By Theresa Long for TCAJOB
The number one mistake that many small businesses make is not developing a marketing plan.
Whether they feel like they have no budget for it or haven’t made it a priority – marketing and advertising is an investment, not an expense — even if that investment is in time and not dollars.
A small business’ marketing plan can be as simple as a calendar of marketing/advertising tasks to do throughout the year, based on your company’s sales cycles and promotions/events. Even if you don’t have dollars to allocate to your marketing budget, there are still things that you can do to market your company.
The following ten marketing ideas will provide you with simple, inexpensive ideas to help market your business.
— Study up on your competition and look for opportunities where you can differentiate your business. There may be areas where you can take advantage of their weaknesses or misfortunes. Look at what they are doing with their advertising and what is working for them. Then assess how you can compete.
— Identify low-hanging fruit. These are marketing activities that can be done quickly, easily and often at low cost. For example, follow up on clients you have not heard from in three months, outlining new products or services or just check in. Send press releases to local publications when you have something new happening in your business (this is free advertising). Join the local Chamber of Commerce and take advantage of all the free advertising associated with being a member.
— Use your current database to target customers via email. Don’t have a database? Start a customer database for future targeting. There are plenty of inexpensive online marketing databases such as Mail Chimp, Constant Contact or Campaigner.
— Develop an elevator speech, a short summary used to quickly and simply define your business, product, or service. It should be no more than 20 – 30 seconds long and describe your business or product so your brand story can be told quickly, concisely and promote your business. This way your entire staff can be telling the same story and pointing out the benefits of doing business with your organization. Brand consistency is key!
— Utilize social media. It helps create buzz, and gets your business in front of customers, similar to word-of-mouth advertising. It is inexpensive but can be time consuming and often gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Take one day a month to sit down and develop posts in advance that can be pushed out on a weekly basis.
— Gather customer testimonials. When a customer compliments or thanks you, ask them if they would be willing to give you a testimonial or if you can use their comments in marketing your business. This should be done immediately after receiving the positive feedback and kept on file for use when appropriate.
— Optimize your website Search Engine Optimization. SEO is very important in this web-reliant day in age. Rules for SEO are constantly changing. Modern search engines scan content for keywords as they appear in the content. So be sure and include keywords in your website content (though not too many, you don’t want to look like spam).
— Update your website! Add new photos, client testimonials and other success stories or news. Allocate time to update your website at least once per quarter. This also helps with SEO. And make sure your website is responsive or mobile-friendly.
— Educate your customers. Show them that you’re the expert and can provide them with a benefit or solve their problem. Everyone is looking for a solution of some kind that will help make life easier. You can achieve this by creating short videos (you can even use your smart phone) with your expert staff on-camera, talking about your product or services. Post them to your website and on social media.
— Develop a customer referral program. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool. Try developing a point system where points earned for referrals can be used toward future purchases or services. Give away free products to a brand ambassador or trusted influencer who can share their (positive) experience with your product or service.
These tips are just a few creative marketing ideas that can be accomplished on a small budget. Use your imagination, but most importantly, make marketing and advertising a priority! Also remember that it often takes time for some marketing efforts to work, so be patient and stick with your plan. Give your efforts time to be successful.
[panel title="About Theresa Long" style="info"]
Theresa Long, a partner at Focal Point Marketing in Kennewick, has been in the marketing industry for more than 20 years. She earned her degree in Marketing & Accounting with a MBA from WSU. Her client list covers every corner of the marketing world, including Fortune 100’s, start-ups, business-2-businesses, nonprofit organizations and many others. Long’s experience includes market research, strategic planning, design & brand development and commercialization of products and services.
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