From Facebook adverts and newsletters to traditional print and PR, there are so many ways to promote your small business. But how do you know which is best?
PR specialists from FSB PR/Crisis Management explain the seven most popular ways to market and advertise a small business, both online and offline.
- Media relations
- Social media
- Digital advertising
- Press advertising
- Direct mail
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Email marketing
1. Media relations
Also known as PR, media relations is simply getting articles about you and your business in publications and their online websites.
Perhaps you’ve won a new contract, launched a new product or service, appointed new people or achieved record results. It might be that something quirky has happened within your business or you’ve reached a milestone, such as an anniversary, or you’ve sold a significant number of items. Another way to get coverage is by giving advice or having strong views about a subject and being prepared to openly state them.
What are the benefits of PR?
Provided you appear in the ‘right’ places, you’ll be seen by your target audience. If you run an engineering business, you’ll benefit from being seen in select trade publications. If, however, you’re keen to raise awareness of your café, then the local newspaper and magazines are the places to be.
Such media coverage not only raises your profile, but it’s also ideal for conveying important factual messages about your business, along with promoting its values and culture.
Should I use a PR agency?
Although you can contact a reporter or journalist yourself to tell them about a potential story, this can seem daunting, so you might want to consider using a specialist PR agency. They can:
- deal with journalists and identify stories in your business
- advise you on the best places for your articles to appear and how to ‘pitch’
- provide you with original content for your website
However, there are no guarantees your piece will feature. It boils down to the strength of the story – again, this is why using an agency is advisable because they instinctively know what will work.
Ready to write your first press release?
Watch free bite-sized videos from PR experts on how to craft a press release that grabs attention and discover what you should include for success.
2. Social media
Social media plays a critical role in marketing your business if used effectively, and the opportunity to reach and engage with such a huge audience is not to be missed.
Social media is a great way to connect with people who already engage with your brand and introduce the business to people who are yet to discover you. 58 per cent of consumers visit a brand’s social pages before visiting its website.
What are your business goals?
Before you begin developing a social media marketing campaign, you need to consider your business goals and marketing plan. Do you want to reach a wider audience, generate more traffic to your website or increase product sales?
It is also important to understand who your target audience is, what platforms they are likely to use and what kind of content they will find useful and engaging. Our guide to social media platforms will help you find the right one for you.
What should I post on social media?
Creating relevant content for your audience is crucial to the success of your social media, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. When creating content, think about what your audience wants to see and what valuable content you can give them in return for their attention.
If you are in a service-based industry, free resources and tips from your business can go a long way – you’ll become their go-to when searching for information, leading to potential new clients. If you are a product or brand, invest in photography and video and create a consistent brand identity with your assets. It’s also worth knowing that video is one of the most engaging assets, so use it whenever possible.
Social media is not just about putting the right content out there. As a business, you need to generate a two-way conversation with your audience so they feel a human connection, making you more memorable and more likely to keep followers.
It’s important to regularly review your channels to understand what’s working. Each social platform offers basic analytics. It’s good practice to dig deep into your analytics on a weekly and monthly basis to analyse, review and tailor your strategy to maximise results.
3. Digital advertising
Targeting specific audiences, executing data-led strategies and delivering measurable results are only a few of the benefits of marketing your business via digital advertising. The main digital advertising channels are PPC (Pay-Per-Click), display and paid social. All of them run across mobile and desktop devices.
Digital advertising can be a minefield, but it’s completely transparent and accountable – you will be able to see, down to the penny, where your budget has gone and which aspects of your campaign have been the most effective.
What is Pay-Per-Click?
Search (PPC) campaigns are often run on Google Ads, which is Google’s own online advertising network. They can help you advertise to your target audience whilst optimising any ad spend to give the best return on investment. PPC campaigns can be tailored so your ads are only shown to people who have made a search that is relevant to your product or service.
What is display advertising?
If your objective is more about brand awareness and not leads, then you should consider display advertising instead.
Believe it or not, the Google Display Network (GDN) claims to reach 90 per cent of all Internet users worldwide. It’s a vast network of web pages, news sites, blogs, video platforms like YouTube and email providers such as Gmail.
Users browsing sites within the GDN may not be interested in your product or service just yet, but you will get the chance to pitch it to them. You can even remarket to users who have already visited your site in the past but didn’t convert to remind them of the solutions your business can offer them.
As well as GDN, publishers such as Mail Metro Media allow you to advertise across their sites – MailOnline, thisismoney.co.uk, Metro.co.uk, and inews.co.uk – using a self-service Ad Manager platform. You can reach customers at a local level by targeting geography, interest, and life stage. It has an easy-to-use creative builder tool if you don’t have digital assets ready to go. Simply select your format, set your budget and your campaign could be live within 24 hours.
What is paid social advertising?
Whilst social media profiles are free to set up, consider investing in paid content, too, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. In basic terms, this means you assign a set budget to a post which boosts its reach, allowing it to be seen by more people.
Facebook, the world’s largest social network, is an excellent alternative to Google if you want to advertise your business in a highly targeted way. You can do this by setting up ad campaigns targeting users by age, gender, location, job title, interests and even behaviours. They’ll see text, image and videos displayed in Facebook stories, in-stream videos, Facebook search and messages, articles and the Facebook app.
If you decide to appoint an agency to look after your digital advertising:
- make sure you understand what they are saying to you, keep asking until you do
- be prepared to pay a fee for their strategic advice and implementation in addition to the advertising spend itself.
Find out more about how to build a successful online advertising campaign using Facebook and Google.
4. Press advertising
To be effective in magazines and newspapers, your advertisement needs to be both big and bold.
If your advertisement doesn’t stop someone in their tracks and make them take notice, then you will have wasted your money on buying the space.
What should be in my advert?
The headline, text and images you use are crucial. Rather than focusing on what you want to say, think about your target customers – what do they want or need to hear from you? Get inside their heads, think about a message that will resonate with them.
Focus on the benefits of your product or service rather than the features. If your business manufactures underfloor heating, plumbers will want to know that it’s easy to install and will deliver them a good profit but if you’re targeting homeowners directly, they’ll want to know how it makes them feel when they step on it in the middle of a bitterly cold night.
Sometimes it can be challenging to think in this way, so you might want to consider using a creative agency to help you formulate ideas. The added benefit is that you’ll then be able to adapt their ideas into all sorts of other marketing materials – e-shots, mailers, posters – so paying someone to come up with ideas is definitely worth the cost.
Read our top tips for creating a successful advert.
5. Direct mail
Back in the pre-digital era, direct mail earned the nickname ‘junk mail’. Not a morning went by without there being a pile of letters and leaflets on the doormat. It had become a victim of its own success – sadly, all the well-targeted and relevant messages were lost among the irrelevant ones.
Direct mail can be wonderfully effective, provided you follow three key rules:
- Use good quality data. If you manage your own database, make sure it’s clean and up-to-date. Alternatively, consider buying data from a reputable data broker – it’s far more affordable than you might think.
- Send content that is relevant to the recipient. It’s pointless promoting a children’s nursery to a database of over 70’s.
- Make sure your mailer piques interest by standing out and featuring intriguing messages that resonate with the recipient.
Although direct mailers are more expensive than e-shots, they can be far more impactful and effective. Emails can be easily deleted and go unread, whereas it’s far harder to ignore a physical mailer that also has a longer shelf life, especially if the creative content is strong.
6. Search engine optimisation
SEO has established itself as one of the key practices to market your business online. It has become essential for most companies to have a well-optimised website and this is where SEO is crucial. If you’re new to SEO, our beginner’s guide takes you through the simple things you can do to boost your strategy.
In order for your web pages to show up for relevant search terms or ‘keywords’ in search engines like Google, they need to be optimised across three different areas: technical, on-page and off-page.
Technical SEO ensures that Google understands and can easily and quickly access all pages you want to rank. Having a technically sound website is only one aspect of great SEO.
Ultimately, users want to read about your product or services, so you need high-quality, engaging content that’s optimised in order for Google to rank it.
Tips for writing online content
- Write for the user, not the search engine. If your content isn’t readable, you will struggle to convert users into customers.
- Within your copy and HTML code, you will need to pay attention to optimising page titles, headings, internal linking and image descriptions for every page you wish to rank.
Now you’ve got qualitative content live, you need a ‘vote of confidence’ from topically relevant, external sites. Attract links naturally as well as manually through local link building, guest blogging, influencers, content marketing and PR campaigns.
7. Email marketing
The key to generating great sales is being able to communicate clearly and in a timely manner to your target audience. Email marketing is great for creating short-term urgency and adding incremental revenue as part of your regular marketing activity.
You can use emails tactically to drive a limited-time offer, end-of-season sale or to promote a new service.
Email marketing is:
Tailor your message
Once you have your customer list to hand, you can tailor your messaging to the right audiences – engagement rates will probably be high for customers who have previously used your services or purchased from you. Those customers can also share the email with their friends or contacts, expanding the reach and awareness of your brand to an audience you might never have engaged with before. Staying in touch with existing customers is a great way to keep your brand front of mind and present loyal, lapsed and potential customers with the most up-to-date offers and new products or services.
Track your results
The results of email marketing are immediate and you can quickly see the number of customers who have received your email, opened it and clicked on any of the links or offers within it. This will give you a quick indication of how well the email is performing in terms of overall engagement, sales and return on investment (ROI).
The data will give you actionable insights, too, so you can see which are the most popular types of content, products, services or offers for any specific audience. You can then tailor your follow-up emails to reflect these learnings.
Integrated as part of a wider campaign or used as a standalone activity, email marketing is one of the best ‘return on investment’ channels there is.