Wednesday, August 23, 2006
If you're a small business owner, you probably don't have a lot to spend on marketing. That's okay, many small businesses aren't taking full advantage of the many opportunities they have for marketing their business in basic ways that cost little or nothing to implement.
There are a number of things you can do to leverage your existing contact points with prospects and customers that require some initial effort to produce but go a long way in promoting your business, products, or services. Some of these methods include:
1. Business Cards. For less than $20, you can have a virtual billboard that promotes your business. Surprisingly many businesses forget about this great way to promote your business, your products, or special offers. When ordering your business cards, think about how you can use the space effectively. Some of the best business cards that I've seen include specific URL's on the back for accessing free information, tools, resources, or product demo's. I've even seen some with coupons on the back that turn business cards into a customer staple - giving them an incentive to have your business card handy at all times.
2. Invoices. Do you send your customers an invoice in print or electronically?
If you do, use the invoice to promote your brand, product or service. This is also a valuable touch point to thank your customers and prompt them to learn about other things you offer. Some of the more effective messaging for your next invoice might be, "Thank you for your business. To learn more about our frequent shopper program call 1-800-555-1234". This simple message can increase awareness and get your customers to take notice.
3. Emails. Nothing in marketing performs as well as your very own list of customer emails. Customers who offer their email address want to hear from you. Do what you can to encourage customers to provide you with their email address. You can always provide a small incentive like a pen with your business's name on it, free information, or a white paper addressing an area of growing importance. Once you have this email list, communicate to your customers on a regular basis and encourage them to do more business with you. Satisfied customers are likely to forward your emails to others, growing the size of your customer base.
4. Thank You Notes. A number of small businesses are very effective at communicating with their customers. These businesses use every shipment as a vehicle to promote their products or thank their customers. You should do the same. When you make a sale and are shipping a product, insert a short thank you note that offers your gratitude and willingness to hear from the customer or perhaps your latest catalog or flyer. This goes a long way in showing your appreciation for you customer and interest in building a long term relationship with them.
5. Online Coupons or Offers. When you have a particular product to sell, you should offer information about it on your website. Additionally, offer an incentive for prospective customers (new customers). When individuals are on your website and take interest in your product or service, providing an incentive to buy can drive considerable response rates. You might be concerned about discounting your product or service to existing customers so be clear that your offer is only for new customers. Your existing customers understand that you're trying to grow your business and won't be disappointed to learn that you're giving an incentive to new customers only.
6. Free Samples. Giving away free samples is one of the most effective marketing tactics available today. Even if you have a service business, offering up a method for prospective buyers to try a derivative of your service without paying for it can lead to increased trials and conversions. Large consumer product companies like Proctor and Gamble know that once a consumer decides that he or she likes the product, they will become a customer for an extended period of time which more than pays for the cost of their promotion.
7. Encourage Referrals. Small businesses that leverage the power of referrals experience strong growth. When you have others suggesting your product or service it's like having your very own sales team. These referrals are even more powerful because, like word-of-mouth, the prospect is being encouraged to buy from an existing customer, associate, expert, or influencer. Think about how you can encourage referrals from your customers or other service providers. One way is to ask other vendors to distribute information about your business to their customer base in exchange for you doing the same.
Marketing doesn't have to cost a lot. Use your own business to communicate your marketing messages and increase lead generation. These simple methods are effective for any small business owner regardless of industry, product, or service offering. Implement some or all of them to see the power of effective small business marketing.
* Michael Fleischner is a marketing expert and the president of MarketingScoop.com, the Internet’s biggest source of marketing information and free marketing resources including the marketing blog directory. He has more than 12 years of marketing experience and has appeared on The TODAY Show, Bloomberg Radio, and other major media. Visit Internet marketing secrets and more.