Most small businesses, particularly in less-populated markets, rely on a few standbys: a yellow pages listing, word-of-mouth, and maybe a website.  Some advertise in the local paper.  But that’s the extent of it, and in smaller markets, small businesses should look at other tools that can drive sales.

Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is also known as search engine optimization (SEO).  If you do not have a website, get one now.  Hire a designer who can build either a simple, static website or a WordPress-based site that can be updated regularly.  Then, start thinking about your keywords.  How are your customers searching for you? “Landscaper in West Springfield” or “personal trainer in Longmeadow”?  Google AdSense can list keywords and key phrases that customers will use.

Email newsletters sent no more than every month, with maybe a quick supplementary message in between newsletters (you don’t want to be known as an annoying spammer!), can also drive sales.  Be creative with your newsletter; don’t just include your sales or specials.  What useful information could you send to your clients? A contractor could send seasonal tips for household maintenance; a gift shop or florist could include ideas for wedding gifts in June or back-to-school gifts in September.  Collect email addresses via simple sign-up sheets in your shop or by asking for them when you bid on a job.

Social Media
It’s not just for the kids.  If you don’t have a Facebook page for your business, get one.  They’re very easy to set up, although if you want a more robust environment, hire a marketing agency.  Post your specials, ask for customer feedback, and encourage your customers to post as well.  If you have a mobile business, such as a catering truck, consider setting up a Twitter feed that links to your Facebook page and broadcasts your location.  Include pictures: the inside of your restaurant, signature dishes, popular products, samples of your work.