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How to promote and market your business

Successful marketing is about targeting relevant people in the most effective way, with messages that will compel them to take action (to become a customer of your business). This article will take you through the main online and offline marketing channels that exist, tell you how you can decide which ones will be best for you, and give you plenty of ideas for successfully promoting your business, even if you have limited budgets and resources.

Why do I need to market my business?

If you have a product or service to sell and you believe that it will be useful or desirable to some people, then your goal is to find those people and tell them about your business. This is marketing. 

It’s important that you always set aside some time and budget to promote your business, that you make a plan and always track what’s worked and what hasn’t. Even if your business is hitting its sales targets right now, marketing will help you keep up that momentum, exceed targets, and make sure you have something already in place if things get quieter. Marketing will also assist you in getting to know your customers, obtaining feedback on what they like and don’t like, which can help with things like new product development. 

How do I find my target audience?

“Everyone is not your customer.”

Seth Godin 

Targeting everyone with your marketing would be extremely inefficient, not to mention very expensive. You may have an idea in your head as to who your ideal customer is but it helps to get it down on paper and back it up with research. After you’ve done this you can start to ask yourself where you will find these people and what marketing they are likely to respond best to.

“There is only one winning strategy. It is to carefully define the target market and direct a superior offering to that market.”

Philip Kotler 

Here are eight ways to find your target audience…

  • Use your own insights

    Write down what you already know about your existing customers – gender, age, demographics, income, location, likes and dislikes.

  • Collect data

    Send out a questionnaire to past and current customers, or friends and contacts, to collect some data.

  • Have a focus

    Don’t be afraid to create a niche and to make it as narrow as possible.

  • Think about your proposition

    Understand the problems that you solve and who they might apply to.

  • Picture your target audience

    Build a customer profile of your (imaginary) ideal customer with as much detail as possible about them so that you can picture an actual person to market to.

  • Check out the competition

    Do some research into your competitor’s customers – who they are and what marketing channels they use to reach them.

  • Utilise publicly available data

    Use YouGovProfiles to profile people who like similar brands.

  • Tap into social media

    Use social media advertising to test different segments like age or location and see which have the best results.

How to market a new business

Follow these steps in order to successfully market a new business: 

  • Find your target audience 
  • Create your business marketing strategy 
  • Set a marketing budget 
  • Write a marketing plan 
  • Decide on your main marketing messages based on your target market and marketing strategy 
  • Track your results to see if your campaigns have worked 
  • Tweak and optimise your marketing campaigns
  • Keep trying – don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time 

How to promote my business online

There’s not a business these days that wouldn’t benefit from improving its online presence. Millions of searches, recommendations and reviews happen every day and you’re missing out if you’re not part of the conversation and you don’t have your best and most up-to-date information online. Websites, social media and email provide really cheap and easy ways to stay in touch with your customers and to get in front of new ones. Not to mention selling directly online and increasing those sales.

These are the main online marketing channels and the basics that you should be doing…

Your own website

Make sure your website is kept up-to-date and that the information that customers are most likely to want is on there and easy to find.

Find out more

Blogging is the best way to regularly update your site and it will help your search engine optimisation (SEO) meaning you’ll appear higher on Google search listings. It’ll also give you great content to use across your other channels like email and social. Connect Google Analytics to your website so you can see how many visits you’re getting, what activity makes that number rise, and where the traffic is coming from.

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Other websites

For more exposure for your business online put some work into getting mentions across other websites. This can potentially help drive traffic to your website for free as we explain in more detail below.

Find out more

There are a number of tried and tested ways to increase mentions and links back to your website. These include contributing guest blogs, appearing in news stories, and getting your business listed on directory sites such as Google, Tripadvisor and Yell.com. If you’re paying for listings or online advertising (pay-per-click or banner ads) then you must track whether you’re getting a return-on-investment.

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Social media

It’s much better to pick one social media channel and use it regularly than have a few that you don’t use. Think about which channel is suited to your business, and your objectives, and focus your efforts there.

Find out more

Facebook is good for local business-to-customer organisations (how to set up and use your Facebook business page). Instagram is best if your business lends itself to lovely photography and videos.  Twitter is a place to get involved with topical discussions and see what’s trending. LinkedIn is the best place to network and share your work in a business-to-business environment. YouTube is best for posting and hosting videos

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How do I get customers to come to my website for free?

Getting free traffic to your website from search engines is clearly important as it lightens your reliance on paid activity. This is known as organic searching (as opposed to paid searching).

Many customers who use search engines (such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing) don’t go beyond the first page of suggestions, so it’s important to ensure that the way your website is created and used helps to push it up the listings. The process of doing this is called search engine optimisation (SEO).

Here are some facts that reinforce why SEO is so important. 

There are some best practice rules you should follow when building your website and creating content. Whilst you shouldn’t expect instant results, follow these rules and you’ll put yourself in a strong position.  

  • Keywords – Make sure that your content and metadata – the unseen data behind the web pages – contains words and phrases that your customers are likely to use in their searches.
  • Links back – Identify well-respected sites in your industry sector that attract lots of traffic. Contact the sites and try to persuade them that it would be mutually beneficial for them to include a link to your site. In return, offer them a link on your own site. Submit your details to reputable directories, which will list your contact details and provide a link to your website. 
  • Mobile – Another optimisation factor that’s recently emerged is how well a website displays on different devices. For example, if someone is searching for your website on their smartphone but your website hasn’t been designed to display well on a phone screen, your site is less likely to rank high in a search.
  • Keep it fresh – Having a blog area that is regularly updated tells Google that your site is fresh and current, whilst increasing the number of pages that you can appear in search results for.
  • Go local – Local SEO tactics are important for smaller businesses that might not be blogging or creating a lot of content. Make sure your site is in the appropriate registries and all of your information is up to date.

Many of the things that make your website good for search engines go hand-in-hand with an engaging customer experience. For example, by updating content regularly – such as showcasing new products or adding more tips about using your services – you’ll not only encourage customers to keep coming back to see what’s new but also help to push up your search engine ranking.

Many businesses use outside specialists to help them optimise their websites. Here’s a tip: if you want to find SEO experts, search for them online and see how high they appear in the organic search list as opposed to the ones for paid for adverts – this will show you how good they are at optimising their own site.

Your website may be indexed by the main search engines without you needing to do anything, but you can submit your site to them. Each search engine has a different process for submission; submitting your website exactly as they specify will increase your chances of getting a good listing.

To submit your website to the key search engines go to the following sites: 

How to market my business offline

A lot of the focus is on online marketing these days, but let’s not forget what matters the most is really what you do offline (i.e in real life). Online marketing works best when it’s supported and is a reflection of what you do offline. You’ll find it much easier to create content when you stop focusing on what to post and start focusing on doing interesting things with your business (which you can then share across all your channels). In the same vein, social media networks grow much more quickly and stronger when you connect with the people in person too. 

The main offline marketing channels to consider…

  • Print

    Have a think if your business lends itself to promotion via leaflets, posters, magazine or newspaper adverts. Do similar businesses use these channels? 

  • Events and exhibitions

    Particularly if you have a product to sell, nothing beats getting your business out there in front of people to generate sales and feedback. 

  • Public speaking

    See if you can speak at events or get on the radio – shout about what you do and be known as the expert in your field. 

  • Sponsorship

    Local level sponsorship (say a new piece of kit for a sports club) is a good way for local businesses to connect with local people and demonstrate goodwill and a care for the community. 

Checklist: 10 ways to market your new business on a small budget

You might think you need a big budget to in order to promote your business but that’s really not the case. In fact, some of the most effective tactics cost nothing at all. Here are some of the top cheap marketing ideas that can help you reach new audiences, grow your customers, and increase your sales. 

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