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According to the Small Business Administration, a third of businesses with employees don’t survive past two years. But once you've made it through the difficult startup period and your business is on sound footing, it's time to think about expanding locally.
Building out your business can lead to sales growth that allows you to stay ahead of the competition. Expansion can be risky and increase debt, and it takes time and resources. But the potential rewards can be worth the effort. With sound planning and execution, it's a manageable task. A sound marketing strategy is key, allowing you to build awareness of your brand in the public eye. That can even lead to an increase in customers.
Conduct market research and formulate a plan
Start by conducting market research. While this may sound costly or complicated, it can be as easy as talking to your customers about your products and services or asking them to complete a short survey. For Internet companies and e-tailers, there's free or inexpensive online software that enables you to email questionnaires to your customer list.
Once completed, use the valuable customer feedback to assemble a marketing plan, such as what the Small Business Administration outlines. The information will help you understand your target market and your competitive position within that market. You'll be able to better tailor your message to your customers while choosing the best medium for reaching them.
Also, a marketing plan will help you stick to your overall growth plans and keep you on budget and on track for timely, prudent spending of your marketing resources.
Head online for local advertising
Your company website will serve as one of your primary marketing tools. It’s a virtual storefront for online customers, whether you're selling products or services. Ensure your site is up to date, easy to navigate and has a design best representing your business. If a large portion of your business occurs online, consider creating a mobile app to allow your customers to shop with their smartphones, or at least develop a responsive, secure website. A well-made app can make for an easier, more interactive shopping experience.
With a company website and app, you can take advantage of marketing opportunities by adding navigation software that allows you to track a customer's visit to your online business. You can automatically send related product suggestions based on their searches or create online tools to deliver coupons, special offers or one-time sales promos. Offering loyalty or club cards can encourage return visits.
Free enterprise and social media
One sure way to stay on budget is to take advantage of as many free marketing opportunities as you can. For instance, Google My Business allows you to set up an account listing vital business info, including your address, phone, hours of operation, website link, business description and even a photo. This ensures the correct details appear in online searches and can give your business a boost in search rankings.
Establish accounts on popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, which offer excellent opportunities for engaging with customers and advertising special events or offers. It’s important to check on the sites regularly and post updates on a consistent basis. Another strategy for building traffic to your website is to add a blog where you can post news, tips and articles on subjects related to your business.
Traditional marketing methods have long helped owners grow their businesses and should be an important consideration for any local marketing strategy. Although marketing is increasingly shifting to the internet, purchasing an ad in a local newspaper can still be the best way to reach a target audience if you run a retail outlet such as a furniture store.
To promote specialized products, consider advertising in specialty magazines or trade publications. If you want to better gauge the ad’s effectiveness, include a coupon or discount for subscribers that they can redeem at your business.
A similar strategy is to buy local advertising spots on a TV or radio channel. Your local station's ad sales team should be able to provide information on its listeners, including detailed demographics and audience size at each point in the day, to help you choose the best program and time slot for your ad. Flyers and coupons sent via direct mail are another option for businesses interested in reaching a wide audience.
Paid digital marketing
Digital advertising is a logical part of any marketing plan. It can seem complicated, but a well-placed digital ad can reach the largest audience in the shortest amount of time.
Consider advertising with the online version of your city newspaper or another local news website or popular blog. For a more targeted approach, advertising through business services that some of the largest social media companies now provide and some smaller ones can also ensure you reach a desired group.
A Facebook business account allows you to pinpoint a demographic and choose the frequency of your posted ads. Likewise, Google AdWords targets your ads according to a user's online searches. Both companies provide analytics for you to see precisely the effectiveness of your ads.
Whatever your approach to marketing and advertising, growing a business is an exciting time. Acquiring property, liability or business interruption coverage, with policies such as Nationwide small business insurance, can give you the confidence to focus on growth.