Small and medium size businesses, especially in the service sector, often do not have a dedicated marketing department or even a marketing professional on staff, so the job of preparing materials for print or electronic distribution about the company falls on someone already shouldering other responsibilities. If you find yourself in that position, reading up on marketing techniques can be overwhelming: the field is vast and there is so much that can be done and can be learned. So here are three important issues to start with: creating compelling content, mastering effective distribution and focusing on quality.
1. Content. Creating content, articles and images, which inform the customer rather than promote your business directly, has long been used to build credibility and trust in a company. The Whole Earth Catalog, started in 1968, not only sold practical items to customers, but because of the extra content in its pages that went way beyond the simple description of each product, developed a cult following. Today, you can be a publisher as well, and create valuable content for your customers on your website. Take a hair salon for example, the ultimate small, local business. Most websites of the hair salons in Austin, TX list their location, hours and mention their stylists. As a customer however, what I am really interested in are hairstyles. If I google “current hairstyles Austin” I get several pages of salons that claim they do the latest hairstyles, but only one, theoryhairsalon.com, which has a whole gallery of images that I can pick from, and even request an appointment for the one I like. That is the type of content that can set your business apart from the rest, and give your customer the sense that you understand them better.
2. Distribution. Among the many existing channels for distributing your marketing materials, social media stands out these days both because everyone seems to talk about it, and because we do spend a lot of time in front of our devices. If you follow our first advice and create some useful and interesting content for your customers, you can post that content on multiple social platforms at the same time by using online software like Buffer or Hootsuite (both offer low cost and free plans that make it easy to get started and see which one suits you best.) The unique opportunity that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., give you as a marketer is the ability to put content easily in front of people who are interested in your products or services. Each of the networks allow you to convert a post quickly to an ad, and for a few dollars push it to thousands of users in your area, who match some demographic criteria you can pick. Remember that most people may only follow one of the social networks closely, but that network will be different for everyone, so post to as many as possible and spend your dollars on the one or two you think your customers use most.
3. Quality. How do you put together high-quality content without breaking the bank? You likely have the expertise in house to develop some written content that answers questions or concerns important to your customers. Sit down with the people in your business who build the product, help the customer, or deliver the service, and discuss what customers generally ask about (and take notes.) The topics that come up can be developed into separate articles and published on your site. Hire a professional photographer to take high quality photos of your product, or the people providing the service you sell. Just like I don’t try to fix my broken pipe because I have a wrench at home, you should not expect to be able to take amazing photos just because you have a camera. High quality graphics and images attract your customers’ attention, and can appeal to them emotionally, so you want those emotions to be positive. The photos taken by a service person on the job, with his phone, may be useful to show a manager the situation, but will be neutral or may even be perceived negatively by a client.
So if you find yourself filling the shoes of a marketing expert, you are not alone. Focus on understanding and what is important to your customers, and make sure it gets answered clearly on your website and across social media. Ask for help with writing, web design and photography if you need it, and you will have the materials to position your business for success.
Keeshi Ingram is the founder and principal photographer at Adaptive Camera, an Austin, TX based studio offering location and assignment photography services for companies and nonprofits. Her work is often used for marketing, PR, fundraising and social media. To learn more about Adaptive Camera, please visit our website @ AdaptiveCamera.com, see Keeshi’s portfolio @ Keeshi.com, or follow her on Instagram.