LinkedIn made a bunch of changes to its platform, and many people hate it. My feelings are not as strong as some but I see how losing the advanced search function and having your most-used buttons vanish could be annoying. If your articles suddenly don’t do as well as previously, it could feel like a bad joke. If you hate the new LinkedIn, here are a few things you need to do now to keep going:
Make your website the centre
Here’s the thing: LinkedIn is not your website. Many treat it like it is, publishing all their best content here and depending on it for the majority of their sales leads. The space we use here is rented space. LinkedIn is free to do what they want with their product.
Create a website and use it. Have a blog and contact page. List your products, services and testimonials. Implement features for generating leads. These features could be newsletter sign ups or free e-books that require your website visitors to provide their details. Make it easy for people to get in touch on your website.
Don’t stop engaging on LinkedIn
Over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed several people leave LinkedIn out-rightly. LinkedIn is still a crucial part of your online presence. Whether you are looking to grow your business, or find a new job, not being on LinkedIn puts you outside the professional sphere and makes it even more difficult to achieve your business goals.
Keep your profile updated in the new LinkedIn, and for goodness sake, don’t delete it. Use LinkedIn as a place to connect with potential business people and engage in relevant discussions. Continue to publish content but publish your best articles on your website first. After two weeks, you can republish the content on LinkedIn. The two-week timeline gives time to Google to index the content. If you publish the same content on several blogs in a short time, Google will penalise that content in its search rankings.
Download your LinkedIn articles
I started doing this few years ago. Most of my LinkedIn articles exist in PDF format somewhere else on my computer/cloud. It seems unthinkable, but what if all your articles disappeared…like the advanced search function did? LinkedIn is not your hard drive, and it certainly isn’t the cloud.
Go to your LinkedIn articles, right click and choose the Print option. Within the Print screen, choose Save as PDF instead of the name of the printer. Then save it. Remember you can do this for other articles you like on LinkedIn. Save it! Don’t rely on the new ‘Save Item’ option on LinkedIn.There might be an easier way. Open to better ways in the comments.
Download your contact list
This feature is probably already well-known and hopefully, well-used. Your contacts are available to download in CSV format. You can filter the list as you wish and build a database of your contacts outside the LinkedIn platform.
Download your contact list today, and do it regularly. Go to your settings and click on ‘Getting an archive of your data’. You will get more than just contacts. Your recommendations, experience, projects and so on.
Build your presence on other networks
When one platform is working really well for you, it’s easy to ignore other platforms. I was guilty of that. For a long time, I did very little on Twitter and Facebook for my business. But I started to see the advantage of having a presence across other networks. Each platform engages users differently, so get to understand how you can make it work. With other channels to engage LinkedIn connections and new connections, you build stronger relationships. And if the new LinkedIn goes cuckoo (again), you have other places to play.
Try Twitter or Facebook as a secondary platform. Facebook in particular, is getting better at helping business brands engage with customers. Create a business page and invite your LinkedIn connections to join. Facebook also allows you get away with less regular posts. However, if you’ve got the time and you can be succinct, Twitter is full of potential partnerships that could grow your business.
Meet your contacts offline
This should be the nirvana for social networking. You meet a connection in person. Yay! But many people don’t and more surprisingly, they don’t want to. Meet as many connections as possible for coffee. Obviously, try not to meet them all in one day.
Meet any connections that live in your city for coffee and a chat. Get to know their business and develop an offline relationship. This enables you make the best of LinkedIn and the hard work you’ve put into developing a network. When you visit a new city, put it out there and ask connections in that city to meet up. Over time, your online connections move into your phone contact list. Bliss.
There are other things you could do to grow and maintain a strong network. Attending events, taking speaking opportunities and joining a networking group are just some ways of engaging outside the new LinkedIn.
Look out for opportunities to speak about what you do. If public speaking is not your thing, consider a podcast series or video blogs so that your target audience get to really know you and can hear from you regularly, and you from them. Try Facebook Live, Periscope and Audacity/Sound Cloud for live videos and chit-chat.
Marketing is often on the bottom of the list for small businesses, and I understand that. The priority is usually to get business as quickly as possible, yet things like building a website tend to be nice-to-haves in some cases. I run a marketing consultancy but I haven’t been immune to the reluctance to spend on “marketing stuff”. In this article, I will highlight 10 essential yet cost-effective marketing tips for even the smallest budgets. These tips will help you build a foundation for your business. Many will cost you nothing, but they will make a significant impact in growing your business long term.
Cost-effective marketing tips for small businesses
1. Email Marketing
If you have a contact list of potential customers, email marketing could be a good way of letting them know about your business. You could start with a small list of people that know you and would not mind getting your email. For this, you don’t need an email marketing service. You could just use your email provider. Remember to keep your contacts’ emails in Bcc so that you don’t share their email addresses with your entire list. As your list grows, consider email providers like MailChimp, Mad Mimi and MailerLite. These all have free plans. The paid plans cost as little as £7 a month if you grow to a list of over 1,000 subscribers. If you get to that point, well done!
2. Business cards
Giving out your business card is a simple way of telling people what you do and how they can reach you. Thanks to companies like Vistaprint, you can get 500 business cards for £15. Other options are Fiverr, an online marketplace for your digital needs. Someone can design your card for as little as £3, and then you could print it elsewhere. I don’t recommend going too ‘cheap and cheerful’ with your business cards but don’t spend too much on it either. I changed my mind about my tag line a couple of times and that meant new business cards. Luckily, they didn’t cost much so I was able to make new cards to reflect my business’ value. Remember that as you evolve, your business will too. Make provisions for the changes that you might make.
3. Networking events
Networking events could cost anything from nothing to hundreds of pounds. The trick is to find those events that are relevant to your industry. When attending a networking event, don’t be shy to give away your business card. But also don’t worry too much about how much business you will get at the event. It could hinder you from just having a good time. You could be pitching all night! I’ve started to see networking events as an opportunity to just be known, help people put face to name. If new clients come as a result, fantastic!
4. CRM systems
When you think about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems, you might imagine a complex database that does things that as a small business, you are not ready for. However, CRM systems are essential to build your business. One of the first things I did was get Highrise, a simple CRM tool that allows me enter details of new contacts, potential and existing clients. Within Highrise, I can maintain details of all potential and existing client interactions, from first contact to conversion. Needless to say, Highrise is free for businesses with less than 250 contacts. It increases to roughly £15 a month for up to 5,000 contacts. Another CRM system for small business is HubSpot CRM. It’s free, but I haven’t tried. If you have, let me know what you think!
Gone are the high costs of building a website. Tools like WordPress.org and Wix make it easy for novices to build a website. I built my first website a year ago, and it was my steepest learning curve yet! I plan to improve it with expert intervention soon, but as a small business owner, spending on a luxury website might not be an option. But you need a website. You also need to make it SEO-friendly so that potential clients find you for relevant services. These days, a decent website costs from £500 if you contracted a website designer. Try your hands on building one yourself but get feedback. One advantage I’ve found from building my own website is that I have access to the back admin and can always change elements of the site myself. This is invaluable for a business that is growing and evolving daily.
Blogging is even easier than building a website. Without a full blown website, you could use platforms like Blogger and WordPress.com to start writing blogs about your industry, and your solution. You could invite guest bloggers, people who have complementary expertise or a unique view about a subject that your target audience might be interested in. Blogging is free, and a good way to be online and findable. Not blogging about your business is like being on mute in a customer meeting. Why are you there??
7. Social media
We all know it doesn’t cost anything to be on social media. But it might cost a little to be heard above the noise. Still, you could do a lot with £3 on Facebook. The key is to truly understand your target audience and where they hang out. If your clients are not on Twitter, you don’t need to be there. If your small business works with other businesses, a LinkedIn business page could be powerful. Spend time testing different social media channels and see what brings the most engagement. Also consider how much time you have to spend on these channels. For instance, LinkedIn and Facebook tend to require less time while Instagram and Twitter are about constant engagement i.e. 5-8 posts a day for real impact.
8. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is another free tool that every business website should have. It allows you see the sources of traffic to your website, and provides analytics on your website visitors. Google Analytics will show you how many visitors come from social media channels, and from organic searches via keywords. This was valuable for me as I contemplated which social media channel to invest in. For instance, LinkedIn brings over 40% of my social media traffic with Twitter as a close second. However, organic searches is by far the greatest source of traffic to my website. Therefore, I might decide to invest in Google Ads for specific keywords.
PR used to be left to Public Relations experts. But with social media and fantastic new tools like PingGo, PR has been democratised. For £30 a month, you can write your own press release anytime you want! So if you win a new client, expand your business or launch a new product, use PR to tell your story. Identify relevant news outlets and start telling the world the good news.
Not all businesses will benefit from brochures because so much of marketing has gone online. Yet, I believe this shift has made brochures a novelty, and it could be intriguing to receive a brochure from a small business. The less we expect something, the more positive impact it could have on your customers. You get their attention. A well-designed 8-page brochure that simply lays out your value proposition, key products and services, pricing and contact details is a good idea. You could leave it in cafes, doctor surgeries, office receptions etc. It will cost from £150 to get one designed. Assuming you provide all the copy and images, all you have to do is print it. Online printers like instantprint could print 100 copies of a 8-pp from as little as £45 depending on size and paper quality.
Next time you think about marketing for your business, know that it doesn’t need to cost the earth with these cost-effective marketing tips.