We’ve all read success stories about people starting online retail businesses during lockdown, but that’s not to say this is a new trend – although Covid has been a catalyst for side hustles, new ecommerce businesses and companies that make their money by selling products and services on the web.
Given you’re reading this article, you might be a small business owner yourself – or maybe you’ve got the next big idea and you’re wondering how to promote your small business online. Either way, kudos to you – starting and running your own business is a liberating experience and one that offers endless opportunities. Most people never look back.
As you’ve probably worked out, marketing your retail business is crucial to its success. It could prove to be the difference between thriving, surviving and even failing. So how do you go about promoting a small business, attracting customers and, in simple terms, getting your name out there to win customers?
Hone your email marketing
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to promote a small business. Most businesses distribute newsletters and carefully thought out email campaigns to contacts in their database, which is a list of customers and leads they have acquired over time.
One word of advice, though. Think of engaging ways to captivate your audience and build loyalty. Bombarding people with aggressive sales messages isn’t likely to impress – and in many cases, people will just unsubscribe and switch off. Instead, look to offer them advice, expert insight and information which highlight the importance and value of your services. It may be a slow burner, but in the long run a lot more effective.
Over time, you should measure your results – by this we mean the success of your email marketing. Mailchimp and Intercom are both marketing platforms which give you great insight into the performance and effectiveness of your email campaigns.
Embrace social media
Like it or loathe it, social media is important to small businesses. One viral post and your products could be flying off the (virtual) shelves. One misstep or ill-thought statement and your reputation could be tarnished forever. So needless to say, knowing how to navigate the world of social media as a small business owner is vital.
But how do you promote your business on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn? Many businesses post a combination of organic (free) and promoted (paid for) posts. This approach is designed to attract new audiences through targeted paid advertising while also keeping your existing followers and customers engaged with organic posts (free). Supporting one with the other can be used to great effect.
Just like email marketing, think bigger than sales messages only. Get inside the mind of your audience. What interests them, makes them tick, click and want to find out more? The better you become at encouraging people to act, the more effective your marketing will be.
Win trust with customer views
Everyone buys on trust. If a company has a bad reputation and unhappy customers, the chances are people won’t spend their money with them. This means building trust is key in convincing customers to purchase your products.
But how to get customer testimonials? First, make sure you provide exceptional customer service. Second, ask or encourage your customers to give you feedback and start building an online trust score. Do this via Trustpilot, Feefo or any other reputable customer review site.
One more thing – while you should certainly ask kindly for customers to leave a review, don’t buy their loyalty by offering discounts or freebies in exchange. This is the wrong approach and in some industries it’s even illegal.
Sort your SEO strategy
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is another marketing technique to focus on, as a way of winning website traffic. In short, SEO is the process of making your website more visible in search engine results. It’s so that when a customer Googles the service or product you sell, your website appears higher up results.
You might have heard about keywords, which form an important part of SEO. This is about including relevant search terms and key phrases in your website content. Let’s say you sell socks. Your website content could include ‘socks’, relevant phrases like ‘the best socks’ and more specific terms like ‘woolly socks’.
It’s important that keywords are incorporated subtly, though – you don’t want to pepper content with them. Doing this can actually damage your SEO score. To find out what your potential customers are searching for, check out Google Trends.
It’s often overlooked, but keywords are just one aspect of SEO. User experience, imagery, site speed and functionality should all be factored in. As you might expect, there is plenty of help out there when it comes to SEO – other than hiring an expert, Moz Pro and Semrush are popular tools to help you optimise your website.
As a parting thought, promoting your small business online doesn’t need to be daunting, boring and stressful. So whether it’s email marketing, social media, customer reviews or SEO, get creative, be adventurous and start implementing some – if not all – of the above. Once you’ve found your sweet spot, it’s likely to pay dividends.