As a small business owner, I know that finding the rightcombination of advertising techniques and marketing strategiesis key to getting the beginnings of a solid customer base.People have to have hear...
As a small business owner, I know that finding the right combination of advertising techniques and marketing strategies is key to getting the beginnings of a solid customer base. People have to have heard about your business before they can patronize it, right?
It would be nice if you could afford network TV commercials, full-page magazine ads, and an expensive ad agency to handle all the details, but if you're a small business just getting off the ground, this is highly unlikely. Having a huge advertising budget can be great, but it can also create a lot of problems.
For example, I firmly believe a super-sized ad budget may make your marketing boring and ineffective. Why? Small businesses and startups who don't have much money to spend must rely on good old fashioned creativity. Since big media ads are out of the question, they look for cheap or free ways to market. Those methods are often fresh, innovative, and attention-getting.
Here are some terrific low-cost ways to market your business (and they get noticed a lot more than you might think!):
* Take extra care in how you answer the phone. Be bright, helpful, and eager to go the extra mile.
* Put a colorful flyer in with invoices and sales letters. Highlight special deals that only current and past customers can get.
* If your store or office is on a busy corner, stand outside for a period each day and get to know those who pass by.
* Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.
* Spot radio stations setting up for a live remote. Arrange to offer free prizes to their listeners (in turn they will mention you, even interview you on the air.)
* Throw a monthly party at your store or office. Have cake, balloons, even a magician. Invite customers, prospects, and neighbors.
* Send a handwritten thank you note after every sale.
Another great way to market your business is to figure out WHO you should be marketing to. Nothing gets sales like good targeted direct marketing. Targeting is the key. If you send your sales letter or postcard to only those people who are intensely interested in what you sell, you will have more customers than you know what to do with.
Here is an easy way to get super-targeted names. Contact clubs and associations who have members who would be very interested in what you sell. Show the leader of the club why his members would love to hear about your business. You can often get a list of members and addresses for cheap or free.
Anika designs and sews costumes for dance students. She has an attractive web site and can work with customers just about anywhere. Using a search engine, Anika finds several associations of dance teachers and their students. Two are in her city, one covers her state, and several more are national.
First, she calls the presidents of the clubs in her city. She explains over the phone how her service can benefit teachers, students, and their parents. She schedules an appointment to visit with the club leader, show samples of her work, and leaves a brochure filled with enthusiastic comments from past customers. She will also leave with the club's mailing list.
Many national groups sell their member list at low cost. One business man I know does exceptionally well getting member lists from the local chamber of commerce in cities he wants to target.
However, once people have heard about your business, you want to give them an incentive to choose you over your competitor. A great way to do this is to promise (and deliver) speedy service without compromising quality. No question, in our hurried world, few things please customers like fast turnaround. Deliver fast and many customers will come to you.
State your turnaround time in your marketing materials. If you can do the job fast, say so loud and often. Recently, I was looking for an item online. One web site said they could get it to me via FedEx within two days. Another site said they also used FedEx, but it would take them 3 to 5 days to get the item ready for shipment. Even though I was in no hurry to receive my purchase, I picked the one that could deliver faster.
But even more than fast turnaround, customers crave helpful problem solving. Most customers want to understand your product or service better before they buy. Some get frustrated while ordering. Others feel something is wrong with the product once it is delivered. Help customers solve these problems. Let them know you are there to help them and it is easy to reach you. These days when customers are frustrated with companies that keep them on hold or never respond to email, your helpful problem solving will make you a favorite.
Once you've thrown the name of your business out there, whether it's through your own inventive marketing methods, targeting a potential group of clients, or a cheap television ad, remember that customer service is the key. This will likely make your clientele return and potentially recommend you to other people who require the same type of service.