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Five low-cost marketing tips for sole traders

Tuesday, 29 October 2013 | By Nina Hendy

Sole traders know all about micro marketing budgets and being slammed by constant deadlines. This is why they’ve got to get smart about marketing.

 

Here are five great ways to bolster your marketing plan in time for next year.

 

1. Content marketing

 

Content marketing is most definitely here to stay. And it can be a great way for sole traders to lift their profile.

 

Content marketing involves setting aside a little time to create content such as tutorials, email newsletters, white papers, custom publications, e-books, free reports, blogs or social media to educate new and existing clients in your area of expertise.

 

If you’re an accountant, for example, you could create compelling content around the things about tax time that people hate tackling the most. This creates an opportunity to mention the services you offer to meet those needs. Once you’ve created your content, don’t forget to find the best way for your business to distribute it.

 

Lauren Roe is the Melbourne founder of new online homewares and linen store, I Love Linen. She has had strong results from social media, with her Facebook page driving direct sales for her.

 

A recent post was shared by a popular blogger with a huge Facebook following, which yielded high traffic and sales that day, she says.

 

“A great Facebook strategy is based on engaging with customers and promoting a certain image around a desired lifestyle and then finding ways to link it back to your products,” Roe says.

 

Nerissa Atkinson, co-director of marketing consultancy for smaller businesses, The Revery, says social media is vital for small operators to maintain a visible presence for existing and new clients.

 

“If it seems like it takes up too much time, use a monitoring tool like Hootsuite, which helps you manage all your accounts in one place, or Mention.net to track keywords to respond to in real time,” Atkinson says.

 

2. Add bells and whistles to your website

 

You only get a few seconds to make an impression, with website visitors throwing a few brief glances around your site before deciding whether or not they’re interested in what you’ve got to offer.

 

With this in mind, smart sole traders are adding a few bells and whistles to their websites in a bid to convert website visitors into customers.

 

Live chat services are becoming increasingly popular for sole traders. A small window pops up on your website when someone arrives and asks if they’d like help, acting like a virtual sales person on your behalf.

 

Melbourne business Event Equipment added a live chat to their website, which has seen revenue double in recent months. The service, provided by Web Reception, starts at $16 a day and within 30 seconds of arriving at your website, visitors are greeted by a live chat window asking if they need help.

 

“We haven’t tweaked anything else in the business, except that we now have a real person that is trained to convert visitors into potential customers on our website,” Event Equipment’s Benjamin Simon says.

 

Another great website tool is adding a video to your website, which can draw visitors in.

 

Fusion Video’s Stuart Gordon creates videos for SMEs and says studies have shown that 68% more information is retained after watching a video compared to just reading. Another study suggests that 90% of customers say video has helped them make a better buying decision.

 

Search engine optimisation is also vital. Australians head to Google to find almost everything these days to track down products and services they’re after.

 

SEO uses key words to help your business feature prominently in search engine results. This can drive traffic to your site and encourage shoppers to buy from you rather than your competitor. SEO is increasingly important as constant Google updates change the game, penalising sites with poor content and pushing online mentions further down in the list of search results. If you’re not confident in the online world, consider consulting an SEO expert.

 

3. Start a blog

 

It doesn’t take a big commitment of time to write a blog every week, with sole traders starting to cotton on to the fact that it can give them serious credibility to be commenting on industry issues via a blog. Lots of businesses blog these days, in all sorts of industry sectors.

 

Blogging, which is best described as a frequently updated online publication of personal thoughts, can help a business stamp its authority on a particular industry and has the genuine ability to influence, shift opinions and drive word of mouth for products and services. Best of all, it costs nothing but an investment of time.

 

Marketing communication strategist Mel Kettle blogs here about all things marketing.

 

Blogging is becoming increasingly popular in Australia, with recent posts indicating there are over 6 million blogs in Australia.

 

“I started blogging three years ago, but have ramped it up to posting once a week now because it’s such a great marketing tool for my business.”

 

Kettle can link several recent enquiries to her blog, proving its working for her.

 

“A blog enables me to position myself as an expert in my field, and I’ve had lots of invites to speak at events from people who have read it.”

 

4. Run your own PR campaign

 

It doesn’t take much to run a PR campaign these days, thanks to the help of a few online tools and a little investment of your time.

 

Website www.handleyourownpr.com.au was specifically created for sole traders to handle their own publicity campaigns by learning the tricks of the trade from publicity and marketing professionals.

 

Site founder Jules Brooke says PR isn’t rocket science, but added that there are a few trade secrets.

 

“You need a strong media release, some great media contacts and the time to dedicate to your campaign.”

 

The site offers media lists within specific niche sectors, such as parenting magazines, newspaper supplements or new business media so that people only pay for the media that suits them.

 

SourceBottle is another great tool, connecting journalists with suitable sources for stories. The site is fast becoming a popular hang-out for businesses looking for an opportunity to be quoted in the media.

 

It’s also worth checking out the Media Bag, which gets your product or service voucher in the hands of influential journalists and bloggers to review.

 

5. Collaborate and nurture

 

It might sound out-dated, but in fact, nurturing your clients and collaborating with other businesses never went out of fashion.

 

Everyone knows it’s far cheaper to keep your current clients happy than it is to spend the time and effort making new ones.

 

One way to nurture current clients is to send a small gift to clients that have given you a steady stream of work recently.

 

Also, consider teaming up with other businesses willing to also support your business.

 

Collaborating with businesses that offer similar but unrelated services could make you a one-stop-shop for a client, such as a graphic designer and a website designer being available to work together on some projects.

 

Amanda Jesnoewski helps SMEs with their marketing and advocates the importance of forming strategic alliances.

 

“The goal is to produce each other business by reciprocal referrals or joint promotional opportunities,” the founder of Velocity Media + Communications says.

 

When choosing an alliance, look for businesses that work with your clients before and after you, as this will increase the chances of both of you generating referrals for each other, she says.