When it comes to marketing strategies for your small operation, you can be blinded by choice.
Technology has launched us into a marketing minefield. Do you need offline? Online? Above the line? Should it cost the earth? Will an online dialler improve customer relations? Should your webpage be CSS, WordPress, self-hosted or custom-built? Should you be social or can you network in a hotel lobby, like in the good old days?
It is easy to see how many business owners from a non-marketing background become overwhelmed and look to outsource their marketing to an agency, or worse, hire a junior administrator and expect them to run marketing with little or no support.
When deciding an effective marketing strategy, ensure you have considered the 4 Ps:
- Promotional Strategy
Formulating a marketing plan and a budget around these key criteria will help you decide what direction you need to take your marketing spend.
For start-up businesses with little or no budget, you need to consider how you want to reach your target audience:
Traditional letters of introduction with a flyer or brochure inside are still an effective route for many companies; likewise a ‘special offer’ – a discount card placed inside every sales invoice can encourage that all-important repeat business.
Blogging is a great way to draw traffic to your business website and engage with new followers; you can use your business blog to speak about industry news, encourage conversation with your readers, and manage SEO so the right people are coming to your site.
Likewise keeping a structured email list; there are many online tools available to help you do this easily and affordably, and sending out a monthly newsletter is a great way to promote repeat business from an existing client base.
Introducing yourself to the media can be a great free business tool; free publicity is a fabulous way to be identified as an expert within your field and can easily encourage referrals.
Use customer feedback. We know it is six times easier to get a previous customer to buy again than it is to find a new customer, so ensure your marketing plan looks after people who have already shown you loyalty. Use free tools like SurveyMonkey to ask for feedback on their experience of working with you; run a competition for those completing the form and reward one entrant with a prize. Again, contact local media; they may be interested in covering the story. Always ensure that you thank everyone for their feedback, and act upon it, be it positive or negative.
Speak to associates and suppliers; would they be interested in a contra deal? You could offer a guest spot on your blog showcasing their services, and receive the same in return, or set up a page on your website highlighting recommendations, and get them to do the same.
For smaller businesses the most effective marketing tool is still referrals; people buy from people and simple practices work incredibly well. Speak to your customer base, ask them who else would benefit from your service, and if they’re happy to recommend you. Ensure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date with testimonials, and send personalised messages to connections asking for business referrals.
Simple but true: If you don’t ask you don’t get!