Need a helping hand? One of the most common questions we're asked by clients is "how do you promote and market your business?" Here are a few tips to head you in your own direction.
Where Do You Start?
You start here and now. Stop procrastinating and start to understand that the marketing of your business in 2016 can actually make or break you. Harsh but true. Consumer power is at an all time high due to net and mobile accessibility. Consequently, profit margins have been affected. Where does that leave you?
With a need to catch upare.
Choice and plasticity in the marketplace are very high. There is far more movement from buyers, and less brand loyalty than a decade ago. Therefore, the key is to develop your own brand or image, then weave it into your small business ethos and appearance.
Ask yourself "What's my brand?" You should be able to answer this question quickly and clearly. If you can't, set aside some time with pen and paper and write down your business's major attributes. Use these as the raw material to help you develop the way you want your business to appear. Your brand should speak to the marketplace using words and images. It needs to incite an emotional response. This response doesn't always have to be favourable to be successful!
Points of Difference
What sets you apart from your competition? What makes your business yours?
It's very important to use a proactive approach here. Find the essence of your small business and push it as the original point of difference. It has its own identity which is often a reflection of the owners/leaders. There's an apt Oscar Wilde meme that's woth a mention here:
When we rebranded Slaters our most important points of difference were
- unmatched service delivery
- humour and a few antics along the way
- intellectual and workload capacity
- technology beasts
- love a challenge
- longstanding NZ reputation for outstanding work
We wove all these into our new brand which was humorous and upfront. It was also the opposite of the usual image one has of accountants. Our brand was fun, but it also had a bedrock of seriousness. This was indelibly linked to 20 years of coalface business accounting by the lead partner of the firm.
We also combined the notion of experience and youth with the tagline "old school new school combined." We have a progressive mentality grounded in tradition and the tagline reflected that. Some of the main players in the new Slater team were a little out of the box and not your average types. We ran with that and rather than obscure the quirkiness, we promoted it as part of the image. Quirkiness is another quality that sets us apart and we're happy with that. We're not all cut from the same cloth and we embraced our differences and decided not to obscure them. Not a bad thing for Hamilton NZ!
When you commit to your own business brand, you give your business an identity. You also effectively sort the wheat from the chaff. You attract those who are naturally drawn to your business. Those who don't like your brand stay away from the outset. They never were a good match, so sometimes, getting that clear from step one pays off. It's a strong, bold approach but in the long run, it works because they're not leaving a little later after the setup phase is over.
We don't usually attract "iffy" clients and this relates back to our clear points of difference. We don't usually attract those who are more enamoured with corporate brands in our industry. We seek a different clientele, with some overlaps. This approach works well for us.
So now it's important to ask yourself...what are your points of difference? Spend a weekend nutting these out and develop them into your brand. You should end up with several. From these you should be able to identify one or two key ones.
Key Terms and Phrases
Here's a little secret. Familiarise yourself with Flesch Kincaid levels. It's important stuff for the internet. If you don't know about the Flesch reading scale, then google it and get your head around it. If you still use Word you may be able to access the Flesch ranking in that programme. After a while it becomes second nature.
We've operated from a Flesch stance with our content for many years and we use it everywhere. It's in all our Slater product and service hard copy publications. It works for us. It may not work for some.
Find key phrases and terms that people associate with your brand. For example Slaters uses "we take care of your boring stuff" "stuff" and "boring stuff." They've given clients a few chuckles over the years. They work and they're simple. Financials can be boring and rather than dress them up as something else, our clientele appreciated our frankness.
Your key branding phrases can be humorous, serious, highbrow, lowbrow or any combination. The main ingredient is authenticity. Devise your own key phrases and use them in your marketing.
Learn from your best competition. There's nothing wrong with a bowerbird mentality in marketing and small business. But be careful. Resist the urge to steal, plagiarize or emulate word for word. Lifting from your competitor's website can breach copyright and intellectual property law. It can also make you look like a poor cousin to the real thing. It can also result in Google penalties because of duplication. Worst case scenario? It's a legal and ethical issue, so tread respectfully and sensibly. Make sure your web designers and IT team are aware of this.
There's a host of marketing duties that need to be performed in your small business each week. Work from a timetable and calendarise these or work more haphazardly, depending on the pressures and changes in the market. You can also employ a marketing person (most small businesses won't be able to afford. The other option is to subcontract the work out to someone reputable. Just make sure you or they do the following:
- Update your content regularly
- Have a Facebook page and add content weekly
- Use other social media avenues weekly
- Use web analytics and update SEO regularly. You can use google analytics or upgrade to a more advanced program but it will cost you
- Understand intellectual property, copyright and plagiarism online
- Follow the Code of Ethics guidelines of your professional or industry body
- Google Adwords
What is Content?
In a nutshell, content is all the stuff on your site. It is trawled every so often by the Google bots. It's important and has SEO value. It can also be crawled on demand by going into your host server and making the request. It comprises:
Content has a few different functions and this is where it gets tricky. You see, words, vids, and pictures on your site have to fit with your brand. They also have to fulfil SEO functions for search engines and Google, and be relatively high quality. Content must be original, because duplicated content is penalised by search engines such as Google, Bing and Firefox. It's a balancing act. It's worth learning. It makes a difference to your place in the market.
So start a good online marketing programme for your small business as soon as possible. You won't regret it and you might reap a few rewards.
Millie Slater is Marketing, Social Media and HR Manager at Slater Chartered Accountants.
Copyright Slaters 2016.