The current business environment offers great opportunities, but also confusion and uncertainty. Trying to determine where to invest your time and very small marketing budget is paralysing many small businesses. When your budget is small or non-existent, having an integrated approach will maximise your marketing effort and cost.
Most importantly, any marketing activity you undertake will be made vastly more effective if the following key components are solid and in place:
Knowledge of your target customer: Knowing your target customer helps you to determine where’s the best place to spend your limited funds. Start by understanding:
- Do you know what they need or want what you sell?
- How do they search for your product or service?
- Who and where do they seek recommendations or word of mouth referrals about your products or services from?
A compelling, unique marketing message and offer: What makes your message unique is your story, your business purpose, and your values. What make your message compelling is that it is customer centric – it speaks to the customers “hot button” that your service or product serves as a necessary part of their life or business. It must tap into the emotional hooks: looking good, feeling good, being successful, rewarding themselves – think Maslow’s highest needs. And check out my free marketing resources on www.zenwork.com to help you create a compelling marketing message.
With your target customer knowledge, your unique message and offer, there are many low cost marketing options available. Think of your marketing effort like a giant spider web. The more touch points of intersection, connected media platform elements, and spread or reach, you can create, the more effective you will be at connecting and engaging your target customer with your marketing message.
Let’s take a look at some low cost ways you may be able to market your business on a minimum budget:
Build awareness where your target customers are: Once you know your target customer, it becomes easier (plus more time and cost effective) to target your offer or message directly to them. The key is, potential customers need to receive information about you from many different sources and the more you crop up in their awareness, it increases the likelihood that they will consider your offer.
Use as many free media platforms as you have time for: The caveat here is return on your investment of time. When you know your customer, you then know what social media, networking events, keyword searches that they use, so you can confidently know that your marketing effort will be fruitful. The key here is to only spend time on marketing through social media that are frequented by your target customer. If you have limited time, identify the best platform and become an expert in it’s use. But make sure you are in all free industry specific directories like Google Places and Local Directories.
Competitions: Offering competitions on your website via a social media platform could send a lot more traffic your way from your existing customers and encourage signups to your email list from potential customers. You don’t need to give away anything big or expensive: if the prizes are small, most people think they’ve got a better chance of winning.
Stay Local: Don’t forget the local newspaper (yes, people do still scan them) for two sources of information, one is research about what other people and local business’ are doing in your area for potential sales leads; and also as an opportunity to tell your local area what your successful business is doing. Make sure that you submit media releases regularly, it’s a great opportunity for free advertising in your local area.
Build an email newsletter subscriber database: The value of any small business is the number of actual and potential customers you have. Email, if done well, can be a very effective engagement and selling tool. Of course, you need to have the mechanism to attract existing and potential customers to sign up for your newsletter, e-zine, blog or other content. Building an email subscriber database can be a smart return on investment for your time.
Don’t skimp on good website design: Think of your website as a ‘home for your business’ and behave accordingly. You wouldn’t build a home without researching the most effective design, the best value builder and effective materials, so why would you use a free platform to build it yourself (unless you really know what you are doing), and deliver a substandard, hard to optimise home for your business. Understand search engine optimsation (SEO) before engaging a website builder or designer – there is no shortage of free and useful information on the internet.
Create a Blog: If you like to write, are an artist or a photographer with work to show, then creating a blog is a great way to gain interest, engagement and leadership in your field. It does take time to generate good and regular content but the rewards of building your credibility, increasing SEO and building your brand make it worth the effort.
Ask for recommendations: Ask customers who are happy with your product or service for recommendations, a testimonial or to write a review. Other customers will be positively influenced by seeing people they know and respect, support and recommend you. Even if you don’t have a website yet, you can place your reviews or testimonials on your brochures, emails or social media platforms.
Build a network of contacts: Business networking is perfect for this. Develop relationships first to demonstrate the value you bring. Leverage those relationships in a win/win way to build a referral program and remember it’s important to follow up leads or contact with people after meeting them. Through this built network of contacts, offer freebies and valuable information but ask for something in return – a written review or testimonial; and offer to do the same for people in your network.
As you can imagine I see lots of examples of wasted effort and funds, because confusion leads a small business to try every kind of marketing without really thinking it through. Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune and there are many ways to maximise what you do spend and make it work better for your business.
I’d love to know what actions you will now be taking from reading this? Please leave a comment below?
About the author: Teresa Bassham is the Zenworkz Authentic Marketing coach, and is passionate about educating small and medium business professionals to create their authentic marketing and brand message, attract more customers and create a marketing plan to achieve success. Please contact me if you would like help simplyfing your marketing. Visit my website for free resources and subscribe for e-News updates on all topics related marketing.
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