Many of our students go on to start their own businesses, perhaps no surprise when you consider that small businesses now account for about 60% of the employment in the UK private sector (and around half of the turnover). The internet has significantly opened up the possibilities of starting your own business and marketing it yourself, without having a marketing qualification or hiring an expensive agency. Today, you can build your own website and manage your own promotional and social activity with tools like wix.com, Hootsuite and Canva, and have the potential to reach a global audience.
It’s never been a more exciting time for small businesses and start-ups but, in today’s competitive environment, perfecting your marketing plan is just as important as having a great product. With all the options out there, it can appear overwhelming for first-time business founders. We’ve put together a few ideas you should be thinking about to get you started.
Know your customers
Even if you feel you instinctively know your audience, it pays to take some time to sit down and define your potential customer in detail. Think about their lifestyle so you can target your marketing to attract them. What activities do they engage in? Where do they go for dinner? Do they have children? How do they spend their free time? It’s also important to think about how they consume media. Are they active on social channels? Are they more likely to be reached by email? Perhaps they can’t be reached through digital methods at all, in which case you may need to adopt print media, broadcast ads, events, word of mouth and so on. You need to know your customers’ preferences and habits inside-out to market to them successfully.
When starting out, it can be great to get an established business on-board with you. It helps strengthen your brand to have a stamp of approval or recommendation from an already thriving business, so look around for businesses that you could collaborate with. This could be agreeing to set-up reciprocal links on your website, re-posting social media articles, collaborating on events or special promotions, or approaching local businesses. Think about your ideal customer and what other brands they would most identify with and use, and work towards fitting your own business into that landscape.
Pinpoint your key influencers
For most fields of activity there will be some major players and key influencers working within that space. Think about people with big Instagram followings, journalists, bloggers… anyone that has a voice of authority that you can get to talk about your business or product to their followers. It will boost your credibility instantly if you can get their endorsement. Consider sending sample products to an influential blogger in the industry, or inviting key influencers to your launch event.
Use social media
Most consumer-based businesses worth knowing not only have a website but they have also thought carefully about which social media platforms are best utilised to reach their customers. If you have decided that social media is appropriate for your business, it’s not enough to just sign-up to every social platform out there and start posting right away. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and LinkedIn can be incredibly effective marketing platforms, but only if your customer is using them too. If social media is right for your brand, there’s a whole world of exciting opportunities for you to engage your audience. Start by engaging with similar brands – see what they’re doing and how they have built their followings. This is also vital for reaching out to your key influencers.
To give yourself the best chance of success you’ll need to be known in your industry and amongst your target customers. This will help you to build relationships with key influencers, find new business partnerships and importantly, learn from others.
Whether it’s via social channels or face-to-face, there is power in a network, so work on building and utilising your own.