DIY Marketing: How to Build an Empire from Your Kitchen Table
You know the “war table” that appears in most spy movies and every other episode of Game of Thrones — the one covered with a map and little wooden figures representing all the players in The Game? That’s roughly what my dining room table looked like in the early days of starting my first business. The map was mainly made of spreadsheets, and the icons were different-colored stacks of note cards, but the idea was the same: I was planning on building an empire, and like a general preparing for war, I needed to see everything I’d be working with.
One of those note-card stacks represented “Getting the word out,” also known as marketing. Especially in the early days of a business, this player often gets knocked over by operations, financing, or another, more demanding player on the board. After all, you’re in business to do whatever you do, and marketing might seem like another job entirely. But it really shouldn’t fall by the wayside, since it’s the way you bring in customers for your business.
If you’re running your company on a shoestring budget — and let’s face it, most of us are — you might just have to fake it ‘til you make it when it comes to getting the word out. You need to be both selective and creative when it comes to marketing, at least for the first few years. Here are six DIY ways you can get your name out, increase your visibility, and grow your customer base into an empire.
1. Build a website
Years ago, people turned to phone books to find businesses, but those days are ancient history. Today, consumers unlock their phones or fire up their laptops to find companies offering the products or services they want. Building an online presence is a must, even for the smallest of businesses.
You don’t need a fancy website. A basic but attractive-looking one will do. Small businesses today have a variety of options and tools for building a DIY website. If this is too tech-heavy for you, consider hiring a college student who’s looking to build their portfolio; they’re often willing to build business websites for a low cost (and some might even do it for free, for the experience).
2. Establish a social media presence
Nowadays, whether or not to use social media isn’t even a question for a small business: It’s a must. The key to successful social media marketing is to be strategic about the outlets you choose.
- Carefully select where to establish accounts. Look at networks where your target customer base is hanging out. If you’re targeting Gen X, you probably want to be on Facebook. If you want Gen Z, then you’ll want SnapChat. Choosing the right outlets can boost your chances of generating leads.
- Remember: A few active profiles are better than several dormant ones. Obviously, the more networks you have a presence on, the better — but you have to reasonably be able to keep up with actively posting, along with keeping up your response rate to followers, friends, fans, or whatever other names they give your potential customers.
- Post interesting content regularly. Set a schedule and stick to it. This way, your followers know when they can expect something new or interesting.
- Stay away from politics. An interesting tidbit: 71% of consumers find it annoying to read politically charged posts made by businesses on social media.
And don’t forget that marketing is no longer a one-way street. Today’s consumers want to actively participate, and social media is the perfect way to accommodate this market demand. It lets your customers learn more about your company, discover promotional offerings, ask questions, share feedback, and much more. (Don’t forget to aim for “clickable” content, so people will want to hit that Share button!)
3. Blog regularly
Establishing a blog as an offshoot from your primary website is a great way to build stronger relationships with your customers. Blogs are beneficial because they:
- Establish your company as an authoritative source in your field.
- Give people reasons to keep visiting your website.
- Create stronger SEO rankings.
- Raise your brand visibility.
Ensure that your blog (and website) is mobile-friendly. This is a high priority these days, as people do almost everything via their phones.
Publishing regular blog posts can be difficult for small businesses because they can be time-consuming and take you away from accomplishing your company’s core goals. Consider outsourcing your blog posts and/or repurposing older content to freshen it up and present it in a different way. That way, you can lighten your marketing load and still accomplish the results you want.
4. Start a podcast
While podcasting has been around a while, it’s not until recently that small businesses began taking a serious look at starting their own. This is with good reason, since podcast use (especially among younger audiences) is growing significantly. To make it worth your efforts, do your best to be informed and strategic to capture a steady audience.
- Identify your niche. You’ll need to establish a focus to capture a core audience, but be broad enough so you don’t run out of things to talk about.
- Choose a name. You can go clever or self-explanatory. Whatever you choose, make sure it resonates with your audience and aligns with your brand.
- Select a format. Do you want to go solo and talk to your audience directly, focus on interviewing guests, or take a discussion approach?
- Research equipment. You won’t need much, but be sure you have the right equipment to record and air your show. Definitely invest in a quality microphone.
Finally, you’ll have to decide between a short or long-form podcast. Since podcasting is likely to be a small part of your overall DIY marketing plan, you’ll probably want to consider going short and sweet, to make the best use of your limited time.
5. Invest in paid advertising
Before shelling out your marketing dollars, you’ll want to know which avenues will be effective. If your budget allows, you may have the wiggle room to experiment a little. But if not, try to stick with what you know.
- Marketing emails (check out MailChimp or ConstantContact)
- Surveys to get feedback from customers
- Facebook or Twitter ads tailored to your target markets
Paid search is another possibility. According to statistics, roughly 50% of consumers are more willing to buy when they land on a page through a paid ad vs. an organic search. That being said, before investing your budget, do your homework so you can make the right decisions for your company.
6. Cultivate word of mouth (and reviews)
Word of mouth is the holy grail of marketing. If you can actively achieve referrals through word of mouth and genuine reviews, the value is truly golden. Consumers are more inclined to trust the recommendations given to them by real people who have used a product or service than direct marketing.
Keep in mind that 75% of consumers don’t believe advertising, but 92% trust recommendations from others they know, and are four times more likely to buy when referred by friends.
You can further increase your word-of-mouth status by attending trade shows and other industry events. Broaden your network! You never know where your next lead will come from.
So you see, even if you’re on a small budget, you can achieve big results! Be smart and strategic about your DIY efforts and, before you know it, you’ll be on your way to reaching “empire” status.