In the News

4 easy-to-implement marketing tips for small businesses

When owning a small business or operating as a sole proprietorship, having extra time to try something new is a rarity. And when business owners are jumping into something unfamiliar, it needs to be carefully planned and thought out. Marketing is often one of the toughest places for business operators to properly execute, especially if it’s not their area of expertise.

But proper marketing can result in growth for your brand recognition and overall business. And it doesn’t have to break the bank or take too much of your time. Here are four marketing strategies you can implement now at little to no cost.

Social media is your friend

Every low-cost budgeting strategy needs to start here. Using social media to leverage your business is free and allows you to reach millions of people with just a few words and clicks. You can use social media to share content (see suggestion No. 2), promote products, engage with customers and build your brand.

Facebook, which has more than 1 billion daily active users, is the No. 1 platform for marketing because of its large user base and ability to target audiences. Looking to reach people between the ages of 31 and 63, who live in a 10-mile radius of Des Moines and have children? Facebook can do that. Even $5 put into a post can go a long way on Facebook.

LinkedIn is an up-and-coming platform for small businesses. You can join groups, enter dialogues with connections, share blog posts and more. It can be a great place to share content and ideas and build a brand. Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are great social media sites to use, depending on the product or service you’re trying to sell. Visual products work well on Instagram and Pinterest, and Twitter is an ideal place to share timely, relevant information.

If you’re looking to boost your following — maybe you’ve just created a profile or are struggling to grow — consider running a contest or promotion to encourage shares. Ask customers to post photos with your product in them, and choose a winner at random to receive a prize. Or ask followers to share and comment on a post to potentially win a product. Contests are a great way to improve engagement and boost your following along the way. Plus, it’s fun!

Leverage your expertise for content

Content should be an important part of the marketing mix. You might have heard the phrase “content is king” when attending marketing seminars or speaking with marketing gurus. And it’s not wrong.

Content marketing is effective, especially when it incorporates meaningful and authentic information. Nobody knows your business and industry better than you. Leverage your thoughts and opinions in a weekly blog post, video, newsletter or podcast. They don’t have to be long, expansive pieces, but short, tidbits of information.

This is called thought leadership, and it’s one of the best ways to boost your brand and position yourself as a leader in the industry. Answer frequently asked questions you receive or comment on a hot-button issue in your industry or community. It’s a great way to leverage your expertise and build a following along the way. Set an hour out of your week to quickly write, shoot or record. It’s a small amount of time to have a big impact.

Networking is key

You are the face of your business, so what better way to market your business than with yourself? Go to events or, better yet, host your own to boost word-of-mouth marketing. Networking with other people in the community will keep you top-of-mind when they are looking for an expert in your industry.

Of course, your time is limited. So be selective of the events you attend. It might be more beneficial to go to events with a small number of attendees, which encourages intimate conversations. After the event, arrange one-on-one meetings with people you conversed with in order to create more lasting connections.

But remember, networking is not just about finding people to sell to. It’s meeting people who share your passion for business and can help you grow. If you do it right, your business’s brand and personal profile will rise organically.

Free stuff!

This may sound counterintuitive: Give stuff away to increase sales? But it works. The word “free” creates a buzz around your brand and can generate a lot of leads. Try giving away a consulting session for your service. Or hand out your product to five lucky customers.

Let your products and service do the talking. If they are good enough, those free customers will become paid customers, and they may even recommend your business to a friend, which is one of the most powerful marketing tools out there. Sharing your free giveaway will also generate more leads, considering everyone who enters is interested in the product or service, and builds brand recognition—both wins!

Give these easy-to-implement and low-cost marketing tips a try and see how your small business grows.

Kristen Hall finds the bright side in family law disputes

Kristen Hall, the founder of her own law practice, is in the business of problem-solving and mediation. But more importantly, she’s in the business of helping families heal — and that’s the way she wants it to be.

Hall, the sole proprietor of Hall Mediation and Law, says she practices law with a “servant’s heart.” Focused primarily on collaborative divorce and estate planning, Hall knows how to manage conflicts and understands how emotions can get in the way of the decision-making processes.

“The niche I’ve gone into is helping people resolve conflict so they can still have a relationship afterward,” Hall said. “Because it’s very hard to do that, whether you’re going through a divorce, whether you’re fighting who is going to take care of your elderly parents. That process in itself has a lot of collateral damage.”

That approach stems from her personal tribulations.

Hall grew up in Des Moines and graduated from Roosevelt High School. She attended Vanderbilt University in Tennessee and graduated in 1993 with a degree in communications. She then worked with her father in the family business for a couple of years. In 1995, Hall went to law school at Drake University; she graduated three years later.

But that’s when times started to get tough.

In 1999, Hall’s mother — just 61 at the time — passed away suddenly. A year later, Hall had a son who was stillborn. In 2001, her daughter was born the day after the Sept. 11 attacks. In 2002, Hall’s grandmother died. Her second daughter was born in 2003. It was a hectic period for Hall and her family, to say the least.

“All of that on top of each other,” Hall said. “It gave me a very good understanding of grief and how it affects how we think and react. It’s very easy to get stuck in crisis mode, and that’s not a good place to make a decision.”

Hall stayed at home with her children for 10 years before starting her own practice in 2011. She knew she wanted to avoid traditional family law. She didn’t enjoy the constant conflict. She wanted to be a peaceful mediator, especially since these issues leave lasting and sometimes damaging effects on families.

Twenty-five years before Hall’s mother died, she was diagnosed with an incurable condition. Because of that discovery, Hall’s mother lived a mindful life and was open about what should happen after she passed. Hall considers those conversations a blessing and encourages those discussions in her practice.

“We would have these very awkward conversations of what she wanted,” Hall said. “And as strange as those conversations were when they happened, we never doubted what she wanted us to do when she died. That was a gift, in hindsight. That’s why I try and help families to have those tough conversations. It’s easier when you have that neutral facilitator.”

Hall is the sole owner and operator of her practice, but she is a part of a central Iowa collaborative group that includes other divorce attorneys, mental help professionals and financial experts. She is also grateful for the support she receives from NAWBO Iowa, which she joined in 2013 after attending the Women Mean Business Summit. 

“It is a tremendous resource,” Hall said. “I have found other women and resources I can trust. As my business grows and I’ve met new challenges, I know where to go for answers. I know people who can help me, even though it’s a tricky conversation because you are admitting you don’t know something. Having a place where you can ask questions and you know people won’t judge you is valuable as a solo practitioner.”