Simple, Effective, and Inexpensive Marketing
Advertising is expensive. TV, radio, and print ads can generate tremendous amounts of new business but those advertising methods can also cost a tremendous amount of money. Instead of relying solely on traditional marketing efforts, think about complementing your marketing campaigns with simple and less expensive promotional techniques.
We'll assume you have a company website; if you don't, that's the first place to start. Web marketing is relatively inexpensive and more and more customers turn to the Internet to find products and services, even in their hometowns. That trend will only increase in the future. (In fact, many businesses have discontinued running large ads in their local Yellow Pages for this reason.) If you don't have a website, make that your first step. While you could argue that some service providers, for example plumbers, do not need websites, but why miss out on an opportunity for more customers to find you?
Here are just some of the possibilities:
- Include your website link on all company emails and other correspondence. That is especially true where emails are concerned; who knows where your emails may be forwarded?
- Offer tips, advice, and information on your website. Show your customers how to repair, modify, or improve your products. Provide tips for product usage. The more customers enjoy your products, the more likely they are to buy. The same is true for service businesses; offer do-it-yourself advice (where appropriate) for simple tasks. The trust you create will result in calls for services customers cannot perform on their own.
- Use targeted pay-per-click advertising. If you provide local services, include your locality in your keywords. "Plumber" is much too broad; "plumbing repair Anywhere City, VT" is much more precise. You'll keep your costs down and the customers you want will find you. Focus on long tail keywords appropriate for your business, services, and location. ( Long tail keywords are a type of keyword phrase that has at least three, and some times as many as five words in the phrase. Long tail keywords are used when the website wants to refine search terms to the web page, as well as when the searcher is looking for something rather specific. Like normal keywords, long tail keywords are used to define what is on the web page and what the publisher wants to be found under in search engines and on search engine results pages. These keywords are highly specific, and draw less traffic for the website, but tend to draw more quality traffic, which leads in more conversions than normal keywords.)
- Put flyers, catalogs, or brochures in every order. Make it easier for customers to buy more products from you. Don't assume a particular customer is aware of all the services you provide.
- Run contests or promotions that gather attention. Giving away an item during a contest is fine, but make sure the publicity value offsets the cost. (Unless you simply wish to support a charitable organization; in that case recognition is secondary.) Donating an item to a silent auction may not gain much public awareness; donating a product or service for a local radio station to offer in a contest will. Look for ways local media can cover your contests or special promotions , (that way they'll help you spread the word about your business for free).
- Make contacts with local media. Newspaper and television reporters need reputable sources for their stories; while you may not make "news" you can provide color to a story. For example, if you are a lawyer, you may be able to explain how new legislation will affect local viewers. Get in as many reporter's Rolodexes as possible; you never know when it might pay off.
- Create customer loyalty. Acquiring a new customer typically costs five to seven times more than keeping an existing customer. Set up frequent purchase discount programs or loyalty programs that reward customers who purchase on a regular basis. The price discount could be more than offset by the relatively lower cost of sale.
- Partner with complementary businesses. Offer bundled products or services in related fields. Be creative. For example, if you are a lawyer, consider setting up a package with a local accountant; people who wish to incorporate their business could also receive basic accounting system setup. Think about all of your customers' needs, and how local partners can help you service those needs in a relatively "one stop" fashion. The beauty of cooperative arrangements is that your partners help you with marketing while you help them.
- Create eye-catching guarantees. If your competitors offer six-month guarantees, expand yours to a year and let potential customers know. If you normally don't provide a guarantee, think of creative ways to safeguard products or purchases to help new customers overcome any hesitance to do business with you. A note of caution: all guarantees have a cost, so make sure your guarantee is well-defined in the fine print of your guarantee policies. Once you provide a guarantee, you will never be able to change it to your advantage (reduce the guarantee time or percentage of product/service reimbursement for a valid claim.)
- Pick up the phone. Call current customers. Ask how you're doing. Ask what you can do better. Ask if there are ways you can make their lives easier, (i.e., invoicing methods, delivery methods, customer service, etc.). Open a dialogue. Given a chance, your customers will tell you how to better satisfy them and in effect will do your marketing for you, at least as far as they are concerned.
- Network with customers . Instead of joining trade or industry groups in your industry, go to where your customers are. If you are a lawyer, by all means consider being active in your local bar association, but also be active in civic or business organizations where potential customers can see, meet, and learn about you and what you can do for them.
You don't need to re-invent the wheel. When you're shopping or browsing, pay attention to what other businesses in other industries do. Think about what resonates with you; if a certain promotion makes you interested in making a purchase, how can you modify that promotion to support your own business? New is great… but tried and true can work great too.