Marketing Matters in Business

No matter how small the size and scope of your business, marketing is essential. Keep in mind, it doesn’t mean you have to spend thousands of dollars for it to be effective. If you have a small budget, here are a few ideas to build awareness, earn interest, and attract customers. For blogging and social media, I recommend working with a marketing consultant or writer. Clear, concise messaging targeted to your customer base helps ensure success.

Let’s start with this: Where are the most likely places to find customers or clients? Be where they are – make it easy for them to find you and your business. Also, membership in credible organizations boosts your credibility in the eyes of potential customers. They are also excellent for obtaining (and giving) referrals.

Additional suggestions: Seek out referrals through friends and family.

Join business/community/neighborhood organizations like Local First of West Michigan, Eastown Business Association, or a Chamber of Commerce in your area.

Also consider an industry-specific organization such as Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, Michigan Midwives Association, or Michigan Restaurant Association.

Network! Exchange business cards. Follow up with new people you meet. Make the most of your memberships.

Get free publicity. Involve the media in your grand opening, remodel, move, or charity event. Or, sponsor a charity event and get employees and customers involved.

Create a website. Even if it is a simple who-what-where-when site, at least it is a home on the web that helps your business come up in a local search. Be sure your contact information is clearly listed. Including hours of operation is wise, too. Make it easy for potential customers and existing customers to find you!

Create an email newsletter. It’s a great opportunity to stay in touch with current customers – and gain new followers by including a subscription sign-up for website visitors. You can repurpose content from your blog, invite a business associate to contribute an article, link to relevant online resources. Be realistic on how often you can send an email to your subscriber list – start with quarterly. You can always increase it to monthly later.

Launch a blog for your business. This is a tricky one yet worth mentioning. When done well, it’s a fabulous way to build a loyal audience, establish credibility in your field, and increase sales.

Guest blog. You can always start by guest blogging for organizations or other businesses you are affiliated with locally. Be sure you can promote your own business somewhere within or at the close of the post.

Develop a social media plan that makes sense for your business – and your target audience. Then, implement it. Create a Facebook page, promote your business on Twitter, use LinkedIn to network and connect with potential clients. Also look into Pinterest and YouTube.

Don’t know where to start when it comes to creating a blog or developing a social media plan? Keep your eye out for future posts on these topics.

How Can People Be Your Secret Weapon In Marketing?

What you make is important. If you don’t make something customers want and need, you won’t be in business long.

How you make your product is important as well. Customers care where your materials come from and how you put your products together. 

These two statements should be self evident in today's business world. 

However, this next statement is not. 

After photographing businesses for 15 years, we believe the single most important piece to marketing your business is the people that are in it!

The team your company assembles is your first (and most important) customer.

In the end, they become the sales, marketing, PR and human resources person to their friends, family and anyone they meet who asks them, “What do you do for a living?”

And if they don't like coming to your business day in, day out, they're going to let everyone know. (You know you have this friend, just like I do…)

So while it's tempting to market your business by leading with “We make this…” or “This is how we make our products…” statements, have you considered this: it would be better to market your business by telling the stories of the people in your business. Tell your customers what they stand for and why they work for you.

Your best customers want to know two things: “Who are you?” and “Are you for me?”

This approach works and it's how we began our work for Local First's “Guide to Local Living”. It is a magazine to help those wanting to direct their spending toward locally owned businesses. 

The guide highlights businesses who stand out from the crowd. This year Local First chose three businesses, all in different industries: Hungerford NicholsFarmhaus Cider and Cento Anni.

Hungerford Nichols is an accounting firm that recently celebrated their 75th anniversary in Grand Rapids. Farmhaus Cider is a Hudsonville based cidery that began in 2015. Cento Anni is a custom woodworking and furniture business in Holland.

On the surface, none of these businesses compete in the same industry. One provides accounting services, another brews cider, another makes custom furniture.

But all three do have one thing in common: People. 

Armed with an overview article written by a professional writer about each business, I was tasked with supplying photographs for the feature articles and chose to focus on the people involved in each business. 

And this is our belief when it comes to marketing your business: it would be better to market your business by telling the stories of the people in your business. Tell your customers what they stand for and why they work for you.

Read more and get a sneak peak at the photo shoots!