Being a small company has its benefits: You’re agile, able to change directions at a moment’s notice. You’ve got autonomy, as your business is independent of a giant conglomerate. No, you’re not attracting the same number of consumers as a household name business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look every bit as professional to the consumers you do reach. You can make your small business look big.
Build/Update your Website:
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) estimated last year that 50 percent of all small businesses still didn’t have a website. Without a presence on the web, your small business can easily go unnoticed by potential customers. Now the good news: It’s easier than ever to create a website, especially one that your customers can access from their mobile devices. More than 75 percent of mobile phone users access the internet through them, and the number will rise to nearly 86 percent by 2018. Google now favors sites which work well on mobile in its search results: You definitely want to be one of the top results when people go looking.
There are many free or low-cost tools now to build a website. Choose a design labeled “mobile-friendly” or responsive, which means it will automatically adjust to any platform, from desktop or laptop computers to tablets and phones. If you have an existing website, you should be able to update it to the newest technology simply by choosing a mobile or responsive design. Remember, there are ready made designs for every industry now, from healthcare to restaurants.
Establish a marketing budget.
Procter & Gamble spent $2.64 billion on marketing in 2014, the most of any company in the world. A small business certainly can’t match that, but any small business that hopes to grow must budget some amount to get its products in front of consumers. While people may say a product “practically sells itself”, nothing does, which is why many companies spend so heavily on marketing.
How much do you need to spend to look big? A recent survey by CMO magazine found big businesses spend, on average, 11 percent of their total budget on marketing and advertising. If you don’t have a budget, take a look at your revenues. CMO found that marketing spending was about 6.6 percent of revenue, down from 11 percent in August 2012. (Generally a business which sells to other businesses can put less into marketing than a business that sells to consumers). If you want to launch a big campaign but don’t have the resources in hand, you may be able to secure outside funding to do so. One chiropractor I know planned a large mailing about some new services. He knew 10 new customers would be more than enough to justify the cost of the marketing and secured short-term funding to pay for it. With careful planning, he met his goal and repaid his funding.
Grow your social media presence.
P&G shocked the ad world in 2014 when it sharply cut its traditional advertising budget and put more money into digital ads and social media platforms. Social media is an absolute necessity now.
But which social media platform will make you look bigger? If you’re in a professional business and you need to connect with professional colleagues, I’d recommend LinkedIn. If you run a restaurant and you want to show people how great your food looks, try Instagram, which is also a great tool for connecting with teenage consumers. See which sites the big brands in your industry use, and use that as a guideline.
While social media started as free, it is becoming increasingly less so. Big brands pay big money for placement in front of the right consumers, and Facebook has been trying to nudge more of its small business users into becoming advertisers. If it’s going to be hard to run your social media presence and your business, you may need to invest in someone to do your posting for you. Ask to see their past work, and if they are going to be freelance, make sure they’re not also working for a competitor.
Beyond simply creating content on Facebook or Twitter, it’s vital to track your conversations there. Luckily, there are social media tracking tools like Perch, which lets you watch not only your activity on social media, but what your customers are saying about your business and what your competition is doing.
Spend money to make money.
Big brands invest in their business every day. The right website, consistent marketing and the use of modern marketing tools like social media are all key--and they are easier than ever for small businesses to have as well.