Though 2011 may not have been ideal for small business owners, 2012 offers the promise of a better business year. And just as the New Year is a time to work on improving your personal life, you should also work on improving your small business, particularly your marketing efforts.
Marketing is one aspect of your small business that you can control, even in a down economy, and is one of the most important foundations of any successful business. In fact, 73% of small business owners surveyed by Intuit said marketing and/or advertising was the most important element that would contribute to their business growth in 2012. Adopt these small business marketing New Year’s resolutions to make 2012 a successful year.
1) Give Your Website a Makeover
The online world is constantly evolving, and it’s up to you to make sure your business keeps up with the times. Your website is often a customer’s first impression of you, so make sure it’s well-maintained. Is your company info updated? Is your site easy to navigate? Update content, including blogs, photos, or recent events recaps, to beef up your site. And make sure it’s search engine optimized, and that you’re always following best practices (for example, don’t use Flash for design, which prevents customers from copy/pasting info). Check out the Small Business Association’s tips for keeping your website updated and relevant.
2) Try New Things
One advantage of being a smaller operation is that you can perform your own market research fairly easily and efficiently. Use the New Year to mix it up and experiment with your marketing efforts. If you’re on Facebook but intimidated by Twitter, create an account, familiarize yourself with the site, and read up on how it can benefit you. If you send an annual New Year discount to your newsletter subscribers, create two versions using different text/visual representation and track which version received a better response. Utilize tools like Google Analytics, which help you monitor your online marketing efforts to gauge the success of all your campaigns. It doesn’t require a lot to step outside your marketing comfort zone, and the results will likely be invaluable.
3) Meet New People
Social media is all the rage, and you should be active on those platforms, but work on making more real-life connections. Cultivate a relationship with a local reporter to get press for your business, visit industry conferences, network with industry thought-leaders (even better if you can start to position yourself as one), read up on industry blogs, and reach out to your extended network. Not only will this help strengthen personal connections that are vital to small businesses, you can learn much from colleagues and mentors who can help you in the future.
4) Make Yourself Mobile
Just as your website should be updated and refreshed, it should also be mobile-compatible. As more and more commerce and Web activity happens on mobile phones, your business must be on the forefront. Keep this growing trend in mind as you devise campaigns for the coming year and make sure emails and special offers are viewable on mobile devices. You should also explore services like AppStack, which can help connect you to your customers via mobile apps.
5) Lose Pay-Per-Click Weight
Many small business owners aren’t necessarily ad experts, but too many tend to be, well, ad idiots. Small businesses usually rely on online searches to lure customers, but using the “spray and pray” method in pay-per-click ads doesn’t get you what you need. To get quality customers and real ROI, you need specific, targeted ads. Re-evaluate your ad spending, and look for ways to trim. As small business and educational consultant Anthony Green points out, simple techniques, such as adding negative keywords that prevent your add from showing up in undesirable searches, will save you money and help you hone your campaigns.
Have you made any New Year’s resolutions for your small business? Tell us about them in the comments below.