Small businesses with limited financial resources can still make a big marketing impact with creative and low to no cost efforts to get noticed by your target audience and potential new clients—by going beyond simple business cards and a handshake. There are plenty of ways to market your small business without breaking the bank, but you must be prepared to get out there and HUSTLE. The key to successful low-cost marketing is a consistent and energetic approach, week in and week out. Making one big splash then fading away will not produce the results your business needs, so you should develop a plan of action to stay visible and relevant to your potential customer base all the time!
Why Aren’t You Blogging?
If you have not yet created a blog or joined the world of social media for your small business, start NOW. The content your business produces, and how that content is shared and read online, will drive your marketing strategy and increase awareness of your brand through each and every carefully crafted blog post. Savvy business owners know that the best way to engage an audience in the digital age is with high-quality content that provides value to the potential customers; this is not just about getting in the customer’s face of the people you want to talk to with direct promotion of your product—and offers some of the best low-cost marketing ideas out there. Instead, it is about creating content that will inform, entertain, and engage, and keep customers coming back to your site. Perhaps you do not have natural writing talent within your organization; if so, consider bringing on a marketing intern to help with the blog and other business marketing needs. Partner with a local college or university, where you may find a sharp and creative marketing major looking for some “real world” experience. (An added bonus is that an internship program can create good PR for your business as well!) Keep your business blog posts informative yet brief and entertaining. Graphics and videos are proven to keep existing and potential customers engaged, so be sure to include those as well.
A Rising Tide Lifts all Boats: Collaborate
There is a reason why “synergy” is one of the biggest buzz words in business these days…because it WORKS! Partnerships with other small businesses can leverage your marketing power and widen the reach of your brand while saving your marketing dollars as the cost of your activity is shared by others. Start by reaching out to your local business neighbors. Invite other small business owners in the area to have coffee and discuss ways you can help each other grow brand recognition. Is your day spa located next door to a travel agency? Pitch the agent on a partnership where customers who have booked vacations receive a discount on your services…call it the “Get Ready to Get Away” package! Then offer to keep the travel agent’s brochure in your waiting area. (Perhaps he throws in copies of travel magazines for your waiting area, an added bonus for you!) Consider making the coffee gathering a monthly meeting to encourage the sharing of best practices and successful marketing ideas. Networking with other small business owners is one of the easiest ways to generate new ideas to implement in your own marketing strategy.
Pat Yourself on the Back…and Get Others to Do so as Well
This can be one of the toughest hurdles for some small business owners who feel reticent about bragging….but it’s a hurdle you need to jump over immediately. If your business has achieved something noteworthy, be it a record year of growth, an acknowledgment from a leading industry organization or accolades from a local charity whose mission you supported, you owe it to your business to shout that news from the rooftop. Announce the news on social media platforms and send press releases to local media outlets. Don’t wait for anyone else to spread the good news for you…do it yourself! And business owners should not hesitate to nominate their companies for relevant industry awards. Study the awards programs for your industry and start the process of getting yourself nominated. (Consider discussing this at your small business owner coffee meetings as well. Perhaps each participant would be willing to nominate a neighboring business for an award in their relevant field.)
Get More than the Sale: A Customer Referral/Rewards Program
Business owners all want to reap the benefits of customer referrals. The power of a positive review can do wonders for a small business; however, the savvy owner knows to take a proactive stance on making this happen versus sitting back and hoping it happens organically. Find ways to incentive your customers to share positive reviews of your business, both online as well as by directing friends, family, and neighbors to your business. Start with a simple customer rewards program that you can measure and implement with your existing software and systems. Perhaps it’s as simple as an extra field in your customer files to keep track of referrals, and x number of referrals earns that customer a one-time discount, a free service, etc. Make it a habit at the close of every sale to ask customers to share their experiences online with a Google or other review relevant to your business. Not all customers will take the time to do this, but if you don’t ask you will never know! Make it a habit to read the reviews regularly, find ways to improve your business based on any unfavorable comments, and most importantly, RESPOND to the reviewers. Staying engaged with your customers—whether they post positive or negative comments—is crucial when it comes to gaining customer loyalty.
Read all about It
The world of small business marketing strategies is ever evolving and changing, and business owners should stay abreast of the latest trends by reading marketing books (and blogs) as often as possible. There are thousands of books on marketing strategies, and you may be overwhelmed by where to start. Make it a goal to read a few “classic” marketing books this year as well as a few of the newest. Consider these best-sellers to get started: Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne; All Marketers are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works—and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All by Seth Godin; and The Long Tail: How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand by Chris Anderson. Finally, consider one more idea for your monthly coffee group: share these books! One of your neighbor business owners just might pass along the book that inspires some of your best marketing strategies for 2018.