In the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey, 42% of respondents considered business skills such as marketing one of their most important tools when it comes to entrepreneurship. In today’s competitive market, this means not only being familiar with traditional techniques but being able to think more abstractly and come up with new, exciting and innovative ways to market your company to an audience that is increasingly overwhelmed by choice. From digital events to customized communications, I’ve put together some innovative marketing ideas for small businesses to help you get started and inspire you to modernize your marketing for 2018.
The Personal Touch
Once upon a time, cold calling and leaflets through the door were the accepted means of interacting with your audience, but these traditional methods just don’t cut it in the digital age. With so much competition on the market, it’s important to make sure your name is one that your customer remembers – by remembering theirs.
Personalisation is becoming ever-more important in the way that brands interact with their audience. Email marketing services such as MailChimp give you the opportunity to customise individual emails so that you’re addressing your customers by name – which is a small but effective way to add a more personal touch to your communications. If you run a recommend-a-friend scheme, you could use this to create an air of familiarity by including not only your new customer’s name but the friend’s as well.
2018 is a great time to increase your innovation further and find new ways to make customers feel noticed and valued. Small businesses with more manageable customer bases have opportunities available to them that wouldn’t be feasible for larger organisations, and you can use this to your advantage. Customised printed cards that are delivered with your orders, added details that appear in forms of communication and more tailored suggestions that don’t just rely on keywords and automation are just a few examples of the ways that you can connect with consumers on a more personal level.
Certain services have even more scope for this style of marketing. Subscription services, for example, have the opportunity to amend their deliveries according to preferences, feedback and any information you may receive upon sign-up. Similarly, apps or digital products can use their capacity for quick changes and regular updates to keep in touch with customers’ evolving interests.
Hosting Corporate Events
Sending your customers marketing material might be an essential when it comes to increasing your revenue, but it’s not always the most effective tool for improving engagement. When you’re deciding what to send your customers, think about the kinds of things you’d like to receive in the mail – such as a party invitation.
Hosting events for your customers offers a great opportunity to connect with them at three different stages: before, during and afterwards. In the build-up to the event, you need to get your customers excited and incentivise them to come along. This could be through rewards and giveaways, or it could be through other means. Special guests are a great way to generate interest, as are non-monetary rewards such as access to as-yet-unseen products or a chance to influence future creations. If your invitation is done well, it should make your invitee feel special and so further invested in your organisation.
During the event, you need to ensure that your brand is properly represented from all angles. Use your company USP to plan an event that only you could host. From the theme of your event to the venue, the staff and the activities planned, this is the interactive face of your business and it’s vital to leave your customers with a positive impression.
Think outside the box and explore all your possibilities. For example, in the digital age there’s no reason that you couldn’t host an online event. As well as keeping your costs low and allowing you to expand your guest-list, an online event or conference is a great way to utilise today’s technology. In fact, even if you decide to host a physical event, make sure that you’re able to share it across the online world for those who aren’t able to attend through video and photography from both you and your guests. Diesel’s recent PR campaign in which a hidden camera captured shoppers in their pop-up “knock-off” shop is a great example of this.
However you choose to do your hosting, the follow-up is every bit as important as the event itself. Make sure your customers feel like their presence was valued, and encourage them to share their experiences with their friends – and your potential new customers.
If you’re not able to host your own event, consider sponsoring one instead. Find an event that will likely attract many members that are within your target audience range and make sure to use that opportunity to raise brand awareness as much as possible.
Social Media Influencers
Marketers realized a long time ago that social media was an important tool for reaching audiences both local and international, but the ways it can be used is always evolving. While paid and organic advertising and regular posting remain essential techniques that can help to boost your visibility, there are also other avenues that are worth considering – particularly for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
In 2017, Gucci made waves with its innovative ad campaign that commissioned popular meme accounts on Instagram to create custom memes for their products. It marked one of the most significant uses of social media influencers in online advertising, and serves as a great example for any marketing teams that are looking for inspiration. Tapping into meme culture helped bring the brand to a new generation, and also represents the kind of indirect advertising that may help to bring about long-term brand loyalty rather than simply one-time purchasing.
There are many ways to engage influencers with your brand. As well as using their online presence through posting, you can invite them to attend your events. Not only does this give them something more personal to post about your brand, it can draw extra attendees and elevate the status of your event to something more high-profile and exclusive.
You could also work with them on various forms of collaboration. These range from the traditional product-for-review partnership that works well with bloggers and vloggers to more creative ideas such as having them collaborate with you on a limited-edition line, or asking them to curate your website or social media pages for a day. Similarly, you could organise a social media takeover or a q-and-a which will help drive their traffic towards your accounts so that you can reach a larger audience.
Interest in small businesses and entrepreneurship continues to be on the rise, and this is your opportunity to turn your story into an asset that you can use for your marketing strategy. Make sure that you take every opportunity to network both within your industry and beyond, and then use your circle of contacts to boost your business – whether you’re running a B2B or a B2C operation.
Find out about the events that are organised within your industry and decide which ones will be worth attending for your company. Looking up the biggest industry bodies and awards is a good place to start, as well as finding out where your competitors have been or will be in attendance. You can advertise your participation as a way to build authority and trust among customers, as well as a way of attracting the attention of those interested in your sector.
It’s good to know which events have the highest attendee rates but that doesn’t always mean they’ll be of the most value to you. Balance quality and quantity when it comes to contacts, and make sure you choose events where you’re likely to make valuable connections that can help you progress and grow your business through collaborations or perhaps even co-operative advertising.
Conferences are a great choice because you can learn and train while you network, and you’ll be able to get an idea of who will be attracted to the event by looking at the key speakers that have been booked. Trade fairs are also a good place to meet a mix of potential clients as well as collaborators, colleagues and even competitors.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to networking. For example, if you or your employees work in co-working spaces rather than a central office, you may find that it helps to spread the word about your small business as well as opening up opportunities to meet future customers or stakeholders.
How are you going to be adapting your marketing strategy in 2018? Do you own a small business, and do you think that that requires a more innovative approach to marketing / advertising for small businesses and Entrepreneurs? Share your thoughts, ideas and questions in the comments below.
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