By Jodi Hill
Marketing is an essential component of starting a small business. However, many entrepreneurs find themselves with a great product or service but little funding and no idea where to start.
A familiar term associated with low-cost promotion is grassroots marketing, a process that involves targeting a small niche group of people and persuading them to spread your message through their connections. Luckily, today’s obsession with social media and all things digital means that simple and low-cost marketing strategies are increasingly effective. And rather than a small market as with grassroots activities, you have the potential to reach an endless number of people.
With the access technology provides, you don’t need to create amazing ads and spend large amounts of cash to do it. Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool that can highlight your brand’s personality and reputation and reach customers where they are.
• You have a story to tell. Every business, product or service has a story. With our need to stay connected constantly through our mobile devices and computers, we are continually consuming information that is relevant to us. This is the strength of content marketing. A good story will break through the rest of the noise that your target customer is hearing, convey your personality, make an emotional connection and build intrigue that will encourage the seeking of more information.
• Build the foundation. You can’t tell your story if you haven’t written it, so it’s important to take the time to write down what your company and your product or service is about — who, what, when, where and why. Who are the key people involved? What is the driving force behind it? What are you offering? Why did you create it and why is it important to you? If it’s your idea and your creation, there must be a passion or purpose connected to it, which in turn will connect you to your customers.
• Plant the seed. You can’t get away from spending some money to create a foundation and tools to house your story. The basics of a website, business cards and a brochure can be accomplished at a very low cost with the variety of resources available today. Building a website, even a very basic one, will help you build on your story and provide a place to send prospects who are drawn to your message.
• Fertilize it. The key to all good digital and content marketing is to drive people to your website or to call for more information. You need to put your story, and yourself, out there. Talk to people. Join your local chamber of commerce. Have a presence at local events. Create partnerships with other businesses that can be mutually beneficial referral sources. And, perhaps most importantly, use social media channels.
• There is always more to the story. Good content tells a story that internet users want to read and search engines will rank. To be successful you have to be careful not to start a conversation without continuing it. Create a blog on your website and share your posts on your social media channels. If you don’t have the time to create original content, curate published articles that are relevant to your brand and share them with an original introductory comment. Good content with strong messages will compel readers to share your posts over social media and your reach will grow organically.
Storytelling through digital content is a key strategy to build a customer base and is a great place to start when you are caught in the space between the need to advertise and the lack of early revenue.
The loyal customers you create will be your best marketers as they amplify your message by sharing your content. As a natural evolution, when you’re ready, you can begin incorporating paid digital advertising to drive even higher engagement with your target audience.
• Marketing consultant Jodi Hill is director of marketing at the Pepperdine School of Law and an adjunct faculty member of the California Lutheran University School of Management.