Small Business Marketing Doesn’t Cost, it Pays

Question: I hear lots of talk about marketing my company’s brand. Can you share any tips on marketing tactics that truly work?

Answer: Marketing is your toolbox to position your brand in the mind of buyers, so they see no suitable substitute. You must be perceived as the best painter, landscaper, window washer, provider of accounting services. When you achieve that status in the mind of buyers, your competition will find barriers they cannot overcome.

Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals in what you want to achieve and be sure to share those goals with your entire team.

Co-market with non-competing businesses with similar clients. If you are a restaurant in a business zone that also has a bookstore, co-market so clients to both are rewarded for shopping in each business.

Offer bundled products and/or services vs. offering only individual services. Give your customers choices and reward them for buying bundled services. You offer seeding and fertilizing and lawn mowing. Buying them bundled you get a better deal than selecting individual offerings.

Get and promote customer reviews. Word of Mouth (WOM) is your most powerful marketing tool. You don’t get reviews unless you ask for them and share them so that others can pass them along to friends and neighbors. You need to proactively promote WOM by creating referral programs that incentivize your current customers to pass the word along to others. The best way is to ask for the referral immediately after the completion of a project since the experience is fresh on the mind of your customer. Their satisfaction will be an incentive to them to refer you to others.

Find a market niche and keep focused on it. The more focused you are on a market niche, the more valued you appear to buyers since they see you as “the expert” in that niche. You are not just a landscaper; you are a specialist in “organic” gardening.

Sponsor a local event in your business district that will create visibility for your business and generate the perception that you are involved in more than selling a product or delivering a service.

When there is a mistake made, overcorrect it. Make sure your clients see you as value conscious.

Look to see where your competition is promoting their business and find new channels where you might be unexpected to appear. If you are a landscaping business, you regularly advertise in the Cape Cod Times, but none of your competitors are sponsors of the Harwich Cranberry Festival. You will be positioned without the marketing communication noise of competitors.

Volunteer to speak at Chamber meetings. If you are a painting contractor, volunteer to speak on tips and techniques for selecting contractors. Your competitors are not doing this, so you will have that channel to yourself.

Get published. Your local paper is always looking for quality content from and about local businesses. If you are not a writer, you might communicate your idea for an article to a staff writer or editor and have them interview you and write the article. If you write the article, position your primary message, then write the story around it. Every Sunday, the Cape Cod Times features a business. Send your story to the business editor, [email protected] and see if there is interest.

Track the “return” you are getting for all of your marketing tactics. If you are paying for a marketing tactic, like a postcard campaign or advertising campaign in the Cape Cod Times or sponsoring an event, you need to determine if it worked or not to determine if you will do it again. The only way you can do that is to measure the impact it made on your company or brand. If you invest $1000 in a postcard campaign to bring buyers to your store on Small Business Saturday and 100 potential buyers take the call for action, you cost per person reached $10.00.

The question is: how many dollars in sales did those 100 buyers represent on the targeted Saturday and second can you attract 100 buyers to your door any other way for less?

Join and be active in your local Chamber of Commerce to promote your company and brand with other business owners so you can share leads, co-promote or just become aware of one another’s business so you can cross-refer. Be a networker. Connect with members you don’t know and see if there is a connection.

Annually do a SWOT analysis to increase your organization’s Strengths and minimize your Weakness. Identify and confirm your opportunities and keep your threats on the top of your mind. Doing this regularly, allows you to stay connected to the environments that impact your business and make timely changes as appropriate. Include all of your team members. They see the environment differently than you do.

Over service existing customers. When your team arrives to mow a customer’s lawn this summer, assign one of the team to personally connect with the customer either before the service or immediately afterward, so there is always a face to the company brand. By doing this simple gesture, you are providing a forum for your customers to communicate “real time” with you.

Provide your team with 3×5 cards and pens to take notes so if they have something of important to say your customer service ambassador records it, which says, you also believe it is important and it will get to the owner of the company.

Small businesses can be effective marketers if they are creative and aware of opportunities around them that can be obtained with a moderate investment.

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