Unless you are a major corporation with an equally major advertising budget, you’ve got to think a little bit harder about getting the word out there about your business – whether you build houses, carve wooden sculptures or restore period furniture.
For smaller businesses – both start-ups and those trading for several years – promotion is an ongoing challenge (and can sometimes feel like a job all in itself). However, with a few clever ‘outside-the-box’ ideas, you could start reaching those new customers today. To support you, our valued Guild of Master Craftsmen members, we’ve put on our thinking caps to give you some pointers.
It’s all in the planning
Seems obvious, right? But the pressure to bring more money in can lead to a panicked, scattergun approach to marketing your business. So, it’s worth taking the time to think carefully about the upcoming 12 months and sketch out the main ways you will advertise. This is especially key if you only have a small budget, and when doing some research into consumer trends is helpful. For example, if you’re in the kitchen-building game, targeting potential customers around January – typically a time when people consider bigger projects like this – is a good idea.
Mean business when attracting business
It’s a business 101 to make sure your Google listing is up-to-date. As the adage goes, first impressions count and as this is likely to be the first thing someone sees when they search for your business, your profile needs to be fully completed – are your opening hours and contact details on there? For those GMC members with a physical, rather than virtual office, this is especially important because it means your business appears on Google Maps. And don’t overlook the hundreds of other online directories out there, too. Have you claimed your company’s space on Yelp, for example?
It’s also a no-brainer to make sure your listing – and website, for that matter – are fully optimised. Try using a free SEO (search engine optimisation, if it still needs explanation) like Yoast. Conducting some basic keyword research is pretty invaluable in terms of boosting your ranking in search engines.
Be wily in the old ways
The purpose of advertising/marketing is simple: get the right message to the right people. In the pre-internet age, this meant distributing leaflets and pinning business cards/posters to message boards, and as old school as that might sound, this avenue could be ripe for exploring. Why? The very fact that this way of advertising has fallen out of favour means that there are fewer competitors jostling for customers’ attention – and money – in that arena. For a relatively low production cost, the return could well be surprising (and lucrative).
Are you ‘shareable’?
I In today’s social-media landscape, whatever you can do to get people sharing your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook posts is A Good Thing. While the Ice Bucket Challenge (remember that?) has already been done, it gives you an idea of the kind of thing that has the potential to go viral. OK, so your landscape gardening company might not break the internet but posting an image or clip of a humorous moment (losing your footing on a slippery slope, maybe?) could well tickle someone’s funny bone and boom, you’ve got a share. The same goes for content. Write a blog with the aim of engaging people and getting them talking. Consider using quotes from thought leaders in your sector and offer to share the blog on their website, too. It’s all about creating a buzz. That’s a ‘no’ to the sand/grit ratio in your concrete mix, then…
And don’t forget the opportunistic piggyback move. A couple of years ago, the online ‘is it black or blue’ dress debate went viral and even made headline news. Both Oreo and Lego quickly seized the moment and gave it their own new spin with pretty simple reinterpretations. So be on the look-out for similar opportunities. This is about being both proactive and reactive.
Forget all the bells and whistles
Slick production values on a video to promote your business will cost some serious money. Just think of the John Lewis Christmas advertisement this year. Featuring a cute animated dragon with an out-of-control fire-blowing problem, it cost several million pounds to make, only to be eclipsed by a simple, ‘down home’ video of a little boy and a broom, chronicling the story of a family-owned hardware shop in Wales. Total cost? £100. There are some perfectly acceptable free templates on Biteable.com to help you create your own budget-friendly option and in a couple of clicks you can embed your masterpiece on your website. Remember that consumers are a pretty sophisticated bunch these days and appreciate an authentic ‘sell’.
Forums are your friends
Whatever you specialise in, online forums offer a space to connect with similar trades/craftspeople. Not only can you glean (or ‘permanently borrow’, depending on the way you look at it) helpful tips and information this way, but it may also lead to work. If you build good relationships over time with other businesses, you could come to a mutually beneficial arrangement, perhaps agreeing to use each other for any projects you are too busy to deal with. Spread your net wider, too, joining forums featuring professionals with complementary skills to yours.
And don’t overlook Quora – when the internet has a question, this expert forum is often where it turns. Answering queries swiftly and with well-researched information can help build subject-matter authority and create trust. Add backlinks to drive traffic – and soon-to-be customers – back to your website.
Work your angles
Is there anything unusual about what you do, or do you have a strong personal story that you are willing to share? Both are good ‘hooks’ to grab the attention of local newspapers, websites and radio stations. Email a press release containing the most interesting points of your pitch, leaving the recipient hungry to find out more.
Utilise your assets
Are you missing a trick when it comes to promoting your business on the side of any company vehicles or by putting the logo on employees’ T-shirts or bags? It’s a simple yet effective way of drawing people’s attention to what you offer as a business.
Make it personal
According to a 2016 study by American company Fishkill, 56% of consumers said receiving a personalised incentive would improve their perception and consideration of the brand. Look to Coca Cola’s hugely popular ‘Share a Coke’ campaign. Giving their customers the chance to buy a drink with their own name emblazoned on the side is the ultimate example of this in practice. And while the beverage giant certainly has big shoes to fill, the good news is that another study, this time by TD Bank, found that 77% of consumers like when brands and businesses show their appreciation. It could be a simple discount offer or a ‘thank you’ gift for any referrals they have put your way. Bigger isn’t always best.