We all have our favourite local diners, clothing boutiques, and private fitness centres. They wouldn’t be our favourites if it weren’t for the hard working owners of these small businesses. Although it’s challenging for the little guys to compete against large corporations, many small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) work around the clock to keep their loyal customers coming back for more.
As a small business owner, you have to take care of everything. That includes finances, human resources, merchandise, operations, strategy, and marketing. Overwhelming, right? Let’s not forget about the limited financial and human capacity that naturally stems from having a smaller team. Yup, that’s definitely a lot for anyone to handle, especially when you’re trying to grow your small business at the same time.
The 5 Best Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
This summer, Flixel connected with numerous SMBs around Toronto, Canada. We listened to the stories of all these ambitious business owners, identified what makes them grow and thrive, and curated the five best marketing tips for small businesses. Read on to learn from other fellow SMBs and see how you can create a presence that makes your business a “go-to”.
Tip #1: Get Featured on Social Media and Websites
If you’re an Instagrammer, odds are you’re aiming to have your perfectly composed gram featured on a bigger account. Although these big accounts can have thousands of followers, they have to be the right kind of followers. Your business’ brand should be well aligned with the feature page’s brand and niche market to maximize synergies. Let’s say you’re a #foodie and you post reviews of all the restaurants that you visit. It would make more sense to have larger food blogs putting a spotlight on your work rather than a photography feature account.
Not only do you gain the satisfaction of saying, “Wow, I got featured at XYZ” to your friends, but your account also gets incredible exposure. Businesses are also tapping into this strategy to drive new customers towards their social media accounts. However, certain feature accounts may require an advertising budget in exchange for shouting out your business. Although, if your business is compelling enough, some feature accounts can forgo the fees because they see a mutual benefit. By promoting your business pro-bono, the feature account may also see growth in their followership as your customers may be inclined to add them as well.
Plentea is a local Toronto tea bar located in West Queen West, Toronto. They were featured on local Toronto blogs such as Narcity Toronto and a Toronto Instagram Feature account called @streetsoftoronto, which directed over 12,000 Torontonians to Plentea’s Instagram page. Other businesses in Toronto including FUGO Desserts and iHalo Krunch were also found on local news blogs, leading to the long line ups outside their shops we see today.
Tip #2: Get Involved with Events and Charities
How many advertisements have you seen that’s related to companies raising tons of money for charities and societal causes? A lot, right? Many organizations make strides in supporting causes that are aligned with their internal culture as well as the values of their customers. Not only do you get that warm fuzzy feeling on the inside from helping others, but your business also develops a positive reputation.
Screenshot from http://www.theocourse.com/
Fit Factory Fitness, a gym in Toronto’s Entertainment District, organized a charity series called “The O-Course“, which involves charities such as the True Patriot Love Foundation and Rethink Breast Cancer. As a result, Fit Factory was featured in national news channels and articles for their work in the community, spreading the word to potential new customers. Find causes that you and your business truly believe in. Otherwise, you risk having your potential customers say, “You’re just doing it for the PR.”
Tip #3: Get Local With Your Marketing
Apart from getting involved with the community, it’s also important to focus on the locals. This idea extends from your face-to-face interactions all the way to what you share on social media, and who you’re targeting with your ads. People who are within walking distance to your business can become regulars simply because of the convenience. However, if you know that your customers love the product, service, and the overall experience that you offer, you should get to know their names because you’ll likely see them again. Once you build a solid foundation within your neighborhood, your clientele and revenue becomes more stable, allowing you to focus on expanding and enticing people who are further away to visit your shop.
Queen Street Laundry is a laundromat with 40 years of history. Located in the heart of the West Queen West district of Toronto, Ash and his team is one to build deep relationships with their local community. After spending an hour or two hearing his story, Ash would always take the time to strike a conversation with his customers. It’s safe to say that his relationship building skills are one of the reasons why they’ve been running for over 40 years. Although most of their returning customers are within walking distance, many of them return because of the positive atmosphere that Ash provides. With more than five competing laundromats in the district, it’s clear that top notch customer service can become your competitive advantage, ultimately leading to a longer list of repeat customers.
Tip #4: Create Consistent Content for Your Instagram and Social Media
When a customer visits your Instagram page, the first thing they see is your photo grid. The popular Instagrammers say that the first impression of the photo grid largely influences their desire to engage and follow. If you search “Top Tips to Grow your Instagram” on Google, you’ll notice many blogs explaining the importance of your Instagram layout, which can be managed by using apps such as UNUM and The Preview App. Having a consistent theme that showcases your brand image can satisfy people’s subconscious need to see visually attractive things. Wait, aesthetic needs are a thing? Yes, search up Maslow Hierarchy of Needs.
Screenshot from http://www.widowtattoo.com/video
Black Widow Tattoo is branded as a high-end professional tattoo shop in Toronto. They achieve this by taking the time to create both photo and video content at a professional calibre. They use consistent colour grading techniques and create certain shots that reflect the business and their brand.
Jackson, the shop manager, explains that many of their customers separate Black Widow Tattoo from other tattoo shops for their creative visuals on their website. Many of their current clients visited the shop for this reason! Similar to how people freshen up for their first date, businesses should also clean up their social media pages because first impressions matter.
Tip #5: Create Unique Video Content
Ever since the rise of daily vlogging on YouTube, many creatives and marketers began to adopt videos for their social media content. Although photographs can be absolutely stunning to the eye, videos have more flexibility when it comes to storytelling and can also capture more attention if executed right. With the help of Boomerang, Instagram and Snapchat stories, and slow-motion videos, small businesses are able to better engage with their audience.
Sure, creating awesome videos for your personal or business account is great, but if everyone’s doing it, what makes you stand out? Similar to how videos took the spotlight from photos, cinemagraphs are the next big thing.
Cinemagraphs are becoming increasingly common among businesses both large and small. That’s because they simply capture more eyes and attention, and drive better results. SMBs are realizing how powerful of a tool Cinemagraph Pro can be. As a small business, owners may not have the resources (time, financial, knowledge) to make compelling content on a regular basis. With Flixel Cinemagraph Pro for iOS, all they need is an iPhone, tripod, and a basic understanding of photography and videography—all of which is covered through Flixel tutorials.
To all the ambitious entrepreneurs working endlessly, don’t stop hustling. Take these best marketing tips for small businesses as a grain of salt, and see which best works for yours. If you have any tips for small business owners, feel free to drop a comment below!