Attention! Minnesota small businesses. Looking for inexpensive and out of the box ways to market your small business?

I have solutions for you. Not all of these will work for each and every type of business, so pick and choose as you see fit. Most of these marketing ideas are cheap and/or free, so feel free to try them all.

1. Gain Customer Reviews

Most businesses don’t understand the true value of customer reviews. Why?

Because they don’t look at it from an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) perspective. Yes, potential clients look at the reviews which is great if you have positive reviews. 

But there’s another motive…

Just like Amazon uses customer reviews to decide which products get sent to the front page on Amazon.com, search engines like Google also look at the customer reviews of businesses, and use them to decide how often each business gets shown in the search results. 

More specifically, they look at the customer reviews you receive on your Google My Business page. 

(More on Google My Business later.) 

So what I’m saying is…

Find ways to direct clients to your Google My Business page, and suggest they leave you a review.

Other places that you can direct clients to are Yellowpages, Manta, Alignable, Facebook, etc.

Be careful with sites like Yelp, however, as some directories do not allow solicitation of customer reviews.

BONUS TIP: Respond to Reviews → 

Just like I noted earlier that potential clients see your past customer reviews, they also look at how you respond to those reviews.

Sometimes incidences happen which result in negative reviews. 

Other times someone just has a bad day and needs to vent about it.

Whatever the case, respond to reviews in a polite and respectful manner. Take the time to highlight your business’ strengths and don’t get defensive. 

It turns a negative into a positive, and it shows that you do care about your customers, contrary to the review the customer left. 

Don’t forget to respond to positive reviews as well!

2. Optimize Google My Business Listing

Google My Business is free publicity for your local business.

What is it you may ask?

It is essentially a profile that Google uses to showcase business information to searchers.

It takes information like your company name, phone number, address, photos, etc., and shows them off to anyone searching on Google for your company specifically or for companies in your niche. 

“This is GREAT, Karr!” you might say. “Free publicity!” And don’t get me wrong-

It is great. But it only works if you claim your listing and update all of its information.

Without claiming your listing, it can be edited by anyone. Let me repeat that for anyone who was snoozing.

Your Google My Business listing (if left unclaimed) can be edited by anyone, including your competitors!

No worries, though. All you have to do is go to Google.com/business, search for your company’s name, claim the listing, and verify it. 

You will then have access to all of its features. 

Quick tip regarding Google My Business- I mentioned this earlier. The more customer reviews you have, the higher chance you have of showing up high in the search results (sometimes known as “ranking”). 

3. Build a Website That Actually Works

Again, this is another one that might have you thinking, it’s really not that unique of an idea.

However, with some of the small business websites I have seen out there, this needs to be said.

You have mainly two options for getting a website built:

  • Do it yourself (Wix, GoDaddy, Squarespace, Weebly, and WordPress are great places to start.)
  • Hire someone to build it

For those of you who’ve tried to build a website before, you know that it takes a lot of work. 

If you’re ready to hire someone else to build your website, the tough decision is who to trust. 

Marketing salesmen (especially in the SEO space) are notorious for throwing fluff in your face, and they make it very difficult to know if you can trust them, so be careful.

4. SEO for Today’s World

If you’re not familiar with SEO (search engine optimization), it is basically optimizing your website in a way that tells search engines, “my business is better than theirs”. 

If your website is not SEO-friendly, it will not rank in the search results. Simple as that.

Without getting too in-depth, here are a few things search engines look for in websites:

  • Proximity– This is only for local businesses (restaurants, cleaners, law firms, etc.) The closer you are to the searcher, the better chance you have of showing up. There are several ways you can show this with SEO.

  • User experience– The most overlooked aspect of SEO is user experience. Everyone seems so focused on “keywords” and “rankings”. Guys. User experience is the #1 factor in attracting and converting website visitors. There. I said it. 

  • Mobile-friendliness– More and more websites are switching their focus from desktop websites to responsive websites. This means that your website will fit a mobile phone screen just as well as a desktop computer screen. Why is this important? It’s simple. People are searching for local businesses through their phone. In 2016, nearly 60% of searches were from mobile devices. We can only imagine what that number is now. 

If you want to learn SEO, there are lots of resources out there to learn. It just takes time.

Here are my favorite places to learn SEO (warning, some of these sites can get pretty advanced):

5. Social Media The Right Way

So many businesses have the wrong idea about social media. 

In many people’s minds, we think SELL, SELL, SELL. 

In reality, it should be GIVE, GIVE, GIVE.

I heard it best when someone said, “You hit them with a jab, then another jab, and then you throw in the punch. 

It’s not a PUNCH-PUNCH-PUNCH. 

People don’t go on social media to buy stuff…usually.

They log on to see what’s happening in their community.

Become a part of that community. And…

When they’re ready, they’ll come to you.

Jay Baer explains this idea of social media selling best. 

    6. Get Listed in Other Local Directories

    Getting your website listed in other local directories (such as Yellowpages, Yelp, Manta, Alignable) used to help with domain authority.

    In other words, it used to tell Google that your website is trustworthy and authoritative.

    Well, they don’t work for that purpose as well as they may have in the past. Here is a quick video of some experts in the “local SEO” community explaining why this is (start watching at the 10 minute mark).

    But!

    They can still be used to expose your business. 

    People who are looking for businesses and services still use Yelp, Yellowpages, Manta, Alignable, etc. to find businesses. 

    And the great thing is that there are a lot of free options out there. 

    I would recommend, however, that you be cautious about paying for citations. There are a lot of scammers out there who would love to take your money for nothing in return. 

     

    7. Go the Paid Advertising Route

    Yes, the dreaded paid advertising. 

    I do not recommend paid advertising for those who are not familiar and very comfortable with it. 

    You will end up tossing a ton of money away (trust me, it can add up fast), and you will have little, if any, return. 

    The most common platforms for paid advertising are Google and Facebook, but there are also others in the game as well, such as LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, and local directories like Yelp.

    I’m not going to go too far in-depth with paid advertising since this article is not meant to be a super technical guide. 

    If you are interested in learning online paid advertising, I’d recommend starting with Google’s Academy for Ads.

    8. Survey Past Clients

    One of the best marketing tools is completely free and already in your hands. 

    Now you may have to pay by giving a discount in return, but surveys are one of the best ways to find out what your customers want.

    The more data in your hands, the easier your decisions will be as long as you’re smart about it.

    There is a reason why big companies will pay so much for surveys; it’s because they are valuable!

    Ask past customers how they found your business/services. Ask what they liked and didn’t like about your business/services.

    9. Run an Event/Scholarship

    Events and scholarships are free online publicity for your business. 

    If you run a scholarship, people are going to come running (if you get the word out).

    People talk about it by mouth. The scholarship gets shared on social media. You can ask any colleagues or businesses in the area to post it on their website. There are so many options here.

    Events work in a similar manner. 

    It’s all about branding your business and shining a bright light on it so people from all around your area can see it.

    10. Create a Podcast

    Podcasts are a great way to market your business.

    They are also a great way to waste a lot of time, money, and resources if they are not done correctly.

    What’s the correct way? Let me tell you.

    Just like social media, you must involve the community. 

    This means actively inviting others to join the podcast for free publicity. Talk about topics that the people of your city might want to hear. 

    If your topics are only something that your friends and family would want to hear, then you need to switch topics. 

    I want to be clear about these marketing tactics…

    Not all of them will work. In fact, you may try 3 of them, and they all fail. The goal is to find the one, two, or five that do work. 

    All of these marketing strategies have worked for businesses in the past. It’s just a matter of finding the correct one for your business.

    If all of this online marketing stuff seems like too much for you to handle, we understand. It’s a lot to do for a busy business owner. 

    If you need a break from it all to focus on your business, let us help.  

    Get in Touch

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    Located in Apple Valley, MN 55124

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