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Set yourself apart from the competition with these 4 tactics.

In today’s digital world, small businesses need to do more than just put an ad in the local paper to market their products and services. Successful business owners are setting themselves apart from the competition by finding new ways to connect electronically with both current and potential clients.

If you’ve been looking for a new approach to marketing, the following 4 suggestions may help you promote the guidance, industry know-how and personalized service you can provide:

  1. Start with a plan: Effectively promoting yourself takes time. To ensure you’re reaching out to current and potential clients on a regular basis, make a marketing schedule that clearly lays out the dates on which you’ll take specific actions. Not sure where to start? Check out our 6 key elements of a business plan.

  2. The best advertising is word-of-mouth: People often rely on referrals from friends and family when choosing products and services. And in our digital world, word of mouth is often done electronically. Regular emails, eNewsletters and social media sites help you foster word of mouth and stay in contact with existing and potential customers.

  3. Establish yourself as an expert: Teaching a free how-to or informational session at a local college or other venue can help showcase your industry knowledge and position you as a trusted resource — which may help you pick up some new clients. And use sites on the Internet to present yourself as an expert who is willing to share knowledge — not just to sell a product or service.

  4. Build a strong base using online channels: Consumers are increasingly turning to online reviews and rating services, like Yelp.com and Cnet.com, which are free to consumers. So consider having a presence on these sites. Check out this article for some suggestions of places you might want your business to show up.

You can also make use of social media, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If clients have posted positive things about you, consider re-posting those testimonials. A recent About.com study found that 41 percent of consumers thought brands were more trustworthy if they had reviews on social media sites. And add any pictures you’ve taken with customers — 36 percent of respondents said photos that illustrate someone’s personal experience with a brand increases their trust level.

You can also create compelling videos that showcase your work, and then post them to your website, Facebook page and more. If you don’t have a production team on your payroll, a handheld camera may be all you need to produce quality clips — check out this article found on Social Media Examiner for some helpful tips, tools and software.

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