As I am a small business owner I always go out of my way to help small business with the main focus and that is… “gaining customers on a limited budget”.
Many small business people make simple but critical errors with their marketing and advertising. For instance, all business people need to be creative and imaginative with their marketing. Small business needs to use each channel of media(print, internet, events, etc) and provide a synchronised delivery of your message through different channels to your customers.
Using a variety of marketing tools and strategy in a methodic synchronised way, you will deliver your message to various customer touch points more effectively than just one strategy or campaign at a time, such as a newspaper advertising campaign on its own. Try to synchronise two or three forms of media so they cross paths and get noticed once or twice in a short period of time by your customers.
In today’s online world it is much easier to cross promote your products and services with online digital marketing and traditional marketing. For example, you should always provide your website address on all your printed material so your clients can view your business and contact you with out any difficulties. I have seen people today that forget to do this simple task and they will be losing customers.
Small business people need to think about how they can be cost effective and get the best ROI possible. A well planned “marketing strategy” is what all small business people need to be aware of and to also remeber to “synchronise your brand collateral” when marketing your business. So remember, build your marketing strategy and synchronise your brand collateral.
Below is a list of the most effective marketing tools small business can use to gain customers.
A logo is your business identity and your trade mark. Your logo needs to be professionally designed and created in several file formats to be used on the following
• On your business cards
• Side of car or work ute.
• Work uniforms
As you can appreciate, your logo needs to be seen by your customers at every point of intersection or contact you can imagine.
2. A Content Management System Website.
A CMS is a website is a website that the business owner can edit and upload images with out any HTML knowledge. This reduces costs for the business owner as it does not require the business owner to be dependent on a website developer to update content on a weekly or daily basis.
Cross media marketing gives you the ability to extend your marketing dollar to a new group of consumers,you have not previously been able to make contact with. For example:
• You can advertise your website online and in news papers and cross promote an upcoming event such as a competition or press release.
• If you are presenting at a seminar or workshop you have the ability to invite potential customers to the seminar by signing up online to a form on your website.
• From time to time use email marketing to notify your customers of upcoming events or to enter a competition and sign up to the VIP members club and receive free vouchers.
3. A Blog on your website.
Some business people ask me “what is a blog”? or “why do I need a blog”? I could write a whole new topic on why your online business needs a blog…but to cut a long story short, your website needs to be seen by the search engines, to be adding content on a regular basis by the website owner or administrator will promote higher rankings in the search engines.
Your site will gain a position of authority if other readers of your blog are posting comments, book marking and hopefully promoting your site to their friends. As the saying goes “content is king”. Relevant content is a major factor for your online business and it will not rank high in the search engines if you have content that is not relevant to the title, topic or subject of your website.
How you can use your blog:
• Write Articles
• Promote your blog on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
• Write a press release
• Write articles of interest and gain a group of followers to your blog.
• Import a video online and then see how it ranks in Google and other search engines.
4.Search Engine Optimisation
If you had to erect a sign to promote your business you could tape a business card to the roof of the building and who would see it? Nobody of course. Its practically the same if you built a website with out search engine optimisation or SEO.
Investing in search engine optimisation is the only way your website will be seen on a commercial basis. There are around 200 factors to consider when optimising your website for search engines. Key words used in your industry are the main focus for optimisation of your site and key word research is a critical factor for the content in the pages of your website. If you take into consideration the words your prospective customer would use to type into Google and search for your business, then you can understand the importance of matching the key words to the content on your website.
It would be best to think out side the square and build your website using key words that are considered niche key words as they will not take as long to optimise.
If you must use competitive key words you will need to consider the additional time and money required to optimise your site as you will be competing with the big end of town for the same key words.
As a small business owner you need to understand some basics when writing content on your website. Consequently, your content must be relevant to the title and the topic or subject or you website.
5. Social Media
Today Social Media is an extension of your SEO and with out the use of Twitter, Face Book, Linked In and many other social media websites your online marketing mix will be incomplete.
Why does a small business need social media?
Firstly, social media sites can give your business a boost in the search engine rankings if you use these sites correctly. For instance the social networking website “Linked In” is a social networking site for business people to correspond online. Any small business person can create on online profile and get their business online very easily and your business can rank in Google. An important feature of this website is you can connect to hundreds or even thousands of other business people around the world by means of interesting group forums and invites to become a contact.
Social Media is also provides a vehicle for your content to be delivered online at a very low cost. This strategy only works well for the promotion of your business and as a branding opportunity to market to a target group of people. For example Face Book for youth groups or Linked In for a more conservative business group.
6. Yellow Pages Advertising
Yellow pages advertising ranks highly in the search engines and many small businesses benefit from a traditional marketing channel all consumers are familiar with. There is still a large percentage of consumers who do not search online for a business and if you don’t advertise in the Yellow Pages you will miss out on reaching those customers.
The Yellow Pages can promote your website online with your websites URL in the advertisement making a clean link straight to your business and hopefully a sale. As a small business person you will need to decide on the size of the advert and weigh up whether your website is what your customers are looking for. In today’s busy world, many of your customers are in a hurry and only want to read in bullet point detail.
Time poor consumers need to make decisions in a hurry about your business and make a phone call. Content on your advert needs to be easy to read, guiding them through to the contact details.
7. Newspaper and cross media marketing
The local newspapers have a large volume of eyes looking at the content; although some papers are losing their readership you still have an opportunity to reach people that are not using the internet.
A small business is able to take advantage of a few simple marketing strategies using the print media… the secret is to synchronise your media so your messages are being seen by your target market in publishing periods of six week intervals.
For example, write news worthy articles about your business and place an advert in the paper under the article. It might be an article about your business launch or a new product launch.
Many newspapers now insert printed brochures into the paper and you can always insert your brochure with a call to action of a sale on products or even a competition if they visit the website or come into the store/business and sign up to the VIP members club.
The best size for your brochures is DL, A5 or A6 for newspaper inserting as you can read the brochure well and the cost of printing is much lower. Due to your business being online you can make the most of your marketing dollar by directing your customers to your site for more information about the competition or how to become a VIP member.
Cross media marketing is about using your imagination and think…what can I offer my customers, what can I offer to my customers that has value for them and wont become a huge cost to the business.
8. Direct Mail
From a back ground in printing I see direct mail campaigns on a daily basis, and there are many people who still prefer direct mail, especially if it is personalised. Moreover, research has shown that consumers are more likely to notice your message if they receive personalised direct mail in the post and also receive a personalised email to strengthen the message or offer.
A call to action is need with your direct marketing to entice your customers to your business. You may think you are spending large amounts of money in this area but there is a cost to gaining clients and the most cost effective way to gain customers is to do your home work and make sure you have a quality call to action. Would you go to a business that is only offering a 5% offer…not likely?
Cross media marketing is the key here, so make sure your direct marketing has your website on the printing material and make sure your website has a contact form to go to for your customers to sign up to your offer with their contact details. This way you are building your data base of contacts for further mail outs and promoting your business.
9. Networking and Referrals
Networking is not only a long term strategy for small business it is also necessary for any small business to carefully choose which network and how many business networks you need to belong to. Many small business people are time poor and cannot afford to spend too much time networking instead of running their business, so don’t get too caught up with networking in the wrong places.
Meeting people and prospects face to face is necessary to gain customers and become friendly. Get to know and listen to your customer, especially their complaints…that is their way of letting you know you are doing something wrong and missing out on opportunities or losing customers. Don’t take it personal.
Once you have chosen your networking groups you can work on referrals. Your referrals won’t come easy as many people are reluctant to refer a business person unless they have good knowledge of the person and the services they offer are not going to give the referrer a bad reputation.
Networking is an opportunity to meet other business people in your area and to spread the good word about your business. Remember 95% of the business people at a networking event also want to spread the good word about their business and would like you to be a prospect or customer to them.
The local chamber of commerce is a good place to start your networking and you also have rotary clubs, Chinese, American, Israel/Australia chambers as well.
Online networks are great for keeping in touch with industry news, groups and your past contacts although I have no knowledge of any online networks that meet face to face in Australia on a regular basis.
Events are a great way to market your small business, especially for businesses with products to sell. The events you choose must be specific to your target group of consumers; otherwise you will be wasting your precious time and resources on people that have no interest in your products or services.
Seminars are a great way to gather interested prospects, as they will have received an invite from you. Because they have arrived from your invitation tells you they are interested in the product or service and considering buying from you.
If you are able to provide your business tools, quality information and transfer your knowledge to produce an outcome for your customers to use, you will be able to hold workshops. As a result, your customers will be happy to purchase your products directly from you and come back for more information and sales.
Every city or large town has a tradeshow in one way or another. More often than not you will need to book the trade show in advance as trade shows are very important to many small businesses. Due to the large volume of people visiting a trade show, small businesses have the opportunity to meet prospective customers, make sales and hand out advertising material to interested consumers.
The top ten marketing tools I have included in this article are only a sample of what is possible and I have chosen these ten tips as I think small business can take away the top ten marketing resources and also try other strategies.
If you need any information on digital marketing or printing suppliers please feel free to contact me…I would like to help your business succeed