You’ve started a small business and now you are looking to get the message out there and increase awareness of what you do. You want customers but maybe budget is an issue. There is no quick fix answer or simple formula but it is important that you do these following things and do them well.
It’s tempting to use Microsoft Word or Paint to design your logo. It’s free, there are hundreds of stock images and fonts to manipulate and you don’t have to shell out for a graphics designer. This is literally the worst thing you can do to your logo.
Your logo is the visual representation of your brand. It’s the snap judgement people make about you. If it looks amateurish you can guess what they’ll be thinking about your product or service. You may think that you can always change it down the line and that’s true but it’s worth investing in now and letting it work for you than to toil against it until you can afford to change it.
Getting a logo professionally designed can be cheaper than you think. Many designers are flexible on budget for small businesses, there are crowdsourcing sites or you could even consider contacting a local design school and seeing if any recent grads would be looking for freelance work or if the senior class would like a project to work on.
Qualified designers are best but even design students will create much more appealing work than anything you can make yourself in Word. They will understand what a logo says and will create a clear and engaging logo that reproduces well across your digital and physical collateral and has a positive brand image that speaks to the customers you are targeting.
In the modern world this can be one of the most important parts of your business yet so many new business owners neglect their websites or skip building them altogether in the start-up phase.
You may have been put off creating a website because the DIY packages can be confusing — despite saying it is super simple! Or you’ve seen the prices some web designers charge and thought screw that for a barrel of laughs. Yes, websites can get expensive, but you don’t need the bells and whistles from the get go. If you don’t have the budget, try a crowd sourcing website or look to work with aspiring web designers looking to improve their portfolio.
The important thing is to get a website up and running. It doesn’t have to be the best looking site; it just needs to be clean and easy to navigate. People haven’t got time to read through pages of waffle so keep it simple; you can add to it later when you can afford a decent copywriter. For now you just need a simple introduction to what you do and a clear call to action like contact me for… or subscribe to our newsletter – whatever is most relevant to your business.
I recommend having your website built using a universal content management system (CMS) like WordPress. This way you can make changes whenever you like and any decent developer can usually make structural changes when your budget allows.
Social media is the lifeblood of many new start-ups. It’s where you find and connect with new customers. It’s a huge driver for crowdsourced marketing and a relatively free and easy way to advertise.
There are plenty of social media sites out there but you only really need to worry about the big three — which usually can be linked to share content to save you posting all over the place.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the sites you want to be seen on the most.
Create relevant, engaging and regular content to share on social media. Spend a few hours a fortnight creating enough Facebook posts for two weeks — these can be scheduled to post whenever you like. Follow complementary businesses from your business account (you can change this by clicking on the cog in the top right hand corner and selecting your business) and interact with their posts too. This will build your profile and encourage more likes and followers.
LinkedIn is gold for small businesses so create a profile and linked business page that explain your services and why people should use you. LinkedIn will have plenty of relevant groups to join so try to spend a little time each week contributing to discussions. There are millions of people on LinkedIn so be sure to search for and connect with those in roles or industries relevant to your business.
Twitter is one of the best places for viral content marketing so make sure you are following and retweeting relevant people as well as adding plenty of your own content. Thoughts on and news from your industry with backlinks to your website will help build your authority. Where possible, add a touch of humour to your posts to maximise shares.
Okay, so this is number four but it’s more for registering your address with Google so you show up in relevant local searches. You can create a profile on Google+ if you like but it’s not what Google had hoped it would be. It’s worth having the page so you’re not missing out on potential customers but don’t feel too obligated to update this page every day, just link it to one of your other accounts and have it auto-post to Google.
Traditional networking shouldn’t take a back seat to social networking. Get yourself out there! Take a look at meetup.com to find a variety of events that are related to your service or product. You can also get in touch with your local chamber. They usually have networking events that are relatively cheap to attend. Google networking and your city and other useful sites will pop up.
Ask friends and family to introduce you to relevant people. Speak to your local café. There’s a great chance they’re in touch with plenty of people you want to be in front of and if they’re anything like mine, they’re more than willing to introduce you.
Finally, ask your clients! If they enjoyed working with you they are usually happy to refer you. You don’t have to financially incentivise them but if they send business your way, send them a little gift in return or take them out to lunch. Word will get around that you’re appreciative of referrals and more might start coming in.
Hopefully these tips have been useful for your first few steps in business. Creating brand recognition will take time but if you start with good habits they’ll work in your favour forever.