At the start of a new year it’s natural to start thinking about how you’re going to make your business grow or what you’re going to do differently. Yes, it’s also true that many people make new year’s resolutions they don’t keep, and that momentum tends to wain after a month or two, but this isn’t a reason not to capitalise on any renewed focus and drive you may have in January. Regardless of how long it lasts for, it’s still worth it!

exactly what you should do – every business is different – but here are some common themes that a lot of self employed business owners can relate to and some ideas on how to get things moving…

First Things First – Get a Plan!

Sometimes business owners approach running their business in a kind of haphazard way, fighting fires and plumbing leaks as they occur rather than sitting down, making a plan, and following it. Before you do anything, make a plan this January and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want to achieve with my business this year?
  • How will I do it?
  • By when?
  • How can I measure those achievements? How will I know when I’ve got where I wanted to go?

Make your plan S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Agreed Upon, Realistic and Time-bound…

Specific – Break down your plan into manageable steps or if your plan can be divided into sub-plans for different goals, do that.

Measurable – If you can’t measure your success, how will you know whether you’ve acheived what you set out to do. Measuring with stats can seem dull, but it can also be exciting if it shows you how you’ve succeeded and help you to stay motivated.

Agreed Upon – If it’s just you in your business, then it’s only you that you need to please, but if there are other partners or stakeholders that will be impacted by your decisions, it’s a good idea to agree upon your plan before starting!

Realistic – Be realistic with your goals, rather than pie in the sky. If you set yourself a ridiculous target and don’t get anywhere near it, you’ll just be disappointed and lose motivation.

Time-bound – Give yourself a timeframe by which you want to achieve your goal, but also, perhaps plan out some other milestones throughout the year when you can check your progress so far to see how on-track you are.

Review Your Website

If you’re just starting out, then getting a new website is obviously a priority, but equally, if you already have a website, now is a good time to review it. Is it doing it’s job in terms of getting visitors to contact you or buy? Is the look and feel up to date? Is the branding consistent and is it appropriate for your target audience? Are you getting enough traffic to your site – and can you actually measure that? Does it provide the functionality you need?

If you’ve identified areas for improvement, can you do this yourself, or do you need to get your website company to do it? If there are restrictions that are preventing you from doing what you need to with your website, it might be time to consider moving your site to a different provider.

Think About Your Social Media Strategy

Not everyone loves messing around with social media. That’s ok. Just because you don’t like using Facebook socially though, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it for business. It is a rather different experience to use a social media platform for business rather than just for looking at videos of pandas falling over. When you have successes on Facebook or Instagram, it can be really rewarding, and connecting with people who are interested in your products and services can be a lot of fun! Social media allows you to demonstrate the personality of your brand. It allows you to build community around your business and help your customers become loyal fans.

What kind of plan could you make for using social media?

  • Plan how often you’re going to post, and about what. Maybe you’ll post just 3 times a week to begin with. Twice about some element of your products or services, and maybe once in a more lighthearted way with fun pics or brief amusing content related to your business. If you don’t have the time or skills to manage your social media, or just don’t really like it, perhaps you can delegate it to someone else who does and actually enjoys it? If it’s just you wearing all the hats, consider outsourcing this particular job to a professional.
  • Do you have a budget for boosting your posts’ reach or placing ads on Facebook? If you need to, get help with advertising so you can put your money to best use. The web is full of useful content on how to select a target audience for Facebook ads and how to tailor your content.
  • A lot of the headache in managing your social media accounts is what content to post? This comes easier to some people, and to some business types than it does to others. If you sell tech and gadgets, for example, there’s an endless stream of new products you can post about, or review. But if your business is a little more service based and content is harder to come by, you’ll need to think of other kinds of content that might be useful to your customers. Share some expertise, or use client testimonials and case studies. Provide pictures or video of your work. Document the life of your business – just keep it interesting!
  • Think about how you can use special offers and deals to drive more custom your way.
  • Make sure your profile is nicely fleshed out and definitely make your website link prominent to get people to your site.
  • If you write a blog, make sure it’s automatically posting to your social media accounts
  • Finally, if it’s all a bit daunting and confusing, there are workshops and seminars (often not too far from you) that can help you to up your game with social media and really start making it work for you. As a starting place, check out our photography and social media partner Georgia de Lotz.

How are you going to advertise?

Once thing is fairly certain. If you want people to buy from you, you need to get your product or service in front of people’s eyeballs. This can be achieved for free, but it takes a lot of effort. Advertising, on the other hand takes far less effort but you have to pay for it.

Before you start thinking about advertising, you need to know who your target market is. Who are your customers? Where do they live? What do they do? What are their likes and dislikes; their ages, genders, and so on and so forth. If you don’t know who your customers are, you could waste a lot of money advertising to the wrong people. This includes things like which advertising platforms to choose, such as TV, radio, web banners, Google Adwords, Facebook, printed publications etc as well as the content and pitch of your adverts. Advertising is a complex beast, and it takes a lot of experience before you can make exactly the right calls as to how and where your ads are placed. Fortunately, advertisers like Google know that if you’re going to use their platform, there needs to be an intuitive way to do so, and there needs to be help on hand. So there’s usually some decent free support available if you want to do it yourself, and if not, there are professionals who can manage your ad campaigns for you.

Nowadays, advertising is all about accurate targeting. Since we now have the technology to gather information about people in unprecedented detail, advertisers like Facebook can allow you to pinpoint exactly your audience based on their profile information. Certainly there are ways in which we get fed up with advertising – like when you see the same advert for a mountain bike everywhere you go on the web since you looked at a bike website that one time, but ultimately targeted advertising is much more effective. Why spend money showing your ads to people who have no interest in your product?

Organically growing your social media followers is a great idea and will enable you to reach a lot of people, but it takes time, which is where advertising comes in. Using a platform like Facebook, you can target your audience exactly, and just show your ads to those people with strict parameters to manage your budget. The same is true for Google’s AdWords where you can select which search phrases will trigger your ad, and in which geographic regions.

Geurilla Marketing Techniques

Of course, all this advertising stuff comes at a cost, and although you can control your budget with accuracy on these platforms, it’s still going to cost some money. Are there effective ways of reaching your target market without spending a small fortune?

Yup, but as with anything that is free or cheap, it usually requires a bit more effort, but the following are all ideas that are totally possible to do and can have a positive effect.

  • Get blogging – create valuable content that will be interesting and useful. This will help people find your site and establish you as an authority.
  • Engage in a local competition by offering your service or products as a prize
  • Write a press release for your local newspaper or circulars that shares your expertise
  • Contribute to online groups or forums and share your expertise – become an authority on your subject. Don’t spam!
  • Hold a free seminar or workshop – possibly partner up with another local business to maximise reach
  • Donate your services or products charitably
  • Hire someone to hold your sign up at a busy set of traffic lights
  • Put posters or flyers up around your area (where you’re allowed to!)
  • Get business cards made which include an offer or incentive and hand them out to everyone you meet
  • Get a magnetic car sign made up and apply it to your car (try the back of the car for best effect)
  • investigate possibilities to place a banner or large printed ad in key advertising spots in your local area.
  • Write to or email potential customers in your local area introducing your services. Be careful with this – people are super aware of spam these days, so you need to add a very personal touch to your communications. If you’re targeting local businesses or customers then you’re less likely to get seen as a spammer, but make sure that you don’t sign anyone up to a mailing list that hasn’t opted in themselves, and make the tone of the email a personal introduction.
  • Use email marketing to capture emails on your website (offer an incentive to sign up such as free advice and expertise in a PDF) and use your email list to market your business.

I’m sure if you spend some time thinking about it, you could come up with lots of other inventive ways in which to get your brand noticed. Just make sure you’re being appropriate and not getting in people’s faces too much – you don’t want to tick anyone off!

These are just a small collection of ideas to help you start thinking and acting to how you could promote your business this year. If you have helpful ideas, leave a comment, and if you’re looking to get online this year with a professional website, get in touch!