We have all heard how important small businesses are to the American economy. The following details are from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
- Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
- Employ half of all private sector employees.
- Pay 44 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
- Generated 65 percent of net new jobs over the past 17 years.
- Create more than half of the nonfarm private GDP.
- Hire 43 percent of high tech workers ( scientists, engineers, computer programmers, and others).
- Are 52 percent home-based and 2 percent franchises.
- Made up 97.5 percent of all identified exporters and produced 31 percent of export value in FY 2008.
- Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau and Intl. Trade Admin.; Advocacy-funded research by Kathryn Kobe, 2007 (www.sba.gov/advo/research/rs299.pdf) and CHI Research, 2003 (www.sba.gov/advo/research/rs225.pdf);U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Unfortunately, the poor economy has had a major impact on small businesses. According to an article in the Huffington Post dated July 26, 2012…
“The economic downturn crushed the dreams of thousands of entrepreneurs.
More than 170,000 small businesses in the U.S. closed between 2008 and 2010, according to analysis by the Business Journals of U.S. Census Bureau data.
There were 6.79 million small businesses in the U.S. in 2010, down from 6.96 million in 2008, according to the Business Journals. 2010 is the most recent year for which official data has become available. You can find out how many small businesses shut down in your area between 2009 and 2010 in the Business Journals’ database here.
Entrepreneurship plunged during the recession. The number of self-employed Americans fell 4 percent to 9.8 million between November 2007 and June 2009, according to U.S. Census Bureau data cited by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Twelve percent more businesses shut down in 2009 than in 2007.
Many who were laid off during the recession started small businesses because they had no other choice. Eighteen percent of entrepreneurs that launched their own business in the last 12 months have done so after losing their jobs, which is double the rate before the recession, according to a recent poll by WaveAccounting.
But many of these small businesses are not exactly thriving. Nearly four in five businesses have no employees at all, and they make an average $45,000 per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, the share of new startups that employ workers continues to fall, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.”
Saving money and managing your own marketing can help to keep you a going concern. Let’s stimulate the economy! If you own a small to medium sized business you probably cannot afford top notch help and Madison Avenue style advertising consulting. However, there are a variety of options to help you raise awareness for your business and to bring in sales.
Fundamentally, you should leverage guerrilla marketing tactics and social media. You can save money and manage your own campaigns. However, it is time intensive and there is a learning curve. Setting up the foundation from which to launch your campaign is essential as is planning. A little extra effort up front goes a long way towards gaining you extra sales later.
I know that what you really want are the free marketing tools and services first so I listed them below. For the biggest impact though you should read the rest of the article and learn basic campaign management.
Free Marketing Tips
1. Use Craig’s List
Craig’s List does not charge for general posts and you can post anything that you want. If you are a musician use a simple title like Hot New Artist and then type a brief promotional sentence and type the link to your online sound track. ← of course if you want sales be sure to have a merchant account setup so that listeners can buy online
Restaurants can place a link to a coupon or say mention this add and get 20% off this weekend. Make sure that the title of your ad is catchy and don’t use the word FREE, it is a huge turn off for most people.
2. Free Business Cards
VistaPrint offers free and discount business cards, you only pay for the shipping. They also offer a variety of marketing services, and promotional gifts. Go to their website or Google free business cards. http://www.vistaprint.com
3. Free Website
Use Wix to publish a free website. You will have to put the time into adding content and photos but you don’t have to pay a cent. The websites are attractive and free is free after all. Wix.com
4. Free Logos
Need a logo for your new business and don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars? Never fear, there is even a website for that. Free Logos – Click here
If the link above does not work simply type free logo into Google and click on the top link.
5. Free Software
Almost all of the computer software that you use has an available free version. Unfortunately, if you type fee software into Google you never find what you need and all of the links are to cripplware or to a 3 day free trial that leads to a paid account.
Never fear! Instead of typing free type open source. There are still too many results to handle so you will have to specify the type of software.
For instance, if you want a free version of Word type open source word processor into Google. Be sure to read the reviews carefully, some of the open source software is great and some not so much.
6. Free Advertising
Find some Twitter accounts, online groups or blogs that are interested or relevant to your industry and simply start posting. Giving advice to people in those forums gives you credibility and every member or follower can see your name and the comments, etc. Remember that over 30% of those online don’t actively participate. Many people simply watch and listen while online. Be sure to leave your telephone number or website address after every post so that the non-participants can contact you easily.
7. Free Conference Calls
Yes, now you can even conference call for free using your phone. We all know about Skype but not everyone uses it. Try http://www.freeconferencecall.com.
I hope that those free services are helpful to you. Now, back to managing your own campaign. It is one thing to save a little money on things like logos and websites but it is another entirely to manage a marketing campaign for yourself.
Having a website is like having a nice painting in your living room. If you don’t invite people over to see the painting then no one will know that it is there. It is time for you to start inviting guests over to see your painting (business or service).
8. Manta – Small Business Listings
According to Manta they are the fastest growing business community on the Internet. 3,000 businesses join every day. Signing up is free and actually helps your search rankings in Google. http://www.manta.com
9. Boostability.com – Free Search Engine Submission
Submit your website to the top search engines for free and get a free report on your rankings, etc. http://www.boostability.com
10. Free Press Releases.
PRLog.org offers free press release service. You can upgrade for extra services, no ads and additional outreach. PRLog is easy to use and includes traffic stats in the free version.
Managing Your Own Marketing Campaigns
Ask yourself the following questions.
1. What are the goals of my campaign?
We all want increased sales but I also include Awareness as a campaign goal and to generate a buzz for the organization. The more people who know about our business or service the more customers you are likely to get. Generating a buzz about your products and services means to get people excited about them. Excited customers tend to share their experience and excitement and produce natural viral marketing. In a nutshell your business sells itself.
2. Who is your target market? If you own a local restaurant then your targets are the residents of your neighborhood and perhaps surrounding neighborhoods.
2. What are the best methods to reach them? Does stuffing mail boxes work, or do you have enough and visible street signage? Word of mouth works great for restaurants but if you are new how do you reach your potential clients? Will social media work?
3. Once you have determined who the target is and how to reach them the next step is to determine the plan. Remember that marketing and advertising need to be managed constantly to be effective. Think about some of the best known brands out there and how much they advertise. The most obvious organizations that pop into my mind are Progressive Insurance and Flo, McDonalds, Macy’s, and Victoria’s Secret. Many woman have Pink coupons popping out of their purses.
If you are a new location, business or website have a promotional launch event which will bring you headlines, get you awareness, and hopefully an initial crowd as well. After that you need a plan. For food companies like cup cake shops and restaurants you need daily and weekly specials to keep customers coming back. Brick and mortar and online stores offer discounts and coupons on a regular basis. Are you doing that and if so are you only reaching existing customers or are you also trying to connect with new clients?
Marketing Campaign Effectiveness Measurement
10 ago years many companies tried to make every possible measurement to determine how effective their outreach and campaigns were. Remember the days of data analysts and spread sheets? I have a much more practical approach. Did your campaign bring you sales, if so how, and how many? If the increase in sales was not significant then either change the method or drop it completely. Stick to what works.
This article was written by Richard Lewis. Richard attended James Madison University and is the President of Augur Marketing which is based in Washington, DC. Augur specializes in marketing campaign management and also offers website development, search optimization (SEO), video production, and social media campaigns.