Small town business owners are the best, which is why I intentionally focus my efforts on providing support to them. However, we all have a tendency to make the same mistakes when it comes to marketing our businesses. Don’t get me wrong, we do a lot of things right, but when it comes down to marketing, things can get complicated really quickly. Why? We have fewer resources. We have less time. Heck, we might be the only person on the payroll, making us the people greeter, receptionist, secretary, accountant, staff attorney, stocker, material handler, packager, graphic designer, YOU NAME IT-we have probably done it. Somebody from the outside might ask, “but why do you do this to yourself, I mean, there isn’t much money in _______ anyway?” Enter steam from the inner-most working of my eardrums. Why do we do it? Because we love it. Because we are red blooded Americans that thrive in the chaos of making our own way while doing what we love. I digress. As I step off my small soap box, I bring us back to the point: we might be good at a lot of things, but marketing ourselves is repeatedly at the bottom of our list. If you find yourself making one (or more) of the mistakes below, rest assured, you aren’t alone.
Here are a few of the most common marketing mistakes small town businesses make:
- You are absent from the online world.
Let’s face it, this is an era where if it doesn’t exist on “the google” it didn’t happen. Period. This can be a really touchy subject for small business owners- especially those that have been in business for a very long time. In recent years, developing an online presence has become surprisingly simple- a stark contrast from many years ago when it was just easier to use word of mouth. Don’t get me wrong, word of mouth is vital to the success of your business, but when it comes to online presence, you can’t skip out. With programs such as wordpress.com or other template-based web software, you can easily put together a very affordable website for your business. Other ways of getting involved in the online world include setting up a business facebook page, google + account, twitter or even a page on LinkedIn. But word to the wise: pick a couple of platforms and use them well. If you get too spread out over social media, you can’t really get the impact you might think you would. Focus your energy on 2-3 platforms at most, and do them well. It is better to have one very active social media page vs. 5 social media sites you might only have time to update once every six months (or never again after their initial set up).
2. You try to create your advertising materials and signage by yourself.
Okay, admit it, you have tried this. It’s okay, because like we established above, small business owners are a part of a major can-do network of people that can micromanage their own self into an oblivion. It’s understandable with the cost of graphics work why you’d want to try to make your own flyers or billboard. But I am begging you, please do not skip out on this kind of service. If you are able to find a good graphic designer that can really wrap their head around your business, you will be able to create a whole new perception of your company. Another benefit of enlisting a professional in this area is the cost savings when it comes to printing. If you are dealing with a seasoned professional designer, they already know which printers have the best quality and the best price for their clients. But be cautious my friends- not all graphic designers are created equal. Make sure you see someone’s work before you hire them to do your project. If their past projects don’t look like a fit, then their project for you won’t be either.
3. You don’t actually do any marketing or advertising.
It’s a common sight in small town USA. Your business is booming, you are profitable and you’re happy with your current clientele. As a result, you don’t think you need to do anything to promote your business. Unfortunately, you couldn’t be more wrong. Marketing is really focusing on future business- not just what you are experiencing in the moment. If you want to keep your current customers as well as attain new customers, you absolutely must inject yourself into the advertising world. When a customer stops coming, another two (or more) should start. It’s the circle of life, eh, marketing. Don’t let corporate businesses be the only advertising that the people of your community see- get yourself in there so you can continue to be successful into the future.
4. You aren’t keeping track of your marketing efforts.
Marketing is not valuable if you can’t measure the success (or failures) of your efforts. While it can be challenging keeping track of statistics and staying organized, this is absolutely key to having successful marketing campaigns. Figure out what is sending customers your way. Have a survey, or just simply ask your customers at the register where they heard about you. If all else fails, social media (as well as some website platforms) have analytics built in. You can see how every post, every photo, and every sale impacts your business. With this vital information, you can better shape your business to your community’s needs.
5. You are procrastinating.
You’ve gotten this far, so you must identify with this post somehow. Whether you have spent this article nodding and chuckling to yourself (because you already learned it the hard way), or you are sitting here thinking about how you can make some changes in your business’s marketing strategy, remember that timing is everything. It is hard to take the first step and make a change. It does take some extra time and effort to really promote your business well. It is easy to get overwhelmed, so seek out a professional in your area and start talking about small steps you can take to make a positive impact on your business.