Marketing your Small business
As a Small Business, you are a freelancer, consultant, contractor or micro business / small business owner, and you have virtually only yourself and possibly only one or two others that are responsible for all of the important decisions.
Small business marketing is very important to your success and growth. A successful marketing strategy will enable you to connect with customers. At its most simple, the marketing message is about the "how" and the "why" - what does your company do and how can you convey this message to your customers?
Marketing is a Fundamental Part of Running Your Business
Certainly, in any size businesses there are some basic rules for marketing. There is merit in having well developed marketing strategies, from which marketing plans and tactics are implemented. There is a need to identify your target market, execute marketing tactics, keep track of how they work, modify as necessary, repeat the cycle, etc. Refer to other marketing articles on our blog for more advice and information. HirePulse is also a very useful free online business directory to help you build brand awareness, display your goods and services, and provide contact details for your customers to find you.
Considering that marketing budgets for smaller businesses are usually low (or non-existent), it makes sense that "marketing" becomes just part of "doing business" as much as it practically can. However, as with businesses of any size, you will need to build a brand and stand out from the crowd so that customers are directed to you.
Innovative Tactics for Small Business Marketing
As some 96% of all businesses in Australia are classed as Small Businesses (ABS), standing out can be a challenge. Even when you have selected your target market there is an element of difference between individual customer needs, so there is no exact rule about how to effectively reach them and sell to each of them.
A tried and proven method for standing out is to take a more brazen, unconventional and inventive approach than your competitors. Of course, some of the following examples have now become somewhat commonplace, but you can see why they keep on working.
However, remember to stay on the right side of the law – make sure you comply with Section 52 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (the Act) (formerly known as the Trade Practices Act 1974) that prohibits misleading or deceptive advertising conduct (http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/C2011C00003).
In the spirit of Guerrilla Marketing, published by Jay Conrad in 1983, and also from other inventive small business marketing sources, here are some tips for the smaller marketing budget – some may be suitable for you, depending on your product (goods / services):
- Flyers / Unsolicited Advertising Material: This is relatively cheap advertising that lets you "saturate" an area that you would like to do business in. Make it brief, to the point, and offer an incentive. Consider making a deal with other business to do "flyer swaps" between your business premises and theirs.
- Posters: Find bulletin boards at supermarkets, public spaces and shopping malls – these are usually free advertising space. Make your flyer stand out from others if you can, and it has to be clear and to the point. If you offer incentives by including tear off tabs, make each site a different colour so you know where the business is coming from.
- Value Adds: This is a great method for building customer satisfaction and repeat business. The cost to you of the "value add" will be insignificant compared to the additional and return business. Try also coupons and "free first hour" or "free appraisal", guarantees, discounts for repeat customers, point cards and referrals rewards, etc. Make sure the value adds are clearly indicated in your advertising material.
- Referral Networks: This means any possible network you can think of – business to business, customers, local community networks, industry associations, etc. Get involved. White collar referrals works really well. For example lawyers, accounts, financial planners, brokers, all tend to have a network of referrals for their customers, based on professional reputation.
- Follow-Up: A strong marketing tool is to follow up your customers with questionnaires to get feedback on how your small business marketing campaign is going. Why did the customer choose your business? Where did he / she hear about it? Which other companies had he / she considered? What was the customer most satisfied with? What was least satisfying? Also, if your business involves going to the customer, make sure to slip a flyer into the nearby mailboxes, as people of similar needs and interests tend to live in the same area.
- Cold Calling: This has been called the baptism of fire for small businesses. Cold calling forces you to sell yourself as well as your business. As a freelancer, consultant, contractor or micro / small busier owner, you customer needs to buy you, the person talking to them, before they will buy anything from you. Over the phone you don't have the benefit of a smile or face-to-face conversation – a phone is a license for customers to be as caustic and abrupt as possible. However, cold calling does makes you think on your feet and encourages creativity and adaptability when facing potential customers.
- The Internet: Not having a website means not having a point of access for the growing number of people who Google first when they want to make a buying decision. Add to this a social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and the need for good SEO, and it can appear overwhelming. Online directories like this one certainly help.
- Customer's Bottom Line: Depending on what your business sells (goods / services) get to know your customer's financial needs for your product - they must be made compelled to buy. How? Give them a presentation showing how it will benefit them. Give them an estimate or a sample of what you will do for them and how it will benefit them. Be confident, creative and unapologetic.
- T-Shirts: One of the oldest and most successful guerrilla marketing tools. Make T-shirts branded with your company name / logo / colours / contact details – maybe even a signature product. Wear them yourself, and give them away (or sell them when your brand gets stronger).
- Tag Your Car or Truck: What you did for your T-shirt, you can do for your car, truck, van, SUV or even your bike (except maybe giving them away for free). This is your mobile advertising space.
- Project Your Image: What you did for your T-shirt, car, truck or SUV, you can put on a slide. Maybe add some information about your key products. After dark, project the slide on the side of a building. Change locations frequently, but look for sites where a lot of people can see it.
- Sticky Notes: Write out your sales message on Post-It notes and paste them everywhere people will see them. There are virtually no off limit places (except of course where advertising material is explicitly prohibited). For example, theatres, restaurants, bathrooms, fitting rooms - be imaginative.
- Invite People to Come in and Complain or Suggest: With the flyers and posters suggested earlier, run a campaign very now and then inviting people to come to your business. The idea is to generate traffic, so be inventive as to why they should come (eg Come In and Complain or Suggest). Listen to what your customers likes and dislikes are, and at the same time offer promotional material and value-adds suggested earlier. When you resolve a "complaint", you will usually have a satisfied (and returning) customer.