.)
- Excel & Word documents
- press releases
- blog posts
- social media cover pages
Really, the limit is your imagination.
Free Marketing Tools
Marketing tools? Yes, there are all sorts of tools that can help you increase your productivity (and reduce costs). From sending free email promotions to creating professional graphics! Most notably, HubSpot has recently made their marketing automation, customer relationship management (CRM) and online certification courses available all for FREE (keep in mind that some features such as reporting cost extra, but for majority of small business needs it is more than enough to get started!).
Instead of listing all of these tools in detail here, you can visit our Free Marketing Tools for Small Business post that has everything summarized by category!
I mentioned Excel and Word templates in the first point; there are a number of different preset templates for all sorts of planning. Having multiple social media profiles and updates can get overwhelming! Finding a social media update plan template in Excel can help your business plan a couple of weeks ahead to make sure all efforts are followed up.
Planning tools aren’t limited to social media either, you can find small business templates for:
- scheduling blog posts
- reports for website/email performance
- allocating budgets for promotions
- seasonal email messages
- marketing and business plans
Truth of the matter is people trust other people more than they trust companies.
That is a lot of shares and reach that every small business could be missing out on!
Now I know the first thing that comes to mind: trusting your employees to be appropriate and not wasting time at work. In short, the benefits outweigh the cons. Simply having a conversation (and coming up with general guidelines or policies) with you employees will ensure that social media doesn’t fully take away from everyday duties. Giving employees the green light with social media also empowers them to become willing promoters of your brand. If you want to be extra careful you can always have them complete courses and training to ensure proper use.
But please strongly consider unblocking social media access and give the people who best know your business a social voice!
Participating in Online Conversations
Often businesses of all kind get caught up in just sending updates and publishing posts, waiting for activity to happen. In reality, social media interactions goes much farther than that. Joining actual conversation on each platform can significantly help increase your company’s reach.
Your small business does not want to be a part of that 10 hour reply time! Make sure you’re talking to your customers at the right time (context).
Here are some ways to keep active:
- setup email notifications anytime someone mentions your brand, hashtag relevant to your business or sends your business a direct message
- schedule daily reminders to check social media conversations, contributing to relevant conversations (beyond just promoting)
- share content posted by other companies, users or brands (make sure content is interesting to your audience)
Why start from scratch every single time? Have a piece of content or social media update that performed really well? It could be a good idea to take that content and repurpose it for another use. Let’s take an accounting service small business as an example. An accounting business may write a blog post list that includes all the documentation and information necessary to submit for a personal tax claim. People loved it! It got the most shares, comments and visits out of all of the blog posts they have.
It may not be a bad idea to turn that blog post into a printable (or interactive PDF) checklist that users can download and use even when not on their website.
This not only helps your small business stay top of mind but cuts down the amount of time you, or someone in your organization, would need to spend coming up with ideas and creating evertyhing from scratch.
Repurposing content doesn’t necessarily have to mean that it has to be digital to digital. If your company has some great posters or traditional promotions; they can always be converted into digital formats and optimized to get engagment online. A good way to get started is to look at all the marketing ideas your small business has come up with and then evaluate to see if any of them would be helpful as repurposed content.
Taking Advantage of Outside Help
While this may seem like a self-promotional point – it really isn’t (we actually use external help as well!). Ideally every small business would hire a full-time digital marketing role and be on their way. However, whether it’s the lack of consistent projects or not enough budget for a dedicated employee – many organizations are unable to find the right fit. In addition, many small business owners are strapped for time running their day to day business!
If you have a seasonal need, or require only a few hours of work done every week, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to find a company or freelancer to help your business manage.
If you’re unsure if hiring a freelancer is the right choice please refer to this infographic for a detailed breakdown of the benefits and shortcomings of doing so.
Things to keep in mind if you do decide to seek help:
- find an organization or freelancer that is (somewhat) familiar with industry or business
- be sure to take a look at their social media updates
- ask for sample projects and results
- determine your budget and agree upon a mutual price point
- someone who is available: some freelancers may not have the time to finish projects immediately (if you’re on a tight deadline)
Looking for a free planning template? Here is your email marketing checklist: