Working in marketing was the first job that I truly enjoyed. Key to this was that it was within the public sector, at Transport for London (TfL).
It felt like we were helping Londoners every day in small ways. From improving road safety behaviours to launching contactless payment across the transport network, I was always clear about why I was communicating with customers, and the value they’d receive.
TfL placed a huge amount of value on clear and transparent communications, aligning with my personal principles. I have carried this with me into marketing my own small businesses over the last few years.
Marketing doesn't have be about 'quick wins' or making cold, hard sales. At its heart, it is a way of communicating and having a conversation with your audience. It is a way of sharing what you have or what you know with those who could benefit from it, allowing you to be of service.
The bonus of marketing your own business is that you’re doing so from a place of passion, and so even if you have little to no budget, it can feel much more fun and authentic. The key, especially for those with limited marketing experience, is to do what feels right for you, your audience and your business, rather than getting swept up in “shoulds” and heavily promoted “quick wins”.
Small business owners are often in business because they feel like they have something of value to offer. They’re passionate about their products and services, and have a strong sense of their values. Sometimes it can be hard to market ourselves and our business because let’s face it, we’re promoting something that is closely linked to who we are as individuals, and that’s scary.
But, as well as practically needing to make sales in order to stay in business, marketing helps people to find the product or service that they’re looking for, and access the value that business owners provide. Therefore, marketing is a service itself.
It is helpful to approach your marketing in a way that feels heartfelt, and true to your values. Here are some tips on how to feel good while promoting your business:
Share useful content.
Always consider your audience. Everything you share, even if it’s based on your personal experiences, should be useful in some way. This applies when you’re sharing part of your journey so that others can benefit from the lessons you have learned, or so that they can get to know you and your values better.
When you share practical content - insights, resources, ‘behind the scenes’, hints and tips - you’re enabling potential customers to understand how you work, and trust your brand.
Sharing from a position of service will lead to generate trust, and evenutally sales, but it might take time as you establish your business and build up an audience. But in the meantime you are creating a community, making connections, and helping others. You’re paying forward the help you received on your own journey to owning a business.
Make it easy for people...
…to find you, and access your products and services. This means considering who your ideal customers are, where they are, and what they would like to see. Then invest time in creating appropriate marketing materials and showing up in the relevant channels.
This might look like consistently sharing useful and interesting blog posts, with striking graphics uploaded to Pinterest. It might be growing and engaging with a community on Instagram. Perhaps it is sharing your ideas in print or via popular podcasts, or selling your products at pop-up markets and fairs.
Show up like you’re already there.
This is one of the hardest things to do when you’re in the early stages of your business. It is easy to think that while your audience is small it doesn’t matter if you keep to a regular schedule with blogging, sending out newsletters, or engaging with people on social media. In fact, the opposite is true.
By showing up consistently, as though you have a large audience:
you show people that you take them seriously, and you value their attention, even if there’s only a few of them; and
you get to practice, learn and improve. This seems at odds with valuing your audience, but they are still benefitting from your products and services as you develop your skills. They will benefit even more as you refine your marketing style. Through ‘doing’ the work, and then reviewing it with a critical eye, you can see what is working and what is not, and improve
Slow and steady wins the race
Don’t expect to see returns on feel-good marketing activity overnight.
If you’re building a business that you’re passionate about and dedicated to, remind yourself that you’re playing the long-game, and that means it is ok if it takes a year to get established. Accepting this upfront helps you to feel better about your marketing.
Just be consistent and keep chipping away, generating content and getting yourself and your products out there. The return on your investment will come.
Embrace the opportunity to experiment and learn, while your business is quieter. This will truly pay off in the future.