Advertising just doesn't work like it used to. It's expensive and isn't getting results. Worst of all it's difficult to track. Businesses don't know how to manage their marketing or advertising and don't have time to do it right. Word of mouth works and can still be counted on. That's why social media is growing fast.
Many small business owners would echo these sentiments. However, none of these statements have to be fact. While advertising can be expensive and time consuming, it has major benefits. On average, many small business owners cut marketing budgets first when they start having cash flow worries. However, it’s at those times that it’s even more important to keep your business brand front and center.
Social media is by far one of the most effective and affordable ways to reach your customers and build your brand, but it’s not the only way. Here’s our list of marketing tips and strategies to help you market your business the best you can, even when the budget is tight.
- The Elevator Speech
An elevator speech is a 15 to 20 second description of what you do. The idea is that if you find yourself in an elevator with an ideal client, by the time you reach your destination, your prospect will have asked for your card. Start with your ideal client and determine the single most important thing you want them to know about your [product, service, brand, idea]. Then include what problems you can solve for them and what sets you apart from your competition along with a brief description of the results they can expect. Invest time in meticulously crafting your elevator speech. If you have a killer elevator speech, the return on investment will pay off big.
- Think Local
You don’t have to market to the whole country, or even the state or region. Think local. You’re a small business; the majority of your customers and prospects live in your immediate area. Get involved in the community to get your name out there. Sponsor a little league team or a charity event. Hand out free paper fans at the 4th of July parade. Think about where and how your ideal customers spend their time and then find ways to get your marketing message in front of them.
- Collaborate and Network
Round up a group of area business that are non-competitive and can easily work together and agree to cross promote. Collaborating can help you all reach an expanded customer base. Networking is one of the best ways to build your business. Get out there and meet people! Networking requires a time commitment, and it’s not always going to provide instant gratification, but it will easily become the strongest asset you can have. Just remember, its about building business relationships. Networking gives you the chance to help people know you, like you and trust you. When they do that, they will be ready to do business with you or refer someone to you. Which brings me to…
- Referrals, Referrals, Referrals
The easiest new business comes from happy customers who send you referrals. Don’t be shy about asking for them either. Most people are willing to provide a referral, if asked, but very few will do it on their own. If your customers are truly content, they will be happy to help you and there is nothing more powerful than the recommendation of a happy customer. Don’t forget to offer up referrals for others when you can. Sometimes a successful referral from you for their business will result in a return referral from them.
- Keep Relationships
This point ties right into numbers 3 & 4. It’s less expensive to keep a current customer than to get a new one. Establishing strong relationships with your current customers is vital. You can build these relationships by using social media, email campaigns and good old face-to-face conversations. Keep communicating!
- Speech, Teach!
I know, I know, you hate public speaking. A lot of people do, but it’s a great marketing tool. Many organizations are constantly seeking qualified, subject-matter experts who can present to their groups. As long as your information is helpful to the audience – and correct – people won’t care if you’re a public speaking pro. Plus, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Check with your local small business administrations, colleges, chamber of commerce, even the library. These opportunities to teach and speak to groups of individuals will establish you as a credible authority in your field. They will also open doors for collaborating, networking, referrals and relationships. (See the snowball effect?)
- Get More by Giving Some Away
If you test or experience a product or service and like it, are you more likely to buy it? Probably so. Your customers are the same way! Chances are they will purchase more if you give them the opportunity to try it. Don’t be afraid of giving someone a free trial or sample. But, don’t give away too much, just enough to bring them back for more!
- It's Not About You
What? Yes I said this correctly. It’s kind of about you - but mostly it’s about your customer. Sometimes it’s easy to just tell your customer all about your company and how long you've been in business. But honestly, most of the time, they don’t care about that. They care about how your product or service benefits them. If you answer that first, then they will start to care more about your company and you. Focus on the benefit and/or solution you can give your customers.
These eight tips are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to marketing. But they are enough to get you started and help you out if your budget isn’t that big. Just remember, engaging customers and building relationships are the heart of your business and will be vital in your business growth. You don’t have to spend outrageous amounts of money on your marketing for it to be successful as long as you put in the time and effort and focus on what’s important to your customers.
Infographic: Freepik.com; edited by Poole Communications.