I know, I know. Despite best intentions, that morning exercise routine hasn't really materialised, unless you count shaving that three-day growth as exercise. And holiday traffic put an end to the be-nicer resolution. And, well, let's be honest: the eat less, drink less promise was dead before the first champagne cork hit the floor.
Don't give up. Resolutions are made to be broken; but they're also made to be kept. The whole point of promises we make to ourselves is that in some way we will be better off: happier, healthier, wealthier.
Running a small business is the same. As small business owners, we often have plans in the back our our head that never really play out because something else — like day-to-day running of the business — often gets in the way and competes for (and wins) our attention.
But that shouldn't mean we cast off those plans altogether. Now is as good a time as any to refocus on where you want your business to go in 2014, and how you're going to get there.
Here are ten marketing ideas to pursue in 2014 to get your business focused and firing on all cylinders.
If your business doesn't have a website, get one.
Obviously there's a bit of self-interest in our saying that (we want your business), but the results are in and the decision unanimous: a website is critical to business success.
Think about it: a website brings prospects to you rather than you having to search them out; a website connects with existing customers to keep in touch and encourage return business; a website is open 24 hours a day, working for you while you sleep; a website builds your brand presence and establishes your credentials, credibility and integrity.
Even better, if you're a small business or a micro-business, then chances are your competitors do not have a website, which is a golden opportunity for you to take an online lead. (See this article for more information.)
If you already have a website, think about a facelift. You work too hard for prospects and customers to have them turn away from your site because it looks stale.
Depending on your business, a website is no longer enough: you need a social presence, too.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram. Google is increasingly taking note of your social activity in determining how your website gets ranked in its search results, so getting "Liked" by customers, prospects and other businesses is an increasingly important marketing function.
Don't make the mistake of spreading yourself too thin. We've seen a lot of businesses try to manage as many social profiles as possible in the belief that more is better. It doesn't work. All you end up with is a dozen very sparse social profiles with very little content on each one. Better to pick which social media channel you think best suits you and endeavour to post regularly. Remember: Google looks for depth and quality of content, not just quantity.
Blog a bit.
This list isn't in any particular order, but if I were to rank each entry's importance, then this would be my Number 1.
Blogging is probably the best, easiest and most cost-effective way to add content to your website on a consistent basis. And if you're adding quality content consistently, then your Google ranking will improve. Your web traffic will improve, and that traffic will contain more warm prospects. Your relations with your existing customers will improve. The perception or your business among your peers will improve.
It's a simple strategy, and it's within reach of most businesses.
Listen to your customers' questions and build a blogging schedule around those FAQs. Blog about new services you are offering, or about services you offer that don't get the attention they deserve. Blog about new products. Blog about sales or special deals. Blog about industry news. Whatever it is, blog often. About once a week should be your aim, but don't blog just for the sake of blogging: better to blog less frequently and have outstanding content than to force the issue for the sake of regularity and your content to be just so-so.
Not convinced? Bear in mind that one new page of content — that is, one new blog article — receives an average of 55 new website visitors each month. Think about that as opposed to paying for that same traffic via Google AdWords.
As of February 2013, there were 6.8 billion mobile subscribers on planet Earth. That's 97% of Earth's entire population. The world has never been so connected.
Australia has the highest penetration rate and fastest take-up rate of mobile technology in the world. There's an entire generation that has skipped PCs and laptops and rely solely on mobiles phones and tablets.
I want a piece of that market. Don't you?
If you are thinking about a website in 2014, make sure it's mobile-friendly (sometimes called "responsive", though the two terms are not necessarily synonymous). If you already have a website, check how it looks on your own phone or tablet; if it's clunky, it's time to start thinking about a revamp.
Websites aren't the only players in the mobile world. If you really want to buy some interest or loyalty, think about how an App or eBook might help your customers and better your brand.
2014 will be the Year of the Local; even global businesses will have to focus their products, services and marketing on local implementation and results.
According to studies conducted by Google, nearly all consumers use the web to search for local businesses. Overall, 20 percent of Web searches seek out local products and services, and that number jumps to 40 percent for searches using mobile devices.
Further, Google's "Hummingbird" update to their search algorithm is all about determining the intent of a user's Google search and returning local results when appropriate. There's no point connecting a Coffs resident's search for takeaway pizza to a pizza shop in Ohio, right? So if your business and products or services are not correctly positioned as "local", Google won't point users to your business. (See our article for further information on Google's 2013 updates.)
Don't be shy: the key to branding strategy is getting it out there. And making sure people know that it's out there.
If you saw our article this month in Focus magazine, you'll know that, especially on a local level, branding is all about being seen and making memorable connections with people and the community. Put simply, people can't recommend you if they don't remember your name. You want your business to be that lightbulb moment in people's heads when someone asks, "Do you know a builder/florist/chimp trainer/web designer?"
Mass media campaigns such as TV, radio and newspaper advertising are probably out of the reach of most small business budgets, but you can get great results, indeed, sometimes better results, from signage, mobile advertising and vehicle livery. A-frames, banners, wind flags, letterbox leaflets, branded widgets, vehicle graphics and location advertising such as bus stops, all combine to build an image in people's minds that puts your business ahead of the pack in your given field.
Most of the branding suggestions above don't cost too much, and can be used over and over again. It's great value, and it works.
Humanise your brand.
Talk like a human to be heard by humans.
Wanna know one of the bigger business duds of recent years? The automated billing "reminder service" by Telstra. People hate it — hate it — and hang up on it before it can spit out its reminder. Which means, of course, that it's largely useless.
Humans like to deal with humans.The point of humanising is to show the human side of your company, to give your brand a personality — the honest, sometimes imperfect, transparent side in order to better relate to your customers. Owning up to mistakes and acknowledging issues is better for your business in the long-run than acting indifferent or indignant.
Humanising your brand can be as simple as creating great content that's helpful and useful to your audience, posting company photos and updates that show off your staff and day-to-day company goings on, and responding to any comments about your company or products by customers as soon as possible. The more you can engage your customers on a personal level, the better they'll respond to your products and services.
Try something new.
Evaluate your current marketing or promotions strategy and channels and be honest with what needs changing.
It's too easy for businesses, especially small business, to take the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it attitude to marketing and promotions. Truth is, opportunities for marketing to your audience better are evolving too quickly to think last year's marketing collateral is good enough for this year.
There are, of course, tried, tested and true strategies that work as well today as they did 10 years ago. But let 2014 be the year when you try some different techniques to gain market share.
Forget the urgent. Focus on the important. Think about it. 'Nuff said.
Yeah, yeah, I know, that hippie-karma rubbish has no place in business. Right?
Wrong. For a lot of small businesses, the proprietor and his or her team is the brand. Sure, sure, you have products or services that are also part of your business brand, but how you greet and relate to and communicate with your customers and prospects is as integral a part of your brand as any other marketing activities you undertake.
Smile, be courteous, be nice, and you're on your way to have a small army of brand evangelists all spruiking on your behalf.
2014 can hold all sorts of possibilities for your business. Call saso.creative to ensure some of those resolutions make it to 2015.
Good marketing is never old
I’ve just revisited this article, noting that I first wrote it in 2014. Not so surprisingly, all of these tips are still relevant.
Sure, some of the statistics may be a little out-of-date, and it’s more than likely that, for instance, more of your competitors have websites than they did in 2014 (see point 1, above), but for the most part it’s till good advice and implementing all or some of these tips should be on your marketing plan to-do list.
Too hard? Time poor? Give saso.creative a call on (02) 6658 7666 to talk (it’s free) about the possibilities and opportunities.