Marketing is often seen as a luxury expense in small businesses and it makes sense to do a lot of your marketing activities yourself if you don’t have a dedicated employee looking after them. However, there are a few areas where saving money could be costing you in the long run by putting off prospective clients or damaging your credibility.
You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get a good looking, professional, functional website but you should do your research to make sure you’re choosing a good solution.
We find that many small businesses hire an acquaintance or a student to build them a website, which may work well in the short term but can’t be easily maintained. This may be because the business relies on the developer to make changes for them and that person then moves on, or because they’ve built the website on a system that is difficult to use and isn’t regularly updated.
Before you commit, be sure to ask:
- Will you/your team be able to make changes to the content of the site yourselves and how easy will this be?
- What content management system are they building the site on and is it well supported and maintained?
- Are regular security updates released and how are they applied to the site?
- When the time comes to refresh the site in a couple of years, will it be relatively easy to do so on this platform and will another developer be able to pick up where you left off?
If you aren't able to easily access and make changes to your website, the content will soon become irrelevant and the site will look dated. This not only impacts how prospects perceive you but if they see you at all – Google won’t rank your site well if your content is out of date.
You may decide to go down the route of building your website yourself using a tool like Wix or Squarespace. If you do, ensure you purchase your domain name so it doesn’t have their branding in the URL – it’s not a good look!
If there’s a premium option available it’s usually worth going for, it means you won’t have any of the provider’s branding on your website and your bandwidth won’t be restricted. You don’t want to find yourself losing visitors because you’ve exceeded your monthly allowance.
For many prospective customers, your website is the first impression they have of you so it's worth spending a little money on.
Whilst there are some great tools out there to design printed materials (check out our previous blog post on using Canva for design), if printing is treated as an afterthought the whole project could be in vain.
Flyers to drop in mailboxes are a great example of this. If you print flyers in your office on standard paper, they seldom stand out amongst a pile of mail and will be quickly discarded. Spend a little extra to get them printed on high gloss, thicker paper and you’ll instantly appear more serious and professional to prospective customers. Usually the more you print the cheaper the item becomes per unit, so try design flyers that can be used again at a later date and print them in bulk.
Be wary of print shops that offer to print business cards for free — often these come with the printer’s logo or watermark on them. As with the flyers, business cards usually become cheaper per unit the more you print so try order them in bulk. Talk to the printer about what options are available, it may be significantly cheaper to only print on one side of the card for example.
It seems like a good idea — post an ad using Google AdWords and watch the customers come rolling in but in reality, AdWords is not that easy. If you haven’t had any experience with the platform before it can become a costly process of trial and error.
Working with a consultant is a good way to get started with AdWords. It’s best to find one who is a Google Partner, this means they’ve been certified by Google and are up-to-date on the latest developments in the field — go here to find one. Don’t be tempted to hire just anyone because they’re “tech savvy”, Google changes their requirements constantly and it’s difficult for an amateur to keep up.
Remember that online advertising is an ongoing monthly expense, if you get it wrong from the start it will continue to cost you into the future until you get it fixed.
Pick up some DIY marketing skills
Invest in short courses, online courses, read books, watch tutorials… There are plenty of low-cost or free options out there to brush up on skills you can apply to your marketing efforts. Areas for upskilling you could consider include:
- Photography — for taking great photos of your work to display on your website. There are online photography courses available, but photography is a practical skill and best learnt in a group or classroom environment.
- Google Analytics – worth getting familiar with so you can monitor website traffic yourself and make decisions about what needs improvement. Google runs a free Google Analytics for Beginners course that you may find useful.
- HTML and web editing – you’ll find it much easier to make changes to your website and get your formatting to look the way you want it to. Coursera have a free course run by the University of California, Davis called an Introduction to Web Development, it’s a great starting point.
- Content marketing – if you’re interested in learning more about blogging and email marketing as ways to attract new visitors to your website, HubSpot Academy has a range of free online courses to get you started.
Know when to save and when to splurge
Some marketing activities can be costly but they are worth the investment. For big ticket items like your website, a large-scale flyer drop or online advertising, it’s worth getting a professional on board to steer you in the right direction.
However, there are plenty of areas where you can upskill and take control of your marketing activities. You’ll find it particularly useful to know how to make changes to your website without getting an outside developer involved.