So you just started a business or are very close to launching one. Great! There are SO many details and tasks to handle when you’re a new business owner. One of them is getting the word out about your new business. How can you do this without spending a lot of money? And what if you don’t know a thing about marketing?
It’s enough to make your head spin. But rest assured, there are plenty of low-cost, and even free things you can do to get started in marketing your new business. And thanks to the internet, there’s a ton of information and resources on business marketing, whether you’re B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer).
So where do you start? When I launched my marketing business last summer, I had to take a few steps to start getting the word out. I also had to tap into a lot of great resources to stay on top of marketing tips and trends, which are constantly changing.
You’ll need to be patient because it will likely take some time to gain traction. Focus on the tactics that will best reach your target customer.
Here are 7 steps to start marketing your new business:
Step 1: Create a plan.
Yes, it’s a good idea to create a marketing plan for your business, which should be a part of your overall business plan. Why? Because it helps you to define who you’re trying to reach (your target customer), as well as strategies and tactics that will support your business goals. It also gives you a gauge to measure how effective your marketing is by setting goals and measuring results.
If you’re thinking it’s easier to just do your marketing as you go along, remember the old saying: “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
There are a lot of good books and posts on creating a marketing plan, including this series from @Entrepreneur: How to Create a Marketing Plan It’s a very good guide that covers the following topics: Researching Your Market, Ingredients of a Marketing Plan, and How to Create a Marketing Plan.
If you’re looking for examples, check out MPlans, which features marketing plan examples from several business categories.
This post from the SBA also gives some insight as to what to include in a marketing plan: 10 Essentials of a Marketing Plan in 2016
Step 2: Create your brand.
It’s important to take the time to think about your brand. How is your business different than your competitors? What does your company stand for?
Ideally, your brand should be an extension of yourself so it comes off naturally and authentically. This post from @Entrepreneur explains the idea: Your New Brand Should Be an Extension of Yourself
After you define what your branding approach is, it’s time to work with a graphic designer to create your “look”. Having a well-designed logo and creative campaign will make all the difference for your marketing material. And, being consistent in how you present your company is key to making your marketing memorable.
Canva is a fantastic resource for creating visual materials. They have a free option, as well as Canva for Business which starts at $10/month. To learn more about the impact of creating a brand, check out their guide: How to Design a Memorable Brand That Catches On
Step 3: Launch your website.
Your website is the “hub” of your business and your #1 sales tool. It’s almost always the first stop your potential customers will make when they’re looking for your business, so you want to make sure your website makes the best possible impression. Because more searches are done on mobile devices than desktops, make sure your website is “responsive” (i.e., has a lay-out that conforms to smaller-screen formats for smartphones and tablets).
Be sure to include keywords in your website copy so search engines like Google will find them when someone searches a phrase (a.k.a.: SEO). Check out this post from the Business2Community blog with helpful tips: 7 Best Practices to Give Your New Business Website a Head Start
It’s ideal to allocate some of your budget to having a professional design your website. However, if budget is an issue, and you have the time and resources, there are platforms you can use to set up a site yourself for low cost (or free) such as WordPress or Weebly.
Step 4: Start getting email subscribers.
Getting email subscribers on your website and starting a database is a great way to grow your list and communicate directly with your customers through email. Think of it this way: people who sign-up are interested in what you have to say, making email more effective than many other forms of advertising.
There are plenty of affordable email services to send attractive “eBlasts” to your customers to promote your services, special offers, or news about your company. Besides AWeber, two examples are Constant Contact (which starts at $20/month) and MailChimp (which has a free option).
Step 5: Set up your social media channels.
Yes, you need social media for your business. However, you don’t need to be on every social media channel out there. The important thing is to determine where your target customer is on social media. For example, if you’re targeting millennials (those born in the early ‘80s to early 2000s) then Instagram is a channel you should consider using rather than Google+. If your target customer is a business owner, then LinkedIn should be a channel you’re using to reach them.
No matter who you’re targeting, be sure to set up a Facebook business page, because this will allow you to run affordable ads that pinpoint people based demographics, age, interests, profession, location, and much more.
Here’s a helpful post from HubSpot (a great resource!) on creating a social media strategy for your business. Another great resource you’ll want to follow for social media how-to’s is Social Media Examiner. Use their search field to find posts on virtually any social media topic. To get started, be sure to check out their Getting Started on Social Media: A Resource Guide
Set up a Google My Business site so potential customers can easily find you, and get additional features on Google. Check out this site for more info: Get Your Business on Google for Free.
When you set up your social media sites, you should use images for banners and profile images that are consistent with your branding. Canva is a great resource for creating images for social media.
As with your website, you should keep track of your social media analytics reports to see how your social media is performing. (For example, measuring Facebook “likes”, shares, and comments for each post).
Step 6: Publicize your business.
While it’s challenging to get the attention of the media, many will post stories about new business openings. To announce your opening, it’s best to supply the information in a press release format. As an example, here’s the release I sent when I launched my business, Quinnovative Marketing.
You can also try this handy wizard for creating a press release from PR Newswire.
Before sending your press release, you’ll need to do little homework by compiling a list of media contacts, in this case the names and emails of business editors in your market. You can usually find this info by Googling “business editor at Boston Globe” etc., (insert the names of the media you want to include). Don’t forget business journal publications in your market (Google ‘em!) to expand your list.
Think about organizations who would be interested in your business, such as your area Chamber of Commerce, and send the release to them. In fact, joining the Chamber is a great idea! They’re a great resource for business connections, networking, education and more, and they’ll help publicize your business news to their membership.
Step 7: Start networking.
If you have a local business, networking can go a long way. Start with your Chamber of Commerce and find out when they have networking events. Bring a stack of business cards and make it a goal to “work the room” and distribute your cards. You may find that someone you meet knows someone else who may need your services, or who would be interested in visiting your business, store or restaurant. Do some research to find out if there are other networking organizations that appeal to your target customers and get involved. Word of mouth marketing can go a long way.
Relationships are built on trust, which is true no matter what your business is. When you connect with someone on a personal level, they’ll be more inclined to do business with you.
Have you started on any of these steps and how is it working for you? I’d love to get your thoughts on whether you found this post helpful. Sign up to receive more posts like this sent directly to your inbox. Good luck!
This article originally appeared as a guest post on Lawyerscom.org, the website of The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice of Boston.
Caroline D. Quinn is the founder of Quinnovative Marketing, based in Plymouth, MA. With 30 years experience delivering results-driven marketing, she is now focused on helping small and mid-size business owners succeed. Follow her on Twitter at @Carolinedquinn or @QuinnovativeMkt.