About the VBOC
The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members, and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. SBA has 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as Veterans Business Outreach Centers (VBOC).
Starting and running a business is no easy task! It takes a lot of time, determination, and passion. Not only do you have to perfect your offering, but you have to create and implement the right marketing strategy. Keep in mind, that no matter how great your product or service is, people won’t be able to buy it unless you market it correctly. Marketing is an essential piece of establishing your brand, generating leads, and reaching your target market. COVID-19 has completely changed the way we reach our customers and the only small businesses that will make it are the ones that are willing to change too. News flash… the world has changed and as society begins to adjust, so should our businesses. If you have not shifted your business model to incorporate some aspect of an online presence, then you need to. As we enter this new world of technology and online presence, we must find new ways to market our products or service. When you are trying to get visibility for your small business, creating value through content marketing can position your brand as an industry leader.
So, let’s get to it!
1. Re-engage customers with email newsletters
Email is not dead! It is one of the most cost-effective digital marketing strategies to reach your target audience in a personalized and affordable way. Emails can keep your customers informed on what is going on with your business. You could share information about a new product, a special offer, or maybe just pop in and share any news from the recent weeks. Additionally, email marketing is extremely easy to measure which then gives you a better understanding of how your email campaigns are working. You can track specific data like click rates, open rates, bounce rates, unsubscribed rates, etc. Lastly, it is affordable! We do not always have a large marketing budget to spend from, so these email campaigns will cost you less than
pennies per message.
Ever since the pandemic, the need for SEO has risen exponentially. SEO is important because it gives you the capability to be an expert in your field and helps drive traffic to your website, while also helping you promote your business for free and organically. As consumers continue to shift to an online mindset, businesses will also need to make the shift into the digital space. SEO gives you the power to be the answer to potential customers’ questions. You MUST build a website that is optimized for both the search engines and conversions. SEO is also a valuable tool for brand awareness, building relationships with prospective customers, and positioning yourself as an authoritative and trustworthy expert in your field. It will take time and patience to build this trust, but this authority will do wonders for your brand.
3. Functioning Website
Is your website user and mobile-friendly? Is it easily found on Google? If you answered no to any of these questions, then your website is due for a makeover! Your marketing efforts begin and end with your website. A website helps your small business increase flexibility, branding, control and credibility. Instead of relying on someone else to tell others about your business and story, you get to frame that narrative on your website for all to see. Additionally, a functioning website gives you endless opportunities for growth and success like an online store, social media integration, online reservations and appointments, portfolios, testimonials and so much more! Lastly, user experience for online websites and stores should be one of your top priorities. Search engines don’t just consider content when determining your rank; they also take into account how easy your site is to use. Double-check that your website is mobile-friendly, concise and organized, and your pages load quickly.
4. Boost engagement with video content marketing
Have you spent much time on Facebook, YouTube, or any other social platforms watching live or recorded videos? Video is expected to make over 80% of the consumer traffic online this year. Online shoppers, specifically those using a smartphone, prefer to engage with a business through video content. In many cases, this is because the content is more interactive and enjoyable for people who don’t have the time to sit and read through long posts or blogs. The first way to boost engagement is by sharing your video content across multiple social media platforms. Posting your video in one place just isn’t enough anymore. Consider creating accounts for Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and possibly TikTok depending on your demographic. Diversifying your social media presence can help you generate a new audience who had never heard of your brand until they found your videos. Live video events are another great way to engage your audience and interact with them in real-time. Here are a few fun and effective types of live video events: Giveaways, Product Demonstrations, New Product Releases, Ask Me Anything (AMA) Sessions and in-person events. The purpose of these live events is to help grow your audience and improve engagement across your social platforms. If you can connect with them during a live video, then there is a higher chance for them to visit your website, subscribe to your email list, or perhaps make a purchase.
5. Generate word of mouth with a referral program
Have you ever had such an amazing experience at a restaurant or another business that you couldn’t wait to share it with someone else? If so, you engaged in word-of-mouth marketing and this tactic can help your business grow! Any time a customer talks positively about your product or service to friends, family, co-workers, etc. either online or in-person, that is considered word-of-mouth marketing. Consumers want to trust a brand before they make a purchase and one way to do that is through referrals. Lots of research has been conducted to show that the majority of people tune out or block traditional ads. But when friends, family, or online influencers share their experiences about a product or service they love, people listen. They trust that whatever their friend or family told them is true and genuine. Social media is an excellent platform to start a referral program. Your program needs to give your customer a reason to share your products or services with their friends, so incentivize sharing! Consider cumulative incentives, two-sided rewards, premium features, etc. Next, make social sharing easy. Make sure your links are instantly shareable and everything is mobile-friendly. Less is more. Lastly, target customers who already believe in your brand because they will be the most likely to share your content first. Need some inspiration on what referral program will work for you? Check out these successful companies to give you a bit of inspiration: Harry’s, Native, Tesla, Smile Direct Club and Purple.
6. Offer value through blogging
We’ve all heard the phrase “Always over-deliver on the value”, and this rings true when blogging. We should strive to provide value in every possible way. The purpose of blogging is to share as much of your knowledge, experiences and insights as often as you can while building customer relationships and generating sales leads. The first way to over-deliver on the value thing is by helping your readers find solutions to their problems. Use your product or service to drive your problem-solving content. Next, be transparent and honest with your readers. Believe it or not, people like to see the real you behind your brand. Share your successes, failures, and challenges, plus sprinkle in humor every so often too. It’s also important that you allow your blog to be interactive. A blog that allows comments and questions will draw more attention than those that don’t. Make sure to incorporate your blog on your website and social media platforms. This will help increase traffic on your site too! Lastly, monitor and analyze the traffic you gain from your blog. This will allow you to see which posts are performing the best, so you can continue to incorporate those topics in future write-ups.
7. Track and refine your performance
As you implement your social media strategy or refine your existing one, be sure to consistently track what is working and what is not. These metrics clearly define what your audience wants, which helps you refine your products, services, customer support, and more to maximize your customers’ experience, as well as enhance your revenue and bottom line. Every social media platform has its own way of generating analytics that you can dive into. Most of the platform’s analytic tools are user-friendly! If you are not sure where to start, ask Google for a little assistance. When your social media metrics continue to improve, but your business goals aren’t being met, it’s time to rethink your strategy. At the end of the day, if you track your metrics and change your social media strategy accordingly, you’ll get a much better return on your investment and grow your business! Whether you are a startup, franchise or scaling business, just remember that social media is valuable for businesses of any size or industry. And regardless of your target audience or prospective customers, you can use various social media strategies to expand your small business reach and growth. So, what’s next? If you have a small business, try using some of the tactics above to enhance your brand, increase sales and reach your marketing goals. Also, reach out to us. Our team at VBOC of the Dakotas provides no-cost advising tailored to your business. We can help walk you through the steps of putting together a marketing plan that will help you reach new audiences and generate more revenue.