5 Must-Do Steps to Market Your New Small Business
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to small group of self-described 'mompreneurs." As business-owning moms, we had a lot in common, but at the end of the day, most small-business owners--men and women, parents and non-parents--can relate to the challenges of growing awareness about your small business.
At Verano, we work closely with a lot of small businesses, and it's become fairly clear that there are a few fundamental tips that can help all small businesses, particularly one-person businesses, get your marketing efforts started today.
- Take Yourself Seriously. One of the challenges I see small businesses, particularly those that are just one-owner organizations, is that they don't see themselves as "true" businesses. I hear a lot of qualifying descriptions--like "Oh, I do photography on the side," or "I'm making some extra cash for my family by selling my artwork," or "I needed something to do now that the kids are back in school." One of the most important things about marketing your business is believing in yourself as a legitimate business. The more you treat yourself like a professional who deserves to make money for your skills and talents--with no qualifiers or justifications--the more seriously your customers will take you.
- Set Your Foundation. Get your business messaging organized. Know who you are, who your target market is, what you do, and why you do it. You should be able to easily describe what you offer that your competitors do not. In other words, know your elevator pitch. This can be hard to do, but remember that businesses evolve and change. As you get to know your ideal customer and his/her interests and pain points, you can readjust. But it's going to be much easier to pitch your business and attract customers if you are confident in your service offerings and differentiators. Once you have some of your initial messaging ironed out, get a few key marketing items, like a business card and a simple website, so your business has a presence.
- Determine Your Marketing Budget. This can be $5 a month or $5,000, depending on your resources, but you should know what makes sense to invest in getting your products and services out into the market. For many small businesses, social media marketing is a very cost-effective use of money to gain some awareness and exposure. And, like I mentioned in this blog post, social media advertising is going to be the new normal for businesses. Setting aside $25 a month to boost your strongest pieces of content can be a great way to explore your markets and better understand what is (and is not) working for your brand.
- Get In Front of People. Depending on your personality, this will either be welcome advice or a source of anxiety. In my personal experience, networking and one-on-one interactions have by far been the strongest form of business growth. The first four years of Verano's business were due almost exclusively to client referrals and personal introductions. First-hand experience and word-of-mouth will always be your strongest form of sales. Additionally, getting in front of people really helped me understand my target market when I was first growing the company. I joined professional networking organizations, had coffee meetings throughout the week, and tried to participate in low-cost groups (like local chambers of commerce) to have plenty of opportunities to practice my personal marketing. I tried out new messaging, pitched new services, and explored different markets in each of these networking events. For me, it felt like a low-risk opportunity to test out new ideas and marketing strategies, and it forced me to talk about my business and services a LOT.
- START. This is by far the most important tip for new businesses: just get started. More often than not, I end up helping people get over their fear of putting their business (and themselves) out there. You are not alone! It's scary to take a risk and try because it means that failure is an option. But we learn from 'failures' and we get better because of them. Don't wait for things to be perfect--there will always be room to grow and ways to improve. But you really won't know what's working for your business and your customers until you try. So explore your budget, pull together your fundamentals, and start making some marketings plans. Take a look at the upcoming quarter: what networking events can you attend for free or that fit within your budget? What content will you create to share with your audience? What kind of social media do you want to post? Then plan it all out and stick to your plans. If a quarter is too overwhelming, start with a month, or a week, or even a day--but start! Personal pro tip: try to set aside an hour or two every week to do your own social media. I have found that trying to do it every day can be overwhelming, and it's really easy to skip one day...then another...then another!
We'll be posting a more in-depth article about the tools we use at Verano, but here are a few low- or no-cost tools you can use to help get yourself started (for the record, these are not sponsored or endorsed in any way. Just tools we've used and loved!):
- Canva: you can design graphics, business cards, flyers, brochures, blog and email headers, and social posts (plus a lot more) for free. It's a great way to keep design costs low if your budget is tight (although I highly recommend working with a professional to set your brand's visual standards at the start).
- Squarespace: depending on your business's website needs, Squarespace offers a lot of really user-friendly templates and options. We primarily create "brochure websites" on Squarespace, meaning those sites that don't have complex needs, like e-commerce or online scheduling solutions.
- Hootsuite & Later: Both of these tools are really helpful when it comes to scheduling out your social media posts. For a long time, Hootsuite didn't connect to Instagram, but it does now. Verano uses Later specifically for posting to Instagram. In both platforms, you can schedule posts to go out at a later time, much like you can do in Facebook.
One final tip: take a look in your community! There's likely some great free Facebook groups or Meet Ups that you can join to surround yourself with other business owners. We're all better together!