If you’ve been following the HostGator Home Business Guide series, you know we’ve covered a lot of the groundwork for setting up your new business, from deciding if running a business is right for you to getting a website. You’re just about ready to announce your home based business to the world – and more importantly, to your target market. To do that, you need to put together your marketing toolkit to spread the word online and in person.
The marketing mindset
‘Marketing’ is a vague term. Ask 72 experts what it means, as marketing author Heidi Cohen did, and you’ll get 72 unique answers. The simplest approach for new business owners is to think of every interaction between your business and your potential customers as a chance to establish your trustworthiness, demonstrate your authority or quality, and listen to what those potential customers want and need. For this post, we’ll focus on gathering tools to build trust and establish a professional image. We’ll delve into authority and listening in the next post.
The customer personas you developed in Step 3 are now going to help you create your marketing tools. As you go through these steps, think about how you can set up these tools to show your business is reliable and professional in a way that will appeal to your customer personas.
Digital marketing tools for your new business
Now that you have a domain name and website, you’re ready to set up your professional email address. If you host your website with HostGator, it only takes a couple of minutes in your control panel.
You need a professional email address, even if your personal email address is something related to your business. That’s because customers find professional email addresses more trustworthy, and as a new business, that’s exactly what you want to communicate. Use this address on your site, business cards, social media, and other marketing materials.
In your email settings, create a signature line for your professional emails that includes your name, your company name, your tagline, a link to your website, and maybe your phone number.
Don’t want a separate phone for your business? Get a Google Voice or Skype number instead, and use that number for your business, or use the toll-free VoIP number that comes with HostGator’s business hosting plans. Then decide how you’ll answer business calls. Record a good outgoing voicemail message and include an alternate way for customers to reach you, like your email address.
You also need keyword-rich title tags and content on each page of your website to help search engines find your site, and you need to make sure your site text is visible to those search engines.
Resist the urge to use the same keywords over and over in your site copy, like this: “Welcome to Houston Alligator Costumes! If you’re looking for a Houston alligator costume, you are in the right place. At Houston Alligator Costumes, we are experts on Houston alligator costumes.”
The goal is to rank highly in search results *and* establish credibility. Copy that reads like a robot wrote it isn’t credible. Google also penalizes sites for keyword stuffing by ranking them lower in search results.
Now’s the time to choose the social media platforms your business will use, based on the ones your customer personas use. Are your ideal customers pinning products like yours on Pinterest boards? Do they chat with their peers in Facebook groups? Are they sharing technical tips on their YouTube channels? Go where they are, and don’t worry about the dozens of other platforms.
We’ll talk in more detail about social media marketing ideas in Step 9. For now, identify the platforms to use and study their business-user tutorials. When you’re ready, set up your accounts using your domain name, professional email address, and a user name that matches or relates to your business name.
Printed marketing materials
Some of your marketing will happen offline, which is why at least some printed marketing materials are a must, too. At the very least, you’ll want business cards.
Why business cards in the age of the smartphone? When people are interested enough in your business to ask for your card, you have the opportunity to impress a potential customer or underwhelm them. Choose to impress by (a) having business cards and (b) having cards that look good. Always carry your cards in a holder to protect them from pocket and purse damage.
Other Promo Items
Depending on your business and audience, you may also want magnetic car signs, pens to give away, loyalty-program punch cards, notecards for handwritten thank-you’s to your best customers, and labels for your products.
Branded labels can add panache to product packaging and gift-wrapped items. A magnetic sign on your car can raise awareness around town and is a popular choice for small home-service businesses. Bear in mind that when the magnet is on display, your vehicle is a rolling brand ambassador. Drivers will notice your cool magnet. They’ll also notice whether your car is clean, whether your tailpipe is sagging, and how you drive, so keep that in mind!
The cost of printed marketing materials can add up fast. If your budget is very tight, you might start out with a small number of high quality business cards, rather than order a thousand lower-quality cards that don’t represent your business as well. Consider also that your branding may change in a few months as your business evolves, and you’ll need to replace your cards then.
When you have your marketing toolbox fully stocked, you’ve completed Step 6 and you’re ready to move on to the most important step for every business at every stage of its life: connecting with and listening to target customers. We’ll look at doing this through social media, in person, on your blog, and more in the next HostGator Home Business Guide post.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.