Estimated reading time: 17 minute(s)
You’ve Heard This All Before, But…
Let me just get that out of the way. I’m pretty sure nothing in this article will be new to you, so my goal is not to present a mere list of ideas, but rather to present a set of priorities.
As a small business owner you wear many hats and spend your days (and nights) on many activities related to running and marketing your business.
You can do pretty much anything, but you can’t do everything. At least not all at once.
So how do you prioritize your precious time and energy?
What small business marketing activities generate the greatest return on your investment of time, energy, and money?
Important Point #1
The first main point I want to make is learning how to market a new business should not be divided into activity groupings of “online” and “offline”.
Having said that I do so below, but merely as a convenience. The online activities are presented in the order of most important at the top, but the online is first not because it’s more important than the offline, but because it’s what most people want to hear about.
Some of your marketing activities will be online. Some of your marketing activities will be offline. They are two different sides of the same coin.
Your various small business marketing activities affect each other. Ideally they support each other.
Important Point #2
Bear in mind the focus of this post is how to marketing a new small business through starting and building a community.
Your community may be local and you interact with them face to face. Your community may be geographically disbursed and you interact with them mostly online. Your community may be a combination between the two.
Where your community gathers affects where you find and interact with them.
Important Point #3
As with any marketing effort (any effort really) what matters most is consistency and persistence. None of the activities listed below generate results overnight. It may take months to get enough traction to make things work for you financially, and the only way you get where you want to be is to keep taking one step after the other, day after day, week after week.
To reference the famous children’s story, you’re the tortoise, not the hare.
You Need a Website
And while it doesn’t technically need to be WordPress to be a website, it absolutely needs to be WordPress so you can easily maintain and update it. Additionally WordPress takes care of 80% to 90% of the mechanics of Search Engine Optimization so you don’t have to worry about those technical details.
WordPress is now about 10 years old, and in that time it’s use has grown to where 20% of all the web servers on the Internet run on WordPress. That’s an installed base of 200,000,000 websites in just 10 years.
You Need to Blog
Seriously! Being found online today requires publishing. You turn your website into an online magazine (of sorts) on which you publish regularly and frequently.
You Need to Capture Email Addresses
Sign up for a small business email marketing service such as Constant Contact, MadMimi, MailChimp, etc and create one or more forms for your website where you capture names and email addresses.
To be clear, you create the forms on the email marketing service website, then embed them into pages on your website.
You Need at Least One Piece of Really Good Content
A great video (that can be you talking or a powerpoint with a voiceover), an eBook, some type of tool people interact with (mortgage calculator, health quiz, website SEO audit, etc).
You “gate” the content which means you give it to people in exchange for their contact information (name and email address is enough).
Which You Provide Through a Landing Page
The landing page is where they find the form they fill out, which then takes them to the really good content.
You Participate in Social Media
You need to spend time on social media every week, but you can augment your efforts with some automated tools such as Advanced Social Messenger which messages people on social media based on criteria you define (size of business, a word in their title, their location, etc).
Let me be clear the tool does not replace you personally spending time on social media, it merely augments what you can do yourself and saves you time.
You Need Some Form of Email Marketing
Every small business starts with the email newsletter. Then at some point graduates to the use of auto-responders and DRIP campaigns, then later still graduates to marketing automation.
There is an interesting new free and open source marketing automation system called Mautic (WordPress is free and open source) but for now just file that name away and get to it later. Start with the newsletter.
You Need a Regular Meetup
This applies of course if your community is local. You need a place to conduct a weekly (or biweekly) meetup, and you need to conduct one.
You need each meetup to have a topic of theme and you need to announce your specific meetup meetings well in advance to give people time to find you and plan their schedules.
Running Free Workshops Helps
Notice I didn’t say “You Need”. However running free workshops where you provide some of your expertise will draw people in.
As with the meetups, your initial attendance may be sparse. Perhaps you have thousands of social media connections or perhaps you know people who do. But even if your initially audience is small, through consistency and persistence word will get out and your audience will grow.
The Intersection of Online and Offline
The last two offline activities speak to the intersection of online and offline. A great way to attract people to your meetup and to your workshops is to post them to meetup.com and eventbright.com, where people will find you online before they show up and meet you in person.
As I said above, what matters most is consistency and persistence. With your blogging, with your social media, with the growing of your email list, with your meetups, with your workshops, etc.
Of course where you determine what and how much you do depends upon how much time and energy (and money to a lesser degree as everything listed above is pretty cheap) you can devote to the effort.
Do what you can when you can, but keep doing it until enough people show up to make it work for your business. The worst thing you can do is decide too early it’s not working and give up.
At least about the online part…..SEO Needs Link Building