6 Marketing Tips For Small Business Owners

by - 7:30 AM

In this post, we are doing something a little different. I do a lot of business and marketing consulting as a side hustle, thus in my meetings with clients (mostly friends who are small business owners) I find that a lot of people have awesome ideas but just struggle with getting the word out about their business. Many people rely on their friends or families to help spread the word. Unfortunately, this doesn't always work to get you optimum exposure. I've put together a list of my top 5 Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners, that you can put into effect immediately. 

1. Build a Marketing Plan Into Your Business Plan

Every small business owner NEEDS a business plan. If you don't have one, stop what you are doing and start on one right now. There are so many people who will tell you that you don't need one. Having owned 3 restaurants, managed 3 (other) successful businesses, and becoming an investor into several other start-ups - I am highly recommending a business plan. Or if you had one years ago, it's also recommended it open it up and take a look to see if your current business model aligns with your original plan or vice versa. 

On top of that, I highly recommend building a Marketing Plan into your business plan. While your business plan serves as the overall framework for your high level ideas, a Marketing Plan is your playbook for how you will promote those ideas. Why sell a great product or service if you are not actually selling (aka marketing) your product or service? Include how you will handle slow seasons, ideas for social media campaigns, what kind of sales or rewards programs you'd like to offer and a timeline for what will trigger these ideas into action. 

I've found that most businesses that consult with me are businesses that struggle with their social media due to one of two reasons: 

1. They don't have a marketing plan at all and aren't sure where to start or how to improve their current processes
2. They had ideas but exhausted ALL of them right when they opened for business instead of spreading out a game plan over the course of several years. 

Save your ideas for slower seasons, don't put out all of your promotions at once, and create a real plan that includes short-term and long-term ideas.

2. Have an Effective Logo

A logo should be five things:

Simple - It shouldn't be too busy or too cluttered. A potential customer spends the first 3-5 seconds looking at something and then determines if they want to continue reading or following your content. Use those seconds wisely by giving them a clear-cut message that explains who you are and what you can do for them. 

Professional - A lot of designers or business owners get carried away with the design of their logo by choosing what they like personally. Keep in mind that your personal tastes may not resonate with your customers or followers. Keep it professional, choose anywhere from 1-3 colors and stick with those. Choose clean, easy-to-read fonts or designs that match the type of industry you are in.

Memorable - Your logo must be better in design than your competitors. Find a way to stand out, whether it be by using thick, bold letters; a bright pop of color; a theme that fits your industry. How can you make that crucial first impression stick?

Unique - Make sure that your logo (and business name) are unique enough so that you aren't lost in the search results of the same name. There's nothing more ineffective than customers trying to find your social media, typing in your name and hundreds of search results popping up with the same name. 

Versatile - Keep in mind that you will be using your logo across many platforms, both digitally and in print. Each social media platform has different sizing structures and thumbnail sizes. When printing your business cards, brochures, or signs for your business - your logo should be clear and concise enough for these applications. Your logo should also be just as impressive in black and white, as there will be times where you will need an all white version of your logo for dark backgrounds and an all black version of your logo for light backgrounds and B&W printing.

3. Build Brand Standards 

This includes colors and fonts that match your logo or your overall brand look. This ensures that your brand is cohesive and consistent. When your brand colors, fonts, and logo are always consistent, this builds brand awareness from your customers and helps build credibility with new, potential customers.

I will use our Sweet Basil brand standards as an example. Here is our logo:
And these are our brand colors:

Knowing exactly what your brand colors are and what your brand fonts are (make sure you can actually use them for commercial use) are major keys to building a successful brand. Your colors should be incorporated into all aspects of your business. We are using the green shade for our staff shirts, orange in the restaurant decor, and all over our website and menus so that the logo ties in with all aspects.

4. Be Mindful of Your Photos

When posting photos to your social media pages, be mindful of your overall impression. If your photo collection on your Facebook page or Instagram profile is filled with random photos that are blurry or low-quality, it's difficult to look credible to potential customers. They won't be able to see the quality of your product or service if the photos you are using aren't up to par. 

On the other hand, if your collection is filled with quotes or promotional photos borrowed from Google, it can also be harmful to your impression on visitors. 

Don't use images that don't align with your brand standards. 

Decide what should be posted and what shouldn't, stick to a guideline (which should also be noted in your Marketing Plan). Aim for consistency, quality, and originality in your photo collections, that way visitors can have a reasonable expectation, if they choose to follow you, of what they are subscribing to. If you are a baker, posting a consistent schedule of high-quality photos of your cookies and baked goods speaks for itself and will garner more attraction than the baker who posts 60% decent-quality cookie photos, 20% photos from a Google Search or saved from the internet, and 20% personal photos.

5. Maximize Instagram Hashtags and Location Tags

Many people have their minds made up that Instagram hashtags are tacky, but in reality they are pretty valuable. The only way to reach more people outside of your current network is to allow people to discover you. The only way you can be discovered is A) if your Instagram profile is Public and B) if you are using hashtags and location tags. 

The hard truth is: no one is searching for you unless you are famous. People are searching or following popular hashtags (and locations too) then clicking on photos they find in those search results. Maximizing the number of relevant hashtags on a photo puts you in front of more Instagrammers, which increases your chances of getting more engagement (comments and likes), which then increases your potential followers (people discover your photos, like what they see, and choose to follow you). But there's a science to it - the keyword here is relevant hashtags. If you are using broad hashtags like #food, there are over 375 million posts with #food. That's a large number of results to compete with. Aim to find a mix of broad and more specific hashtags that fit your posts and will give you the chance to show up in the results. For instance, if I were to use the hashtag #FoodiesofMilwaukee - there are about 5000+ posts. This connects me with a more local audience who may be more inclined to follow me if they too are located in Milwaukee or have an interest in Milwaukee's food scene, and allows my post to climb its way to the top of that result.

If you choose to forego hashtags completely or use hashtags that aren't relevant, you are essentially just marketing to those who already follow your account AND relying solely on your engagement with your current followers to possibly be discovered by their followers.

Overall Thoughts

This is just general compilation of best practices based on what has worked for us. If you are not doing these things or doing other things, and it's working for you, keep it up! Essentially, it comes down to what service or product you are providing. Marketing as a business definitely follows different practices than you would normally do on your own personal social media.

I tried my best to squeeze in as much information as I possibly could into 5 major sections. I could build off of these points and go deeper into each one, just let me know if anyone is interested in a specific topic or needs additional clarification. 

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