5 Small Business Marketing Strategies For 2021
The way we do business has changed quite a bit in the past year and shifting further online. But, we’ve been trending strongly that way for a long time.
Consumers are becoming savvier in how they shop and compare options, forcing local businesses to seek out new ways to attract and engage new shoppers, particularly through digital marketing and social media.
A bi-product of this massive shift to mostly online shopping is fatigue. Fatigue in the consumers we’re hoping to connect with as well ourselves trying to keep up the game with the intensity that we need to be effective day after day. During the pandemic, social media usage has jumped by 39%. People are seeing our content and ads and their eyes are glossing over, we need a way to cut through the noise and connect with the right people again.
Although we’re glued to screens more often with Zoom calls and phones, digital marketing has dropped when compared to 2019.
But, cutting marketing during the downtimes has been proven to be a big mistake. There are famous stories about big companies taking market share like a storm from the companies that tried to play it safe. So, with this dip in ad spend, this may be a great opportunity to recalibrate your digital marketing starting today.
As a business owner with so many options, you don’t want to spin your tires. It’s important to find a marketing strategy that fits your business goals and does as much of the heavy lifting as possible.
In this article, we’ll discuss 5 marketing ideas that small businesses should try in 2021. While these aren’t necessarily new and novel ideas, they’re here in context for you to refer back to and remind yourself where you can focus. Every business is different, so make the appropriate tweaks where needed so it matches your business.
Alrighty then, let’s do it.
1. Google My Business
Uh oh, here come the eye rolls, you’ve heard this before, right!? But, hear me out for a moment.
All the small businesses we come across leave their Google My Business alone in a damp closet growing mushrooms. Businesses just set it up and forget about it, assuming it’s a set and forget type of thing. But it’s not! Don’t do this.
Google My Business ranks your business based on relevance, distance, and prominence; in that order. Relevance, the top factor, is how well a business matches up to what people are searching for. Prominence is how you show up across the web, including reviews and positive ratings.
Like any good social media platform, GMB allows you to create posts, add photos, respond to people that leave you reviews, and more. When you stay up to date and at least somewhat active on GMB you’re adding the fuel to help your business in the form of relevant keywords that will show up when people keyword search for your type of business.
This is a great tactic. Google will give you better SEO rankings if you’re active because it’s a better experience for people using Google to see activity. Which Google loves as it keeps them using Google.
This is how you can connect the dots with Relevance + Prominence: if you have content on your website, including any articles or blog posts you’ve written, turn those into posts inside of GMB and link to your website! Check this out:
While I’m just beginning to explore this now for my business as part of the overall digital marketing strategy, GMB is one of those tools where the potential is huge for little effort, relatively speaking.
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are getting more and more difficult to stand out, and FB doesn’t give you much reach at all unless you pay for advertising. Google My Business is wide open for anyone to discover you, and barely anyone is taking advantage of it. All that text with Google Reviews is included in this. Total win. Do it!
2. Broad Local Digital Marketing
The algorithms and machines are taking over! Seriously, in our side by side tests with the same ads and comparing broad vs. a target audience, we routinely see better results leaving things broad and letting the machines do the work.
We here at Synchro hear all the time, “I’ve tried Facebook Ads, they’ve never worked for me so we don’t do them anymore.” Or something very similar, over and over.
People are complex, and we don’t understand them nearly as well as FB does. They have thousands of data points on each of us. (This should be a whole post) They can back into almost anything and find your customers by cross-referencing this data incredibly fast.
When you target people without fully understanding the nuances of your ideal customers, you’re actually excluding people that might be possible customers. And it’s going to be a lot more work, time, and money to get decent results.
Social media platforms use algorithms that are predictive at this point. They know who to place your ad in front of, the right time, the device, and more. If you go to work at the same time, or are usually asleep before 10 pm, they know. Scary, but very cool as well.
Start broad, check the results. Focus on your offer, your ad’s creative, the customer experience, the different touchpoints people have with your business. Think 80/20: How do you get most of your customer base? Why? Is it you? Your website? Your awesome reviews on Google or Yelp? Focus on the low-hanging fruit first, always.
This section is definitely heavy on talking about FB. But, think about other platforms that may suit your customer base better. LinkedIn for example has come a long way in just the past year with its algorithms to become a viable competitor in digital advertising in a lot of ways. You can drill down and target location, profession, demographics, all kinds of things. The cost to advertise on LinkedIn is generally more expensive, but it’s very active and growing quickly. It’s a great way to reach people for business-to-business products and services you may offer.
3. Host A Livestream
Yes, really. Host a live stream event and invite an expert in your field to get on with you. You can do this for free on Facebook and can have other people cohost with you!
The internet allows people for the most part remain anonymous and out of sight. This isn’t too good for business, especially for local business owners. You need your customers to know, like, and trust you. There’s no better way than getting your face out there dishing out some valuable information that your customers and potential customers dig.
Lay the groundwork ahead of time. Find out from your customers if they’d like to see an event with a certain hairstylist, retirement planner, yoga guru, or some kind of influencer in your niche. You name it. Try posting a poll with a few choices to get a sense of what people would like to see.
Quick Story: Years ago, I needed a band for a fundraiser I put together with a friend. I thought, “Hootie and the Blowfish would be nice.” I googled them, found their manager. I called the number I saw right then and there! Long story short, we didn’t get Hootie, but we did get Eve 6! So, you never know. Call! Just pick up the phone and dial!
Focus on providing value for the people who come to your event. DO NOT TRY AND SELL, unless you ask permission first during the event. Say something like, “Okay guys, I hope you’re getting a ton of value from our guest. Would it be okay with you if I jump in real quick and tell you about an offer we have just for the people on this live stream? If so, put a 222 in the chat……” (An actual quote from a series of live streams I attended recently!)
Asking permission and getting approval drops the “I’m being sold to” wall faster than Ronald Reagan. We all know that any event runs the risk of being sold something. People really appreciate it when you ask for the green light, just ask Russel Brunson who harps on this in many of his books.
While Facebook Live is great for reaching people that already know you and your business, you’ll need to way to reach new people outside of the people that you already know and are friends with on FB. The most effective way is to use Facebook Ads to promote your live stream event. In fact, Facebook has an ad campaign feature designed specifically for this purpose. It allows people to click, “Going” or “Interested” when they see your ad. All of this can be accomplished completely on Facebook. There’s no need to bring them to a separate website or landing page.
A big benefit of doing this is that once someone indicates, “Interested” of “Going” they’ll get a notification if you post a message or an update about your event for further engagement leading up to the event.
Here’s another benefit: At a later date, perhaps right after your event, you can target everyone who attended or indicated at least interest in your event with ads for whatever you’d like. Try reminding people about the event only specials you may have to offer.
To take this idea to the next level, especially if you can accommodate customers anywhere, is YouTube. YouTube, the world’s second-largest search engine, will give your live stream legs even after you’ve recorded it. YouTube’s users are looking for something to watch, they type in their search terms and the recording of your video comes up as a suggestion. It’s a much warmer potential customer compared to FB users where people typically discover your post or ad while scrolling through FB, not typing in search terms.
4. Form Strategic Partnerships
An often underutilized opportunity for businesses is strategic partnerships. A strategic partnership is when you form a business relationship with another business or service to elevate both of your businesses. I’m emphasizing “both” here because when it’s leaning too far to one side, the partnership quickly dissolves and both parties lose out.
When a strategic partnership is good for both parties, it naturally motivates each side because of the benefits where great things can happen. The benefit of a good partnership is a lot, including access to new, warmed-up potential customers, a new, better offering for your customers, a built-in sales system from the other business, and more. Strategic partnerships can be possible at any stage of your social media as well as your paid online marketing efforts.
You can really get creative with this approach when you think and spend the time to figure this out. Don’t jump at the obvious choices too quickly. Figure out what added service, product, or discount on your partner’s offerings would make your offer become a no-brainer for your potential client. Figuring this out ahead of time will enable you to do the proper research to match the right product or service to your offering to bring it to the next level, instead of the other way around; where you’re trying to fit a product or service into your business. Nailing this part is crucial.
Strategic partnerships can be exciting because it’s possible to create great value for people without the investment of doing it yourself or adding it to your own business directly.
Going further to some obvious points on strategic partnerships that are still important to mention: Negotiate the terms, always sign a contract that makes things clear even if you think the offer is more casual, seriously don’t drop the ball on this one. Keep up your end of the bargain, periodically review how things are going, and always find a way to test and improve upon your offerings.
5. Build Social Proof
Many business owners assume that having a great service or product is enough to win customer’s over. While this seems rational, people making a purchasing decision are in fact not rational. Studies have shown that people decide to purchase based on emotion and then justify their decision with logic.
According to science, 95% percent of our purchase decisions are emotional and subconscious. Then, our minds make up reasons to justify our decisions.
So, with this in mind, any effort on a great product or service without enough thought into figuring out how to appeal to your customer’s emotional sides is doing your business a big disservice. To get a jump on this for your business, there’s a shortcut.
That shortcut is social proof.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people copy what other people are doing. This occurs because people typically assume that other people must know better than themselves. In the face of overwhelming proof that you have a better product or service, people will most likely choose a less worthy competitor if they believe everyone else is using them. In their gut, there must be something about them that’s better.
Totally emotional, right?
The best way to use social proof in your business is through short, 1-2 minute customer stories, and testimonials. Whereby you have your happy customers on camera talking about their experience with your business. You can ask them questions like, “Describe your situation before you hired us.” “Talk about what happened when you tried our product.” Focus your questions to allow people watching this video to visualize themselves in the same situation your customer in the video is talking about.
These types of videos are effective with either high-end production like a case study and selfie-style where your customer records their own. There’s a great service we use here at Synchro that makes this process super easy called Videopeel.
Video testimonials and customer stories are the type of content marketing that works so well over and over for a few reasons. Primarily because it demonstrates that other people are using your product or service. It also removes someone’s “I’m being sold to” radar. It takes you and your company out of the picture for a moment to show what someone with your product or service actually experienced.
In our side-by-side tests running ads and social media posts for our clients, we see customer stories and testimonials regularly outperform our other content. Pound for pound, they’re an investment in time and effort because of how well customer stories perform. You can put them in all your social media marketing channels, homepage, landing page for a particular service/product, and at different stages strategically in your sales funnel. You can even use these in your email marketing by sending a relevant customer story to the right people you’d like to engage.
To get started quickly to see results, use your phone if have to, or have a few of your customers record one and send it your way. For a testimonial or customer submission, it’s great if it’s raw, in the moment, etc. It adds to the authenticity. With this approach, done is much better than perfect. You can always update, iterate, improve later.
When you’ve gathered a good number of customer videos, string them together with some music and run them on your social media channels once in a while for a boost in top-of-mind awareness.
These ideas I’ve laid out are not particularly revolutionary. They’re strategies I believe you should focus on that will give you the best time/money/effort ratio mix compared to other strategies. One thing that’s easy to do, with any strategy you set out to accomplish, is getting lost in the details and losing sight of the bigger picture. Don’t get analysis paralysis. Figure out and breakdown of the steps to get these done into bite-sized pieces you can make progress on consistently.
The potential for your business with a successful launch with any of these strategies is too big to ignore. Add these into your marketing efforts and don’t let these ideas and strategies find their way into a damp dark closet growing mushrooms. Good luck!