Small businesses have limited budgets to spend on marketing and advertising and can struggle to be heard amid all the clutter.
Here are six low-cost tips from marketing experts on how to raise your business’ profile.
Mark Bouris: How to market your business
Mark Bouris discusses some of his key marketing strategies that can be applied to every business.
GET OUT THERE
If the marketing budget is tight, shift your marketing spend from traditional advertising to public relations activities.
“This is the time to get your brand noticed to accelerate growth while your competitors go into hiding,” says Nyree McKenzie, director of small business marketing consultancy Thought Bubble.
“Update your media contacts list, volunteer to speak at industry events and get out there to promote your thought leadership, employees’ achievements or corporate social responsibility.”
McKenzie says that by imparting knowledge and expertise you are raising awareness of your brand and developing trust and credibility in your business. “It’s a subtle way of promoting your business.”
COFFEE WITH CLIENTS
Companies should review their value to clients and use this information to help growth their firm profitably for the future. McKenzie says small business should ask themselves why clients use them over your competitors. Who are the most profitable clients? What is the growth potential of your existing clients and how can you profile future potential profitable clients?
Instead of hiring a market research firm, McKenzie says business should “spend $3 and 45 minutes” having coffee with key clients to understand their needs and issues.
“Speaking to the client and trying to work out solutions to problems leads to innovation and better ways of doing things,” she says.
USE LINKED IN
Businesses should find and get involved in LinkedIn groups that relate to their industry, says Chris Dale of MarketingHQ.
“For example, you might be a sales training expert. There’s a lot of LinkedIn groups there where people actually ask for advice,” he says. “As a person who provides that advice you can go on there and answer those question and build your profile that way.
“That generates interest in your profile and people can look at potentially engaging you from a business point of view.”
“LinkedIn is growing rapidly, and it’s really the destination for business to business transactions, particularly if you’re a small business owner.”
Just as businesses often search for professional services on LinkedIn, consumers and businesses often ask their contacts via twitter if they need help finding a supplier, says Dale.
“You can actually search on Twitter to find people who are asking those sort of questions and then use that to say ‘hey, I can help you with that’.”
“It’s just being aware of places that consumers or businesses express need,” Dale says.
UPDATE YOUR WEBSITE
“The cheapest way to fix your website is just to update the text,” says Dean Parker of Four P’s Marketing Solutions.
Websites should use a call to action to direct potential customers to the contacts page and to call the business. Questions such as “how can we help you?” or “what’s the best product for me?” are most effective.
They should avoid focussing on product specifications, and instead focus on customers’ needs. “What’s in it for me? You’ve got to talk to the customer and outline the benefits,” says Parker. He gives the example of a plumber client who boasted on his website that he used 100mm pipe. That fact is of little interest to homeowners, until it’s explained to them that those pipe will carry more storm water away meaning there’s less chance of the house flooding.
SEND NEWSLETTERS TO CLIENTS
Emailing out regular newsletters is a good way of staying in touch with past clients, who are more likely to buy from a business they’re already dealt with before, says Anthony Idle of Balance Business Coaching. Free services such as MailChimp that can automate the process.
Idle says it costs twelve times as much to win business from a new client as it does from a past client. “If you think about the buying process, it normally goes ‘know me, like me, trust me, buy from me’,” Idle says. “A past client has already done all those four things, so you just don’t have to go through those four phases.”
Businesses are also more likely to be able to upsell to existing customers.
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