Several months ago I was contacted on Twitter by @PeachtreebySage to do a guest blog post for their community and I think it is a relevant entry to re-post here for my readers. If you would like to head over to Peachtree and check out my post you are more than welcome to here. So, enjoy!
As a business management consultant I help small businesses run and manage their business, which many times is their marketing plans and strategies and over the past year as I meet new and potential clients and their biggest concerns have been; a) we have NO money and have used all our reserves and b) how can you help us with our marketing so that we can make more money. I understand this concept because I, too, am a small business owner and have very limited funds, if any, to spend on marketing my business. As I have talked and worked with many small business owners over the years I have found that there are 5 things that small businesses can do that have a big impact on their business if they use the tools correctly with very little to no investment.
- Do Qualitative Research – You don’t need a lot of money to go and hire a fancy research firm to do a segmentation that will tell you about your customers or your competitor’s customers. Small scale qualitative research can be just as insightful and beneficial as big online or telephone research. Ask 10 of your best customers to go to dinner one night and ask them questions about why they are your customers and areas that you can improve. In today’s economy most people will be willing to give you their opinion for a free, fancy dinner. I do recommend asking at least 10 people and do prepare a discussion guide so that you don’t get side tracked and spend the whole night just socializing with your guests. This is a research tool that will cost you a good meal but invaluable information.
- Integrate a Social Media Campaign – I know that social media marketing is the new buzz word and the trendy thing to do in marketing right now, but social media is a great way to connect with your customers and create a brand image. Consumers today are all about relationship marketing because they want to do business with people they know and trust and the best way to create that relationship to go to the place they are and those places are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The best part is that all 3 of them are FREE. Go to where your customers are and if you don’t believe me when I say they are on these sites then ask them in your qualitative research that you do over dinner (which is recommendation #1) if they are using social networks and how.
- Start a PR Campaign – This is the hardest of my 5 to implement but one of the most impactful. These campaigns are in every marketer’s tool box and it wouldn’t be called “marketing and PR” if it wasn’t. But word to the wise, this strategy does take some finesse. You need to know exactly what to say and how to say it. If you are making a business announcement you want to be concise and compelling and if you are pitching a story idea to a journalist you want to be compelling and not annoying. I suggest you join helpareporter.com. It is free and they send you 3 emails a day for journalist looking for sources for stories they are working on, but there are a few rules and the cardinal rule is don’t try and contact every report for every story. Only send information for stories that you are an expert or can actively contribute to. Yet again, this is a free activity that can help gain exposure for you and your business.
- Network – How many people do you see a day? Do you see the same 5 or 7 people every day? If you answered yes to either or both of these questions you need to get out and network. Every person you meet is a potential client or knows a potential client no matter what you do or your industry. I like for people to integrate social media into their marketing because I want them to “join the conversation” but I also tell them they need to take those conversations offline too and connect with real live people. Telling your story to real people is just as valuable as printing a brochure or a postcard and it costs a lot less.
- Follow up – How many times have you meet someone new and had this great conversation that they wanted to work with you and then nothing came of it? Many people are really great at meeting new people and networking and then don’t follow up. I’m guilty of it just as much as the next person. I get nervous and second guess myself then convince myself that if they really want to work or talk with me they will call me. How has that worked so far? For me it hasn’t. When I look at my customer list the clients I do have are the ones that I actively followed up and made that relationship happen myself. Again, this doesn’t cost you anything other than a few minutes of your time either writing an email or making a phone call.
I know what you are thinking – I already know these things. Then, let me ask you, are you doing any of them? Probably so. But are you putting your full effort into doing them and doing them right to make them work? Probably not. It always helps to be reminded and have that little nudge to get you motivated. I have clients that have me be their boss and make them accountable for doing these very activities to take their business to the next level. I’m saying these strategies shouldn’t be your business’s complete marketing plan but all these things should be integrated into your overall strategies. I am a firm believer that you should have a balanced marketing mix and all these simple and inexpensive strategies should be part of it. Good luck in building your business and I wish you all the success in the future.