As a small businesses owner you might not think you really need a website. You are running your business face to face with your customers and expect that will always be the way you operate. And this may well be an accurate assumption.But what happens when one of your loyal customers is at their local shopping centre and realizes they need to contact your company? They are not at their home, so they don’t have access to a telephone directory or your business flyer stuck on their fridge.But they do have a smart phone.So they type your details into Google to get your phone number.What would your customer find if they did this today? If you don’t have a business website or any type of online presence, your customer will be finding your competitors! And if they are particularly desperate for your services they may call one of your competitors so they can quickly get what they need.This is not what you want to happen. You have invested time and money in building up your business, giving your customers the products or services they want and offering great customer service. It’s crazy to think that your loyal customers might end up shopping elsewhere just because they could not find you online.Think about the traditional places that you advertise. Perhaps you invest in mail outs to your local area. Mailbox drops or direct mail may be great options for you. You have the option of advertisements in your local newspaper and you probably have a listing in your local business phone directory such as the Yellow Pages.More than likely you advertise in these places for two reasons.The first is that you know they work. Advertising brings more business if it is done correctly. New customers mean more profit for your business as well as ensuring the ongoing viability of your company.The second reason for advertising in well-known places is that most of your competitors will be advertising there too. It’s not uncommon to receive mailbox flyers from competing companies on the same day. The telephone directory lists hundreds of businesses in the same industry and each of those pays for that advertising so they can stand out.Your competitors are most definitely advertising online and making sure they have their own websites. Whether your industry is landscaping, dentistry, cleaning or fitness training, your competitors know the benefits of their customers being able to find them online. More and more of your customers are spending increasing time online; it may seem odd to them that you don’t have a website.Don’t panic if you don’t know anything about starting or maintaining a website. There are teams like 99 Business FX to help you at every single step. We’ll partner with you to get you online with the minimum of fuss. And we’ll also make sure your new customers can find you online.Serving your customers well is the number one reason that your small business should have a website. When your customers search for you, you want them to be able to find you quickly and easily.
There are over 400 million people on Facebook. Chances are that many people you know have accounts there- and they may not be the people you suspect. Given the number of people on it, and the degree of interaction between people, it is attractive to use it in your marketing.Doing this well, however, isn’t as easy as it may seem. If you want to use Facebook to market your small business, but you’re not sure how, the tips below should help.Create and Promote a Fan PageAny small business which wants to set up a presence on Facebook should first create a Fan Page. A Fan Page is a specific section of Facebook which is dedicated to whatever you’d like (your business, in this case). Note that you should NOT create a second profile to promote your business. Having multiple profiles is frowned upon. A Page is free to set up and can be populated with whatever information you’d like.Once you have your Page, you need to promote it. There are a lot of ways you can do this, and most leverage traditional advertising. Let people know you are on Facebook in your normal print, radio and television ads. Also place the information somewhere visible on your website. People who like your business can’t check out your Page if they don’t even know it exists!Proper Facebook Page UseCreating a Page and populating it with your information is great, but it isn’t likely to help much in marketing. The people who visit your Page will usually already have at least a vague idea of what your business is about (after all, something made them decide to visit the page in the first place).To use your Fan Page for marketing, you need to give people a reason to get excited. Generally speaking, people who use social media actively are people who want to feel unique and be on the cutting edge of information. Play to this fact. Create content exclusively for your Page. Run Facebook-only contests and coupons. Release cutting-edge information about your business. If you make your Page a source of unique information users will embrace it.Using Facebook AdvertisementsOnce you have your Page set up you may also want to start using FB advertisements. These are a lot like Google AdWords. They are simple advertisements incorporated into FB which promote your business.The degree to which you use Facebook advertisements – and indeed, if you use them at all – depends on what your business is. Small local businesses will usually find the advertisements a poor platform. On the other hand, a small web-based business will get more use from them. In any case, you need to make sure your advertisement provides something instantly enticing. Anyone who views your ad will be making a split-second decision to click or not to click. They won’t click if the information on the ad is vague or boring.Also, make sure that you limit your ad budget. Every marketing campaign you embark on will ask you your daily budget. Keep this number low when starting out – perhaps a few dollars a day. If you don’t you may find your ad budget spinning out of control. Also, if you are a local business only, make sure that you specify that you only want your advertisements to appear for FB users in your area!Wrapping Facebook Advertising UpFacebook isn’t like normal advertising, and isn’t meant to replace it. It is a great way of marketing to repeat customers and can be used to help bring in customers who are first considering your business. If you make your FB page a unique and interesting place to be, and treat it as a supplement to your traditional advertising campaigns, you will find it an effective low-cost marketing tool.
Distributing Marketing MaterialThe Chicago-land area has several great areas to distribute marketing material. The La Salle and Union Train Stations are great places to hand out postcards, brochures, and flyers. The great thing about distributing marketing material in these areas is that you are guaranteed to get a broader audience. People that take the train downtown to work in Chicago come from all over the state of Illinois. If you want to reach a large broad audience, handing out information at these train stations is detrimental. Millennium Park and North Beach are also very popular relaxing spots where several people gather in one place. When the weather is warm, these are also great places to hand out marketing material. Remember, handing out free material at any of these locations is legal as long as you are not selling or soliciting any product or service.DO NOT flyer parking lots or place advertisements on vehicles. First of all, businesses may call the police and you can be fined. Second, if too many of your advertisements are thrown on the ground, you or your business may be cited for littering. Finally, it is hard to win someone over to visit your business or website if you upset them by invading their personal space.Lawn SignsLawn signs are a cost-effective way to advertise your business. They are very cheap and can gain lots of exposure if marketed the right way. For example, 18 inch by 24 inch lawn signs only cost around $3.00 each and come with a 10″ x 30″ stand. Placing ten different lawn signs with your business info at major intersections (with the permission of the city of Chicago, Cook County, or state of Illinois) is sure to bring traffic to your business. If you do not have the time or effort to contact these authorities, there are other ways to use lawn signs. One possibility is contacting businesses off major streets or intersections and asking them if you can place your sign on their property for a small price. Or, you can talk to neighbors that live on busy streets or near intersections and offer them money or even better, discounts on goods or services that your business offers.DO NOT place lawn signs on un-authorized property without permission. Best case scenario you will lose a $3.00 yard sign from someone who is paid to remove them. Worst case scenario, you may be fined up to $250.00 in Chicago, IL.Trade-ShowsThere are several different trade-shows occurring each month in the Chicago-land area. Some of the most popular trade-shows are Home and Garden Expos, Home Improvement Expos, Bridal Expos, Golf Expos, and Pet Expos. It is relatively cost- effective to become a vendor at many of these shows. Prices range from $800 – $1,000 for a 10 foot x 10 foot booth to $1,500 – $1,800 for a 10 foot x 20 foot booth. Most shows are two days (Friday and Saturday), although some shows are three-day events (Friday – Sunday). The prices for these booths are for the entire show, whether it be two days or three days. You should not expect to pay more than $1,000 for a 10 foot x 10 foot booth, unless you are at the McCormick Place. Trade-shows are by far the best place to find new clients. You are able to see your customers face to face and have the opportunity to catch their undivided attention, at least for a few minutes. If you cannot sell them you product or service on the spot, you still have a chance to gather their contact information. When all other resources are exhausted, be sure to speak to ever vendor at the trade-show. It’s best to speak to every vendor the first day of the show a couple hours before the show starts. Go around to each booth when they are setting up, introduce yourself and ask them for a business card or marketing material from their company. Go around to each vendor until you collected everyone’s information.
Even though they are business owners, remember we are all consumers as well.Vehicle WrapsChances are if you own a business, you own a vehicle. Wrapping a vehicle with your company logo or information can be one of the biggest bangs for your buck when it comes to cost per impression. Cost per impression is the price that you pay for each person to view your ad. A vehicle driven on a Chicago highway will be seen by well over thousands of vehicles or more depending upon the length of time and distance the vehicle is driven. If the cost of a vehicle wrap for a standard car is two thousand dollars, which means the cost per impression over the cost of a year are pennies or even fractions of a penny per impression. The best thing about a vehicle wrap is the one-time cost. Unlike other advertising methods, in most cases, the vehicle wrap will pay for itself in less than a year. After a year, it is free advertising except for the cost of insurance and gas.a Great Idea on How to Advertise and Help People at the Same TimeSome businesses have to pinch every penny to get started and that is completely understandable. Sometimes making sacrifices now can help your business later. There are many of people in the Chicago land area that could use extra clothing. It is very cheap to print your company logo with information on a t-shirt and donate them to Goodwill, a homeless shelter, or other local charitable fund. On a more extreme note, can you image if you donated heavy jackets with your company logo to people homeless and freezing? The news stations would probably be following you up and down the Chicago streets! Of course, you realize what that could do for your business! If it is truly from the heart and money permitting, this would be a great idea to implement.Look out for Chicago Small Business Marketing – Part II Intermediate