52 Ways to Break Visibility Barriers for Small Businesses
Having worked with small businesses for more than four years, two of the most common phrases I hear are, “I don’t have time” or “I don’t have money” when it comes to marketing a business. I agree that starting and maintaining a small business can be hard, it is also a venture that changes every day. With more than 24 million small businesses just in the US, how do you set yourself apart? What makes you different?
Fact, 66 percent of small businesses will survive their first two years. That means only about one-third of total businesses will actually fail in these first two crucial years, the main cause being a lack of experience. Source: Ryan Jorden, LinkedIn
Here are 52 ways, you as a small business owner can maximise your marketing efforts and increase visibility. One step for every week. Make the time, save the money. You’ll get there.
1. Time or money. First, ask yourself, what do you value most, time or money? If you value time more than money, the fastest option would be to hire someone to do the work for you. This can cost anything from $1000 to $10,000. However, this is not always an option that most small businesses have when they are just starting out. Hence, you’re left with the option to learn about these things by yourself.
2. Mindset. When this word is said, some of us think hippy-dippy. That isn’t the case. The road to success is not a straight one and you have to be mentally ready for this. There is no such thing as overnight success. Ditch the attitude. Keep an open mind. Learn, learn, learn. No one owes you anything. You’ve started a business you are passionate about? So did your neigbour’s grandmother and 100,000 other people. I’m not the only one who says this. Seth Godin says it better.
3. Ask. Try new things. Be creative. Don’t know much about something? Ask. Instead of utilising online forums or groups to moan about low sales or other business owners, join forums or groups that can help you develop as a writer. Ideally, online groups should not be a time suck. If you are spending more time in a forum or group than focusing on your business, something is not right.
4. Identify your target audience. Pushing your health coaching to someone who already has a health coach or nutritionist is going to end badly. Identify your audience as early as you possibly can so you have more time to plan your marketing before you actually start your business and discover there is no demand for your product or service. More on that here.
6. Finalise your budget. How much can you spend a month on marketing? Be as detailed as you can to avoid running out of funds. More on that here. Look at your other expenses, what can you cut to make room for your book marketing budget?
7. Finish setting up your logo and brand identity. DO NOT overlook a good description, attractive graphics and professional editing for text that your potential customers will read. Most people think a brand means colours, logos and graphics. It doesn’t stop there. A brand is your message. More on that here.
8.Business cards. Make a good first impression. Introduce yourself to people with a memorable brand presence. Moo has great options for creative, memorable business cards.
9. Bio. Have a professional, clear picture. This is just as important as the description of your business. Be as detailed as you can about your past experiences, your qualifications and why you are involved in your business. More on that here.
10. Website. If you don’t have one, get one. Now, once you have a website, plan what its functions are. Don’t get a website for the sake of having a website. Your website must have a purpose. To inform? To sell? Sign up for a web host (reliable ones include Blue Host, Site Ground or Hostgator) More info can be found here. Most small business owners opt to set up websites via WordPress.org although some opt for Squarespace, Clickfunnels or Kajabi depending on the function, service or product. While WordPress.com and Blogger are easy fixes, these site providers can’t do as much for your SEO – see point 9. More on that here and here and here. Purchase a domain that is your author name or as close to that as possible. More on that here.
11. Make it easy for your people to find you. Include your website and social media links in your bio wherever allowed. This means your Facebook profile, your Facebook page and/or other social media profiles.
12. Include information about your services. Very often, I come across people saying they can’t find clients or don’t make enough money from their services. When I go to their websites or Facebook pages, there is no mention of what they are selling. Don’t keep your skills a secret. Talk about your services, focus on giving value in Facebook groups, Quora or other forums (more on that later). Be as specific as you can about what you offer on your website.
13. SEO. If you have already got your website up and running, work on your SEO. What is SEO? It’s short form for Search Engine Optimisation. In a nutshell, there is no single fix for SEO. It is ongoing. If you are using WordPress.org you can sign up for the plugin known as Yoast. Sign up for Google Webmaster to better control. This will also help you understand how people find your site. More on that here. Here’s how Google Webmaster is different from Google Analytics. If you are thinking of using Google Adwords to boost your visibility, it has worked for many small businesses. More on that here and here. DO NOT miss this step. Most people think that by adding more content, this will fix SEO issues. It won’t. Keywords for posts and images are a must.
14. Make it easy for readers to share your site. Include share buttons or if you have a WordPress site, use the Shareholic plugin.
15. Improve your website pages and posts with keywords, tags, and categories. Your goal as a small business is sales. This does not happen without visibility. The more you blog about what is relevant to you, the more your target audience is able to find you. Make sure each post is unique and SEO is checked. More on that here and here.
16. Create a lead magnet. At this stage, you have a logo, a website and some presence on social media. How do you attract people to your business? Create a lead magnet that is relevant to your service or product. It can be a simple one-sheet item or an ebook. Once you have people sign up for your lead magnet, link this to a special offer you have or follow up with an email a few days after. Try not to send more than one email a day. Also, stay away from the urgency factor. While some marketers swear that threatening “closing time is soon” will get you more sales, some potential customers will find this as annoying. More on that here.
17. Social proof. Publish as much social proof as you can on your website. This can be in the in the form of testimonials or recommendations from people you have worked with. On social media, encourage people to share your content. More on that here.
18. Discussion questions. Earlier on, I mentioned providing value in Facebook groups and online forums. Ask questions that are relevant to your service or product. Most groups and forums do not include self-promotion so ask genuine questions that can help you improve or connect you with your target audience. This increases interaction and will help expand your network on social media. Stay away from ladder posts, where a person has to comment to win something or have access to a particular file. ALWAYS pay attention to rules of the groups or forums you have joined.
19. Content strategy. Most people skip this step because they think content is not important. Exactly the opposite. As Bill Gates said in 1996, content is king. Plan your content a week in advance. DO NOT post the same content on multiple social media platforms. Try to post as much original content as you can on a daily basis. If you are doing your own social media updates, daily posts may be quite taxing. Aim for at least three times a week. Use the 80% / 20% rule. 80% of your content needs to focus on value and posts from others while only 20% of your content needs to be dedicated to your product or service.
20. Social media timing & calendar. Timing is everything even online. Depending on where you are, start to map out timings when your blog posts get the most response. Schedule posts in advance. Evaluate your social media platforms and plan out your posts and availability. No one expects you to be everywhere all at once and you still need time to write. More on that here and here.
21. Buyer Personas. Once you have started posting on social media, and start building your network, revisit your target audience. Come up with individual description and personality types of people who you know will buy from you. More on that here.
22. Google My Business. I see so many small businesses skip this step and it makes me cringe. Most people are under the impression that you only need Facebook to market your business. Wrong. Don’t ignore the biggest search engine to date. Google search. Google is able to direct potential customers your way based on your website and social media performance. Register your business and website with the Google My Business app. Utilise their post function and watch the magic happen. More on that here.
23. Sign up for Twitter. Depending on the type of your business, Twitter can help you build relationships with your target audience. In some cases, Twitter is the go-to place for customers to contact a business for support. Reach out to others who have a product or service like yours. Interact. I cannot say this enough. If someone asks you a question, answer. Get involved in Twitter discussions. Participate in Twitter chats. More on that here.
24. Start posting to Instagram. Whether you have a business that is visually based or not, Instagram is a huge marketplace. Post at least 3 times a day. Not all pictures have to be products. Focus on engagement by using the correct hashtags and using a call-to-action. Now, Instagram started stories which help those who want to post short videos. Stories disappear in 24 hours. This feature became so popular, this evolved into another feature, IGTV. More on that here and here.
25. Learn about hashtags. Twitter and Instagram love hashtags. How do you find people with similar interests? Use Twitter or Instagram’s search function to look for hashtags. For example, #smallbiz, #wellness will show you other people who are sharing content related to these hashtags. More on that here. And please, no more than 2 or 3 hashtags for Twitter in a single sentence or description. The goal is to meet others with your interests not create sentences that don’t make sense. Instagram allows you 30 hashtags but keep it relevant.
26. Create a hashtag that is yours. Make it easy for people to find past posts about you. Create your own hashtag. Twubs lets you register your own hashtag. SumAll helps you track it. Twitter only allows 280 characters so keep your hashtag to less than 20 words. This leaves you with enough space to include other hashtags and other words.
27. Join LinkedIn. This isn’t one of my favourite platforms and I know others share the same view. However, if you have a small business that provides services for other business owners, this is the place you have to be. More info on that here.
28. Facebook Lives. Facebook algorithm is as fickle as lightning. The most recent algorithm changed put value posts above click-bait and promotional posts. Unless a Facebook page utilised advertising, reach became limited for small businesses. BUT Facebook Lives is a great tool to work around this algorithm change. Do Facebook lives that focus on demos, behind the scenes or interviews. These are a great way to connect with current and potential customers. More on that here. It is recommended that you plan and practice your Live in advance, keeping each Live to approximately five minutes or less. For best examples of Facebook lives, please look at Andrea Smith and Marie Forleo.
29. Facebook page. In general, I recommend creating only one page that focuses on you as business owner or a page for your business. Update the “About” and “Services” section. Post minimum once a day and no more than twice a day. Images must have less than 20% text which can be measured here. Without advertising, reach is not great for most small businesses but some people have found that valuable content reaches their target audience without any kind of advertising. More on that here.
30. Facebook Groups. Create a Facebook group where you can channel your target audience. Once the group reaches a feasible size of more than 100 people, some business owners use Facebook groups to directly sell their services. If you would like a group that stays focused on your business values, it is recommended that you establish clear rules. Do not allow self-promotion. A group with too many links will not do anyone any good. Post daily and ask questions that increase engagement. Most groups opt to have theme days but this depends on your product or service. Groups can also be used to connect customers who have purchased from you or to organise local gatherings. More info on group building can be found here.
31. Facebook Ads. Most small businesses opt for the boost button. This works for some but you still need to be clear about who you are targeting. On a more advanced level, you can opt for Facebook ads. You can learn it from scratch using Facebook Blueprints. More information on how boosts and ads are different can be found here.
32. Facebook Profile. As a business owner, your profile may not be as private as you would like. Be cautious about who you add in your inner circle but have your links clearly published so people know where to go for more information. Facebook profiles allow you to list your website and all social media in the about section. Profiles are also a great way to network. Some people use what is known as vulnerable posts to get people interested in their work. I have nothing against this but stay away from the pattern of “long emotional post” that ends with a “buy now” option. Be cautious about how much of your profile is focused on your business. There have been cases where personal profiles have been terminated by Facebook for focusing on business use instead of personal use. More info here.
33. Pinterest. Another lost child in most marketing strategies. If you have a website in desperate need of traffic, Pinterest can be your best friend. More info here. It is also recommended to use the Tailwind app as this helps you to schedule pins and interact with group boards. More info here.
34. YouTube. Facebook Lives have proven that people react to video. YouTube is not a must for all businesses. If you have a business that is focused on cooking or step by step processes, you can build a following. More info on that here.
35. Become a guest blogger. Approach blogs with your target audience and ask them if you can write for them. See what their requirements are. However ‘fussy’ a blogger may seem to you, please remember that blogs are second homes to many so be nice. More on that here.
36. Host other small business owners. Ask others to write a guest post for your website. You get content, they get exposure. Make sure the content is relevant to your target audience. Minimise participating in hops that send out a single post to a huge amount of bloggers. More on that here.
37. Social Media Comments. By the time you get to this stage, you will receive comments on your social media platforms. Respond and interact with these commenters. They have taken the time to reach out to you, don’t ignore them whether it is positive or negative comments. More on that here.
38. Cash, gift card or product giveaways. Whether you have a brick and mortar business or a business that is solely online, giveaways are a great motivator for people to share your content and visit your platforms. Be warned, asking people to like or follow your platforms are not allowed. But you can offer a product giveaway in exchange for a review or an invite your friend campaign. More info on that here.
39. Influencers. Utilise social media to reach out to people with large followings located within your local areas to help you promote your business. Be sure that their profiles have engagement and not just likes with no comments. More info on that here.
40. Newsletter. I highly recommend Mailchimp for this. The key to newsletters is increasing traffic to your website and increasing leads for your business. So don’t make this about you. Make it about your readers. Yes, you can mention a new product or service but include competitions, things they don’t already know or topics of general interest related to your product or service. More on that here and here.
41. Work with other small businesses. Whether online or offline, work with other small businesses owners to see how you can promote each other. If you are a designer, you can promote a photographer you work with. Collaboration can lead to more leads and a larger network. More info on that here.
42. Create a promotional video. This is can be a lot of work if you are doing it yourself but Google search loves videos so a promotional video on your website (with SEO) will give your visibility a major boost. More on that here. Animoto is a relatively easy tool when creating fun videos for your business.
43. Canva. Keep your graphics consistent, simple and catchy. Canva is a great tool for this. They have a free and premium option. While it may seem daunting at first, you can create up to 30 pages of content with ease once you are familiar with its functions. More info on how to use Canva can be found here.
44. Loyalty and customer retention programmes. Online or offline, every business needs regular customers. Brick and mortar businesses can opt for apps or loyalty cards that can be updated each time a customer visits. Online businesses can opt for discount vouchers or additional merchandise when a customer makes a second purchase or refers other customers. More loyalty programme ideas can be found here.
45. Work on your brand. With multiple social media platforms, be sure that each offers a similar description of who you and your business are. Stick to one name, one picture and where possible one description. This helps potential customers to find you more easily and recognise your work. More on that here.
46. Customer interaction. Ask customers to send you selfies with your products. Share this on social media. Be respectful of a customer’s privacy and don’t forget to remove personal identifiers such as home address or phone numbers.
47. Make customers a part of your business. Ask customers to name your next product or service. Alternatively, you can also name your products or services after regular customers who have supported you for a long time. You can keep it interactive by posting to social media or in your outlet.
48. Merchandising. Design simple items you can mail or give to your customers as a token of appreciation. These can include bookmarks, fridge magnets and so on that can be sent on birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas or other festivals. Vistaprint has some good options. Phone screensavers are a new way to promote your business. Create screensavers that captions your business with a single picture or quote. Other merchandise ideas can be found here.
49. Local newspapers, magazines and radio. Approach local media outlets and print publications about interviews or joining their causes. Most will ask for free samples so be prepared to have a few options ready.
50. Buffer. Planning content, multiple social media platforms and running a business, can look like a steep task. Buffer is a great tool to help you schedule your posts in advance. They do have a free option and paid options.
51.Get feedback from your customers. Use polls or online surveys to ask them how you can improve and what else they would like to see from your website and/or from your products or services.
52. Stand for something other than your service or product. Support a cause. Be open but don’t brag about this on social media. Be charitable. Look up charities online or offline that you can contribute too. Share this with your customers. One author, I know recently organised a cooking session at her local orphanage with her readers. Yes, it didn’t sell her any books on that day but she contributed towards a good cause and interacted with her readers (customers) in real life.
BONUS. Revisit, rethink, revise. Give each marketing effort at least a month before you change it. Given that there are so small business owners and customers may not immediately hop and skip to buy your products or services, you must understand that some marketing efforts take far longer for results to trickle in. What worked for your friend’s small business, may not work for yours and vice versa. Every month, revisit your marketing plan. What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Change and try again.
It’s a lot to take in, I know. But like I said at the beginning try one thing a week and you will eventually get there. All the best with marketing your small business and building your brand. If there are any more ideas you would like to share, I would love to hear from you.
Disclosure: As you can see, this post has external links to other sites that also offer paid services and promotions. These external links do not serve as endorsements. I did not receive any monetary compensation to include these links and the links were included based on my own experiences from working with other small business owners.