As a founder building your small business there are a myriad of aspects to manage and invest your money, time and energy into. Communicating about your business can be a big resource consumer—especially if marketing is unfamiliar and budget doesn’t allow for outsourcing. With all the channels to communicate and ways to build an audience, the first choice usually goes to invest in social media since it’s “free”.
Social media marketing has its benefits in amplifying awareness and sales. However it can be particularly taxing if the ways to communicate don’t feel intuitive or conducive with the push to create content at the frequency the algorithms prefer. Committing to one social media channel can start to feel like a full-time job, let alone multiple channels all while conducting the business at hand.
If you’re exploring ways to build an audience and awareness for your products and services outside of social media, here is a list to help get you started.
A business website not only provides a professional presence with your ownable domain name, it allows you the space to tell your unique story. It serves as your digital destination for providing resourceful information on products, services or the industry as well as ways to contact or buy. It can also serve as a means to connect all your digital communication endeavors such as an email list, blog, podcast, video channels, communities and courses. It’s a means of guiding potential clients to learn more about the business while also leaving room for discoverability through search engines. The search engine benefits are amplified when a blog is added with written, video or audio content.
Ideas on how to create a website:
- Find a professional out who can help create a website for your business
- DIY with a starter template on platforms such as WIX, Squarespace or Shopify. WordPress is also a DIY platform, but I have found it to be more overwhelming for folks to learn and manage.
Building an email list is a powerful way to create more meaningful relationships with people who have opted to directly hear from you. It allows you to share what’s happening in the business, knowledge or new offerings. Although there’s a lot of advice out there about creating free lead magnets to drive sign ups, I have found if people want to hear from you they will do it without needing the freebie. And they are happy to hear from you on your own time so you don’t need to create a schedule unless you want to or have the capacity for it.
Ideas on ways to grow your email list:
- Incorporate an email sign up on your website that’s openly accessible
- Create a landing page and promote your list sign up with a link in your email signature
- Reach out to current clients and network groups and share that you’ve started an email list and invite them to join via the landing page link
- If you have permission to receive attendee emails from events you are participating in, send them invite to opt in directly to your list
Chances are a community or group exists for your industry, ideal customer or as a solopreneur / small business founder. Seek out professional groups in your relevant industry, or perhaps communities aligned with your values. This can lead to the referral of more ideal clients and customers. In addition to professional networking, don’t underestimate sharing with your personal network. Family, friends and folks known through community are our biggest advocates and empowering them with knowledge on what your business is all about allows them to also make connections for you.
Ideas on building your network:
- Seek out professional groups that feel in alignment and worth the possible investment.
- Search based on industry, audience or values
- Ask fellow entrepreneurs what networking groups they belong to and have found helpful
- I am a big fan of Mighty Networks as a platform and you can find communities that are free, paid or private.
- Check out meetup.com for any relevant groups
- For your personal network, craft a quick and easy way for anyone to know what your business is about so family and friends can easily connect the dots when the moment arises.
- For service: I help [who specifically] with [what’s main challenge to overcome]
- For product: I make [product] for folks who appreciate [what’s special about product]
- For retail: We have [types of products or specialty] for [ideal customer]
- For restaurants: We serve [what] and [how served / prepared – ex. environment, time, specialty food]
Guesting is a great way to get your name and knowledge out to more audiences. It can come in the form of guest blog articles on other business or media-related websites, podcasts, videos or topical expertise to journalists. Whenever you contribute, explore any opportunity to provide a link back to your website.
Ideas on becoming a guest contributor:
- HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is a great resource for connecting journalists and content creators with experts. It’s free to join and they send daily emails with what folks are looking for. If you are also a writer and looking for a contributor, this may also be a helpful resource to you in developing content.
- Pitch podcasts relevant to your field or audience with a few topical ideas that you would love to speak on. Look for new and smaller shows that are building their audience or guest lists.
- Submit article ideas to media or related sites that have a blog. Media websites that take submissions will range in requirements from a simple email process to detailed applications or require payment. If you have a colleague that could use content support in their blog or email offer to contribute something that speaks to their audience while sharing your expertise.
- Sites that take contributions ranging from free, paid or pay to contribute: Thrive Global, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, or Buzzfeed
Speaking & Facilitation
If speaking and facilitation is not a core offering in your service mix that you are charging for, it could be considered an exposure opportunity to include in the communications mix. When it comes to sharing expertise, speaking and / or workshop facilitation is a great way for people to experience your style while learning. There are various opportunities to either self host an event or leverage events put on by other people or organizations.
*The challenge with anything given for free or for minimal pay – check in on the balance of the opportunity to connect with your ideal customers with the time for labor in creating and giving the presentation versus the value of the exposure.*
Ideas on how to start sharing expertise:
- Host a webinar or workshop for your clients or potential clients and promote through your channels as well as ask any colleagues who have similar audiences to share via email or their communication channels
- Find relevant groups or events that host conferences or workshops with guest speakers. Perhaps events you have attended will have an opportunity in subsequent events that may feel in alignment.
- Look to see if any of your networking groups host workshops that are open to membership submissions.
This is could be a larger investment, however showing at events where relevant could give your business a boost in terms of visibility and potential business. From trade shows to farmers markets to retreats to pop up shops, this is an opportunity to have a space to showcase your products or services.
Ideas on showcasing your business:
- Research relevant industry trade shows to attend or showcase
- Check out farmers markets or community events and see if your products or services are a good fit for the folks who come
- Reach out to events you like to attend and see what opportunities could exist for your business
- Connect with fellow folks in your space and create the event you are seeking
Simply having a listing on a relevant industry directory can go a long way for people to find products and services. It offers a short list when potential clients are looking and a quick way for you to make your contact information known.
Ideas on finding directories:
- Many professional networking groups will include a directory of sorts as a featured benefit of joining so be sure to take advantage of these listings whenever possible.
- For every niche there likely exists a directory. Head to your favorite search engine and to start with your industry + directory and see what comes up! Some may be free or will charge to be featured.
- If your business has a physical location you’re comfortable promoting, consider creating a free Google My Business profile to be easily located and to appear more frequently in Google search results.
Depending where you live, some local small businesses will offer a space for promotion of other local small businesses. Consider spaces where you can leave promotional material or collaborate with a local small business in a way that offers your products or services in a mutually beneficial way.
Ideas on activating locally:
- Take a look around and see if your local coffee shop or favorite restaurant has a space for business cards or flyers
- Find local businesses where there is a product or service alignment such as a yoga studio or gym where you can offer a workshop to their clientele or a boutique that likes uniquely crafted products
- Join a local business community group to network with others in the area
There’s a lot of business advice out there touting the “right” ways to market your business or proven success formulas. The truth is there is no “right” way. And the way may or may not include social media. The pathway to communication success will be to find your way—by checking in on the places and spaces where you can confidently communicate about your business and offering and move from there.