Running a small business is expensive. There are so many things to do and pay for, and often before your business has even started to generate income. So when it comes to the details of marketing, small business owners often find themselves looking for inexpensive quick fixes. While I completely understand monetary constraints, and have even listed tips for marketing on a budget, there are some things I feel are crucial to the reputation and validation of your business. These things are investments for your brand and should be executed thoughtfully and skillfully. So what are these ‘things’?
A website is a huge investment for your brand. It serves a number of very important purposes.
It helps people find you online.
It tells people what you’re all about.
It gives your business more credibility.
It serves as a dynamic and engaging resource for your customers and potential customers.
It is the central station for your marketing.
Investing in a professional, visually appealing website with well-written content that meets all the purposes listed above contributes to the overall success of your business.
Regardless of what business you’re in, I’d bet a large sum of money your target audience is using some sort of social media. The beauty of social media is that it allows you to become part of your customers’ daily lives so you can plant seeds to keep your brand top-of-mind when they have a problem you can solve.
If you use social media regularly and have pretty good writing skills, then invest your time and maintain a consistent presence for your brand. Furthermore, invest in a social media strategy to ensure you are maximizing the opportunities for individual platforms, and using all your networks in a way that makes sense in the grander scheme of things. If you have no clue about the ins and outs, and do’s and don’ts of social media, and you’re not too keen on writing, you should definitely invest in a social media strategy and in someone to provide social media content for you regularly (even if that person is only onboard temporarily to help you get in the swing of things yourself).
BUDGETING TIP: Once you’ve gotten a social media strategy from a professional strategist, consider enlisting an intern to assist you with producing content.
Today’s digital space has shifted to image-focused content. I recommend investing in at least one professional photo shoot to capture images of things most central to your business, including:
- your team
- your product
- your space
- key people, places and things related to your industry and what you do specifically
Not only will professional photos improve the look of your website, they will also serve to improve your print collateral, advertisements, social media graphics (think profile pictures and background images), bios and press features, posts on sites like Yelp that allow for reviews, signage, and so much more.
BUDGETING TIP: Outside of images of you and your product, space, etc. you can often find FREE quality stock photography for commercial use. Find good resources for great free stock images here, here and here.
PROFESSIONAL EMAIL ACCOUNT
Having a professional email address – think archele@redgalsmarketing vs. firstname.lastname@example.org – can make a big difference in the perception people have of your business. Professional email addresses show you are serious about your business and have begun the process of establishing a recognizable and respectable identity. There are plenty of services to choose from for your email provider. My favorite so far is Google because it offers a host of useful business apps in addition to email.
Your logo is a visual representation of your brand that can immediately affect the impression a potential client or customer has of your business. Your logo also serves as the driving visual force behind the rest of your marketing materials. So it’s likely, if your logo is busy with a super bright color scheme, your website will have a busy design with a super bright color scheme. If your website does not align with the style cues of your logo, the logo will probably stick out like a sore thumb – either situation is not ideal. Invest in the visual identity of your brand. Your logo will represent you business when you aren’t there to do so, so make sure it does it well.