How to promote a small business online
The ultimate goal of every business is to reach as much of its target audience as possible and gradually increase its revenue. There’s a long list of factors that your success as a business depends on, and marketing is certainly one of them.
There are brands out there, like Coca-Cola or Apple, that seem that they could stop their marketing efforts and they’d still reign supreme for years to come. Whether it would pan out their way could be debatable, but still, you get my point.
But what about smaller businesses? How can they reach their target audiences and steadily grow to become profitable? Sure, it’s not like there’s nothing between huge corporations and small businesses, but this time I’d like to specifically focus on the latter.
How do I promote a small business online, then?
I spend quite a big portion of my time on Quora and that’s a question I come across quite often:
This led me to think people who run their small businesses are really in need of ideas on how to promote a small business online.
There are a few tactics small business owners should start implementing as soon as possible if they want to get the word about their businesses out to the masses and I’ve listed them below.
1. Become a member of online communities in your niche
As a community manager, I can’t stress this one enough! An engaged community is what drives a business forward and the sooner you realise that, the better. You can either build your own community from scratch or become a member of those already existing. I’d say the latter is far easier for starters, but I discussed benefits to both approaches if you want to have a more detailed look.
Anyway, I’d look up Facebook groups for sure. They successfully replaced most of the discussion forums and it seems like you could find a Facebook group dedicated to pretty much any topic or a kind of business. That’s where you could get in touch with fellow business owners, exchange some ideas or learn new tips and tricks you could implement yourself to promote your small business online.
It’s not all about Facebook, obviously, as there are plenty of other communities out there that you could actively participate in. If you’re familiar with Reddit, you probably know it consists of countless subreddits that are pretty much sub-forums on a variety of topics so wide I can hardly wrap my brain around.
Actually, according to the data from Statista, as of November 2017, there are over 1.2 million active subreddits! One of them dedicated entirely to small businesses, /r/smallbusiness, is a group of over 145 thousand users who are there for “questions and answers about starting, owning, and growing a small business”, as the description goes. The ever-ongoing discussions there will hone your skills in a number of fields like running a business and marketing it to the people.
Still, there are many other communities out there, just to mention those grouped around a hashtag on Twitter (Twitter chats, like #SmallBizChat) or Slack communities like #smallbiz. I know Slack might not be as common among small business owners, but it can be a source of valuable contacts if you know what are Slack communities and how to make the most of them.
2. Make use of social media monitoring
What makes me sad when it comes to social media monitoring is the fact that many small business owners perceive it as just another trendy buzzword or a whim that only big players can afford.
Sure, there are enterprise solutions that cost an arm and a leg and it’s totally understandable a small coffee shop, for instance, wouldn’t like to spend that much, but there are also tools that are free (Social Mention) or affordable (like ours) that could give you a leg up and help small business owners promote a small business online.
While primarily it’s all about reputation management and replying to mentions of your brand, product, or service, it can also be used for building relationships and sales. Those two combined are the pillars of social selling. Have a look at the examples below:
They seem to be perfect opportunities for small businesses to engage, whether they are massage therapists, restaurant owners, or have any kind of business, to be honest!
There are thousands mentions like this on social media and sadly, the vast majority of them remains unanswered by businesses, whereas these are perfect opportunities to chime in with a recommendation, even of your own place, especially since those people are asking for specific places, products, or services.
What I would advise is to keep track of mentions of phrases such as can anyone recommend, can anybody recommend, looking for, or where can I buy alongside keywords most important for your business, like your industry, so, for example, can anyone recommend a sushi place in Madrid?.
As you can see, can anyone recommend appeared more than twelve thousand times across the web last month, and these are not just social media they appeared on. Where can I buy has more than twice as many mentions!
It seems like it’s a great resource to tap into to promote a small business online and I wouldn’t snub it without even having a look at the mentions you could potentially engage. Fine, you might decide it’s not your thing, but I am telling you it’s worth just giving it a shot!
3. Don’t forget about content creation
I assume 99 per cent of business these days have their websites up and running. It’s not the same with blogs, I am afraid, whereas SEO-optimised content is the driving force that pushes businesses forward these days.
According to AdWeek, 81 per cent of shoppers conduct online research before buying. Where do they usually go to do the research? Google. And how do they do the research? They simply type in phrases that are questions they could ask a friend. Questions along the lines of what are the best mattresses for back pain. I am not kidding:
Now, if I sold bed mattresses, or pretty much any other product people could ask similar questions about, I’d love to appear on the first page of Google results for a given phrase. In order to do so, you need an SEO-optimised website, but more importantly, you need quality content that people are going to click on and read in order to solve their problems.
I bet there’s a range of keywords related to your business that appear in people’s searches and creating content around those keywords is one of the best ways to promote a small business online and reach your audience through Google.
4. Find micro-influencers in your niche
Influencer marketing has been a hot topic for some time now. It seems like the term is everywhere wherever you try to look for information about marketing. I guess there is a reason for that. Influencer marketing simply works. People desire things other, influential people have, and businesses realised that a long time ago.
It’s high time you did the same if you want to promote your small business online! I wouldn’t aim for the big fish in the beginning, though, as the huge following has an inverse effect on engagement. Conversely, focus on micro-influencers.
Who are microinfluencers? As my colleague, Tom, says in his blog post:
Micro-influence is not defined by the number of one’s social following but the relevant conversation groups that a buyer engages in. Therefore, a micro-influencer is not someone with a specific number of followers – engaged or otherwise – but the people whom your potential buyer speaks with when considering a purchase decision.
Sure, for some businesses and industries, it will be a lot easier to find micro-influencers than for others, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s almost always someone more influential than you in your area that’s worth building a relationship and co-operating with.
Imagine your small business is a DIY thing that you handcraft for kids to play with. Or a lunch box. I don’t remember the business owner exactly, but some time ago I came across a person that creates customised lunch boxes and makes a living out of it. If I was that person and wanted to promote my small business online, I’d definitely want to find influencers in that niche, like parenting bloggers, for instance, with whom I could co-operate with.
5. Use Quora
I mentioned it already, but for those of you unfamiliar with Quora, it’s a question and answer website where people go to ask questions of all kinds, like really:
However, it’s not this kind of questions that you want to answer. The amount of business-related questions you could get exposure from is mind-blowing. All questions have topics assigned to them, and small business-related ones are some of the most popular on the platform:
Yes, there are 3,9 million people following this topic, and there are more in the similar topics, such as Small Business Advice or Small Business Marketing!
Anyway, focus on the questions more rather than on the topics. It would take an extensive, separate piece of content on how to promote a small business on Quora, but luckily, we got you covered with a blog post on how to use Quora for business in general.
As I mentioned in the conclusion of this blog post, the key to reaping the rewards from your activity on Quora is to be consistent. Find the time to answer at least a question a day, maybe even more. While at it, be authentic and share your knowledge to the best of your ability.
When you try to promote your business, don’t be too pushy and try to over-promise. On top of that, keep in mind that it’s worth mentioning both the pros and cons of what you have to offer. This will make you more trustworthy to the readers and will indicate that you’re not there just to brag about your product.
In order to successfully use Quora for business, mix your professional knowledge with your hobbies and you should be on your way to glory. Like I mentioned in the beginning, you won’t succeed overnight, but a snowball effect will start working in your favour the more you contribute to the platform.
Over to you
Examples above are just some of the ways you could use to promote a small business online. They’ll obviously work better for some industries than for others. Also, keep in mind that if one method is not working in your favour, there are always a few others that you could test, and even if it’s only one of them that is bringing results, I believe it’s still worth implementing into your marketing mix.
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