HBA: Marketing tips for home-based businesses

Published 9:10 am Tuesday, July 21, 2015

By BOB VAN LOAN / Guest Columnist

Each day as we drive through Helena we see dozens of business storefronts, those brick-and mortar commercial spaces providing access to their goods and services to customers who walk in or drive up.

Van Loan

Van Loan

But did you know that there are many more home-based businesses in Helena than there are storefronts?

Probably not, and much of that has to do with the difficulties that home-based businesses face in marketing themselves to their potential customers.

If you run a home-based business or plan to open one, the Helena Business Association has 10 tips on how to get the word out.

Remember, since you have no storefront that customers can see, you actually need more marketing efforts than traditional businesses do.

1. A Business Website: Very often it’s a customer’s first impression of your business. Keep it clear, uncluttered and intuitive. Make content informative and always include your contact information.

2. Local Search: Many customers do research on-line before buying. Make sure that you are on Google Maps and similar services and that you are consistently at the top of the search results.

3. Social Media: Don’t discount the effectiveness of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like. Post early, post often and solicit feedback. Keep track of which service is providing you with the most comments.

4. Case Studies: Showing people your products or services in action, rather than just describing them, can help potential customers to make educated decisions before they buy.

5. E-Newsletters: Create a monthly email newsletter and send it out to customers who have signed up to receive information from you. Another good means of soliciting feedback.

6. Blogging: A great tool that you can use to demonstrate your industry expertise. Software like WordPress or web-based tools such as Blogger make it easy. Ask other bloggers in your industry if you can post to their sites.

7. Publicity: Get mentioned in local media as much as possible; it’s more cost effective than paid advertising. Seek expert help in writing targeted press releases for print, radio, TV and bloggers.

8. Affiliate Programs: Partnering with the right business can take some work, but it’s a cost effective way of marketing yourself without the hassle of managing a staff.

9. Referrals: Another great, no-cost way to attract new customers. Provide incredible customer service and encourage your clients to refer you to their friends and colleagues.

10. Public Speaking: Put yourself out there. Offer to speak to audiences at local organizations or other places where your target customers gather.

The HBA membership contains many subject matter experts who can help you with any or all of the above. Joining is easy and the rewards are immediate. Learn more today at Hbahelena.com.

Bob Van Loan is a board member and the immediate past president of the Helena Business Association and the president and principal consultant of Thoroughbred Strategic Services, a strategy management and performance measurement consultancy. He can be reached directly at bob75137@aol.com.