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Best Marketing Channels: Get More Bang For Your Buck

Dartboard with 3 darts in the bullseye
Small businesses must be very targeted in their marketing efforts. This means getting the most out of available marketing channels, without spending a ton of money. Here are some of the best marketing channels for small businesses, plus some insight into when it makes sense to use them.

1. Social Media

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have transformed small business marketing. They have given businesses a cost-effective platform on which to share content, engage with customers, promote events and generate leads. Almost any business can benefit from social media. For example, plumbers and electricians can use it to demonstrate their skills and services by sharing best practices, inviting customer reviews and promoting how-tos — all you need is a smartphone or camera and YouTube.
The trick with social media is to go where your customers are. LinkedIn is a good fit for B2B businesses, while Facebook is a great way to engage with consumer buyers. But don't stop there. Check out your competitors and see where they are engaging customers.

2. Email Marketing

While social media is largely free, email marketing still returns the greatest ROI – four times higher than other marketing channels.
Thanks to segmentation tools, email allows you to target your customers with precision. Email marketers can deliver different messages to different audiences based on their profiles, demographics, buying history and more. Even better, those customers want to hear from you — they've signed up for your email updates, after all.

Businesses can use email in several ways:
  • Thank customers for their business
  • Gain feedback through surveys and polls
  • Share special offers
  • Offer tricks of the trade
Email marketing tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy to get started and manage your efforts. You can even automate actions like welcome emails and re-engage lapsed customers. Plus, you can test which messages and content perform better (known as A/B testing) to refine your efforts.

3. Direct Mail

Direct mail is still a popular marketing channel among small businesses, especially those in skilled trades looking to reach new clients or motivate them with a special offer. 42 percent of recipients read or scan mail pieces and more than 2.5 million coupons are redeemed each year.
Postcards are a cost-effective way to mail a simple offer. Or create a flier and pop it in the mail.
Direct mail works best if the recipient has done business with you before. For example, if you've just finished working with a customer, send them a personalized reminder for when their next service is due, and even include a special offer to promote regular service.

4. Local Online Marketing

Sites like Google My Business, YellowPages and MerchantCircle (both of which specialize in contractor listings), are a great way to ensure your business ranks highly in local searches. Creating a listing is free, but you will need to maintain your page. Share updates and promotions directly to your Google listing, monitor and respond to reviews, and check insights and metrics about visitor engagement.

Finding the Most Cost-Effective Channel

Finding the best marketing channel depends on your goals and industry. While social media is largely free and generates strong click throughs, it might not produce on its own the ROI that email or direct marketing could.
Here's the thing. It's not necessary to choose one channel over another. Instead, consider an integrated approach that delivers a consistent brand message across the channels that you choose. Use email and social media to stay engaged with your customers, direct mail to reach new ones, and local online marketing to ensure your business is reaching your local target market. If you're completely new to any of these channels, test them and see which performs best.