Even in a downturn, if you don’t get in front of people and explain your unique value proposition then your chances of selling will be restricted to current customers or accidental passersby. Marketing is what sets you up for selling. However there are three important things you should know before you start.
So, if you’re a small to mid-sized business on a limited budget, your tactics should be to optimise your marketing dollar so that you get in front of the right customers regularly, and in a variety of ways. Here are four techniques you can use.
Identify and target niche customers
Unless you are a major player with unlimited dollars to devote to scatter gun marketing – go narrow. Do your market research, and focus on small niches –customers you can clearly identify who would be interested in your offering. Customers who are affordable for you to reach! Then get your message out into local clubs, trade shows, industry publications, niche newsletters, anywhere you can reach those specific prospects.
Local media are always on the alert for new content. Recently a local dress designer in a city suburb went to register her own personal name for her fledgling business. She discovered that an overseas singer used it as a stage name. The local designer publicised the resulting legal negotiations over the right to use her own name in her local area. Hey presto –plenty of ongoing press coverage in all the local papers lead to lots of sympathy and interest for the local girl, and promoted her new business better than any form of paid advertising could have done for her.
Seek out co-opetician and alliance opportunities
Co-opetician is forming friendly alliances with businesses that are competing in your market, but with a slightly different focus to yours. By forging an alliance with a group of small companies or a large corporation which is complementary to your business you can lower your costs, and expand your public presence. You might also be able to provide your customers with a more holistic product offering which will enable you to enter into new markets and create new distribution opportunities. Here’s an example, a local business specialised in fresh, healthy low fat pre-prepared meals for busy people. They approached their local gym with an offer of special deals to gym subscribers and a free meal pack for clients on weight loss programmes who achieved target goals. The gym benefited from the free prizes they could offer, and the business got lots of publicity through the gym’s e-newsletter and promotional literature. The gym’s clients tended to be working people who wanted to maintain an active healthy lifestyle and this supported their goals. Win Win all round!
Develop a structured referral program
The most cost-effective method of reaching new customers is by referrals from satisfied customers. A satisfied customer telling others about your small business is more effective than any fancy ad campaign. But are you spending time to get customer referrals on a weekly basis? Make it part of your marketing plan and stick to it rigorously – you’ll see the results.
One business we know makes it part of the duties of the admin person to follow up with all customers and request a referral. They send the customers several business cards they can pass on to others to make it as easy as possible to recommend the business. And they always drop a thank you note for any referral made.
These are just a few of many tactics and strategies used by small business to create a high-impact marketing plan on a low-budget. Marketing success comes from creative approaches that focus on your ideal niche customer’s needs; not from having the biggest budget.