It's hard to ignore how much technology and the Internet have revolutionized the advertising industry. An advertising model that stood for more than half a century has been turned on its ears, and many of the biggest names in media and advertising have either collapsed or are struggling to catch their breath.
One of the most pivotal transitions in this sea of change has been a shift in the locus of control for marketing activity. Whereas businesses once relied on marketing agencies and advertising professionals to produce their marketing material, now business owners are empowered to take a more hands on or DIY approach to marketing. Having personally worked in the design and advertising industry for many years, I've witnessed first-hand a growing movement of DIY marketing among small business owners in particular. This is largely due to the fact that current technology helps even novice marketers create professional looking marketing material at an affordable price.
While this may be a boon to cash-strapped small businesses, today's marketing brings with it new challenges. How do you stand out among all the noise competing for our time and attention? How do you get your message in front of the right people? How do you balance the various elements of graphic design, layout, and formatting if you've never received training in this area?
If you are taking a DIY approach to marketing in your small or home-based business, you don't want to compromise on the quality and effectiveness of your marketing material in the name of saving a few dollars. You want to make an impact in the right way. From my experience, here are seven tips to keep in mind so your marketing efforts will be successful:
1. Don't think small.
The first thing to have in mind is that you should not think of yourself as a ‘small' business; I mean small as in insignificant. Successful marketing is all about projecting the image that you want people to have of your business, and cultivating that vision by infusing it into your marketing material. Just because you have few or even no employees, it doesn't mean your business can't have a big impact in your market. Ultimately, if you define yourself as insignificant, then you will represent yourself as insignificant, and finally be perceived as insignificant. It's not a good path to go down, and it will only harm your business.
Also, realize that small is just a question of perspective. For example, the 2.7 million small businesses that currently operate in Australia, my home country, employ 60% of the nation's work force and make up 30% of Australia's GDP (gross domestic product). In other words, small businesses are BIG business!
2. Don't be afraid to try different mediums.
Today's hyper-connected world offers many opportunities to get your message out there. Though you may have some idea which mediums will likely be effective with your target audience, don't be afraid to test untapped channels and even to tweak your content and layout to see which things get the best response. Ultimately, the best marketing campaigns typically use different mediums together as part of an overall strategy. Your goal is to find the right mixture. Will your customers respond to video? What about a slide presentation? A mobile marketing campaign? What about various forms of printed material? Try everything you can, test it, analyze the response, and then disregard the things that aren't working.
There really is no such thing as a ‘bad medium.' Some mediums will just be more appropriate to you than others in reaching out to your target audience.
3. Learn some design and layout basics.
The trouble with taking a DIY approach to creating marketing material is that we are not all graphic designers. Each medium, however, has its own set of rules and conventions. The key to creating professional looking marketing material versus things that just scream amateur or cheesy, is taking some time to familiarize yourself with a few design and layout basics.
There are many sites that come to the rescue, offering some great advice for non-designers. For example, take a look at these three posts:
- How to Design an Awesome Flyer (Even if Your Are Not a Designer)
- Business Card Design: 7 Essentials to Consider
- The Three Biggest Mistakes Small Business Owners Make with Their Signage
4. Use emotive imagery that tells a story.
We've all heard that a ‘picture is worth a thousand words.' Not only is this true, but consider that today your marketing message needs to be clearly conveyed as quickly as possible, and images really help to achieve this. The images you choose encourage brand recognition and whether you realize it or not, help to establish your credibility and professionalism in the eyes of your target audience. So choose your pictures wisely. The more empowered your customers feel about your product or service, the more they will relate to it and trust you. Use images to tell a story or to demonstrate how your product or service can help people without having to put it into words. Connect their personal interests to your brand and you'll convert them from new visitors into dedicated buyers.
If you are still not convinced about the power of well-chosen and well-placed images, consider the following statistics:
- Articles with images get 94% more total views
- Including a Photo and a video in a press release increases views by over 45%
- 60% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business when an image shows up in local search results
- With an ecommerce site, 67% of consumers say the quality of a product image is "very important" in selecting and purchasing a product
5. Be smart with your marketing budget
. If you are spending your entire budget on a bunch of glossy brochures and fliers then you will be limiting your potential audience to the people who come in contact with them. In order to give your business the maximum exposure without straining your budget, you need to find providers of promotional material that will offer your business maximum quantities with a minimum unit cost.
You also need to think about reach. How many eye balls are going to see your ad, and of these people, how many of them are likely to become your customers? This is important because it may be worth it to pay more money for an ad placement that has fewer overall views, but that will include a high percentage of potential customers.
6. Consistency, consistency, consistency.
The most damaging thing you can do to your business' image is to be inconsistent with it. This is so detrimental to your credibility. Often it happens when business owners plan out their materials in a piecemeal way. "I'll get business cards done first and then some fliers later when I have some more money to invest." When the "later" actually comes, then the fliers are either sourced from elsewhere or created differently and just end up making the business look small and unprofessional.
Start your marketing efforts with a consistent, professional image throughout your entire marketing inventory from day one. Also, remember that properly marketing your business is not a luxury. It's an essential part of doing business. Being in business without marketing is like being in the water without paddling. When asked what he would spend his last dollar on, Bill Gates famously replied "I'd spend it on marketing."
7. Lastly, just do it!
Taking action is the crucial ingredient to success. Planning, thought, consideration are all valuable activities but without action nothing will ever happen. If you are waiting for the "right time" to start marketing your business then it's today. If you are feeling a bit intimidated by the thought of creating your own marketing materials, just keep all the points mentioned above in mind and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results you can achieve.