We live in a hyper-competitive market where the dog-eat-dog adage is an understatement. Small businesses, especially startups, have a challenge on their hands – the ability to actually reach their target audience amidst the stiff competition from larger companies (Enterprise) with their larger budgets.
The fact that the Internet provides every Tom, Dick, and Harry with entrepreneurial ambitions the opportunity to realize their dreams add to the noise, not to mention the competition, which small business owners have to overcome in order to get their target audience’s attention.
But don’t resign yourself to being relegated to the sidelines or, worse, to the back burner just because you don’t have the resources that will make Sony, Google and Apple make a run for their money! You cannot compete using traditional marketing, but you can still achieve big things, marketing-wise, and make a big impact on your audience even with a modest budget. You will even be surprised that affordable digital marketing ideas can actually give the best value for your money!
Below are a few growth hacking (or growth marketing) tactics that will guide you to get high conversion rates and new users. The term “growth hacking” was coined by Sean Ellis, founder, and CEO of GrowthHackers, in 2010. The goal of growth hacking strategies is generally to acquire as many users or customers as possible while spending as little as possible.
1. Update Your Website
Every small business that wants to reach out to both the physical and virtual target markets should have a website or a landing page (homepage). In the Internet Age, the absence of a website can mean suicide!
But don’t just have a website either. You must work well to ensure that your website shows up on the first page of the results on a search engine, preferably at the top since studies have shown that Netizens will most likely click on the first sites they see (follow these SEO strategies). This is true whether you’re offering products or services, not to mention that your offerings should be among the top results for local businesses.
A few crucial yet basic aspects of an effective business website are:
- The business information should be clear so that readers will not have doubts about the nature of your business.
- The business location, hours and contact information should be easily accessible.
- The business products and/or services should have descriptions, preferably in-depth ones so customers can make decisions based on the information.
You should ideally also include customer testimonials as well as a blog where useful information about the products/services, business updates, and promos are provided.
You must also put yourself in the customers’ shoes. When you look at your website, you have to ask questions like, “Do I find the design and layout attractive? Do I find the information I want easy to find and access? Do I find myself being persuaded to buy the products and/or patronize the services?”
Your affirmative answers mean that your customers will probably think in the same way, too. If you’re finding that you’re answering in the negative, then it’s time to polish your website.
The bottom line: Your business website is the face of your business and it’s the first impression your customers will have. It makes sense to ensure that it’s the best you can offer for your customer base.
2. Publish High-Quality Content
When it comes to lead generation and audience connections (effective growth), content marketing is among the best growth tactic there is! Think about it: Content marketing offers a win-win solution for everybody. So, make sure you include this tactic to your marketing campaigns.
Your customers have access to relevant and reliable information that can be used in their buying decision. You, the business owner, can position yourself as the experienced expert that provides said information. You will not only be the go-to resource for consumers in your niche but, more importantly, you have more opportunities to sell your products and/or services.
When it’s done right, content marketing works because it builds and strengthens trust between your startup and the consumers. Keep in mind that trust is a valuable commodity that, once you have established it, becomes a great tool in customer relations.
For this reason, it’s crucial to provide your target audience with high-quality content! The Skyscraper Technique is the best way to do it and here are its basics.
- Conduct a Google search to determine the high-ranking content and keywords in your niche. When you have the information, you can make similar content but with a difference – take it to a new level. Provide more in-depth information, create more useful tips, and make it more understandable – your goal here is to make your content better than the competitors’ content so your target readers will find it more attractive.
- Link your content to authoritative websites, preferably the ones that already linked the original content, and tell them that your content is better. Yes, it takes hard work but when these authoritative websites agree that, indeed, your content’s better, your website will be pushed up the rankings.
- Recycle and repurpose your content. You will then get more mileage, so to speak, from your existing content. Just make sure that you’re giving tidbits of new information so that readers will not become bored with it. A few ideas include updating the data with recent research or statistics; sharing the recycled content as an updated document; creating an e-book or a guide from the topics discussed on the blog or website; develop infographics from the information gathered in text form, and share an existing content on a new medium or with a new group.
Of course, you have to ensure that the content doesn’t have grammar and spelling errors, as well as easy to understand for the target readers. For example, if your target audience is ordinary consumers, then the language should be in the grade 5 or 6 level; using scientific words without explanations will turn off your audience, obviously.
3. Create Lead Magnet Content
Yet another budget-friendly yet effective marketing strategy is lead magnets. These are pieces of content that you, the business owner, offer to target customers in exchange for their contact information, usually their valid email address. This growth hacking strategy is a great way to get customer acquisition, fast.
The sky’s the limit with lead magnets, too, so much so that you can make packages (i.e., a combination of two or more lead magnets). Examples include how-to guides, informational e-books, worksheets, webinars, infographics, checklists, and templates, even freebies like toys, which attract customers to give their contact information.
Before you send out lead magnets (email marketing), you have to conduct market research (a/b testing) to determine what your audience wants so much that the will be more than willing to give their contact information to have it. In short, your lead magnets should actually have measurable value to your target audience.
With the right lead magnets, your audience will have access to a useful resource. You will also benefit in many ways including building your email list, finding more viable leads, and driving your sales since your market base is widening with every lead magnet successfully made.
4. Use Photos and Graphics to Tell Stories
We are visual creatures and it’s a fact of our nature that marketing experts are quick to take advantage of! We are immediately attracted to bright colors, bold designs and colorful images, a tendency that starts from infanthood. We give attention to images that stimulate our eyes, whether it’s on a book or a billboard.
What does this mean for your small business’ marketing strategy? You should take a closer look at the photos and graphics on your website and marketing materials to determine their attractiveness level for your target audience. You may want to reconsider their colors, fonts, and layouts, among other design aspects, with your target audience’s preferences in mind.
Obviously, beautiful people, places, and products will likely grab your audience’s attention – look it up, it’s actually proven by science. But you may also consider the shock effect if your target audience is into it; just be careful about using shocking images since these may turn off your audience.
The great thing about ensuring a great design is that you can do it on your own instead of hiring a graphic designer or working with a design agency. You will find plenty of online resources as well as books, magazines and trade journals that provide helpful tips in getting more out of your existing design. You may spend a few dollars on these resources but compare with the knowledge you will get from them, it is money well spent.
Tip: Use memes if these promote your brand and business but don’t overuse them since consumers want a more serious message, in a manner of speaking.
5. Be an Instigator of Social Media Conversations
Large companies with their equally large marketing budgets tap into social media advertising, an effective but expensive strategy for raising awareness and pushing sales, thus increasing their chance of virality. But for small businesses, social media advertising isn’t cost-efficient, not to mention that there are likely little resources allotted for it.
What then can be done? As a small business owner, you can still use social media to your advantage without paying for an arm and leg for it. You have plenty of opportunities to leverage social media, which include Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Instagram.
Here’s the growth hacking process for that: Start direct conversations on social media platforms with your target customers, both present and potential. In a way, you’re starting a new trend, one that’s unique to your brand and business so your customers are more attracted to it. The newness will initially attract them but the challenge and excitement of the conversation will encourage them to stay.
A few tips to leverage social media communities to your advantage as a small business owner. Here are a few goals of growth hacking:
- Choose only a few social media platforms so you can focus on them. Besides, your target audience will likely not be on all these platforms so it makes sense to choose the ones where they spend most of their time online.
- Start asking direct questions directed at your target audience. Check Quora, among other sites (Craigslist, StackOverflow, ProductHunt), where your user base is asking questions and provide them with meaningful, relevant and useful answers. Look for active Facebook groups in your market and establish your business as an expert in the niche. Use Instagram for direct engagements with your customers while also attracting them with great images.
The key here is to use these social media platforms to engage in one-on-one conversations with your audience. Be sure to keep it organic – or natural – so that your customers believe in your sincerity, trustworthiness, and expertise. You’re not only strengthening your relationship with your existing customers but you’re also getting new customers through word-of-mouth advertising – and that’s as free as you can get!
These organic conversations shouldn’t be all about selling your products and/or services. If you’re selling them all the time, your customers will be turned off because they come on, nobody wants a hardnosed salesman on their virtual doorstep. Growth hacking is not about pestering and selling, its about viral marketing with content. As a growth marketer, you have to build relationships with your customers and among the best ways to do so is to sell some of the times, not all the time.
Let your customers know you, even become comfortable with telling you a few things that will be useful in your marketing plan. When they are more comfortable with you, they will be more comfortable buying your products and/or patronizing your services. They will also recommend your business to their families and friends – and you know what that means!
Don’t limit your conversations with your customers either. You should tap into business partnerships with companies that offer complementary products and/or services. With these partnerships, you’re promoting each other’s business instead of competing against each other. You may, for example, give coupons to your partners’ businesses while they, too, give coupons to your business – a win-win solution again.
These affordable marketing strategies are used online but you shouldn’t limit your business to them, even when these are effective. You must also consider offline strategies that will also attract the attention of your target customers. You have to remember that not everybody’s online and not everybody who’s into the Internet is online all the time – most of us have to live in the real world, too.
A few effective yet affordable strategies we can recommend are vehicle branding (i.e., placing your logo and contact information on your company vehicle); sidewalk signs (i.e., announce the menu or a promo); and local media (e.g., get coverage for your business, such as through press releases).
In all of these marketing strategies, you should focus first on strengthening your relationship with your existing customers – the more satisfied they are with your brand, the more they will patronize it and recommend it to others. You must, nonetheless, also establish new relationships with new customers.