Last week, I attended a networking group where I was asked for marketing tips which small businesses can make instant use of, especially on a small or no budget. Here are some of those discussed which your business may find useful:
- Get people to recommend you to their friends and family – this is always my number one tip. Give good service, make sure your business’ processes are as good as they can be, and don’t be afraid to ask your existing customers to pass on your details or write a recommendation for you. There is nothing more powerful in marketing than having a friend or family member recommend a business to you, so never overlook it.
- Always have your business cards to hand, no matter where you go. You never know who you might run into, and you don’t want to miss a potential business opportunity. A few stored in your wallet or purse will make sure you always have some available.
- Attend networking events – they are plenty around and with a little research, you can easily find out which ones are free to attend. It is always worth trying a few different groups until you find a format and mix of attendees that works well for your business – not all groups are the same, so don’t be put off if you have one bad or worthless experience.
- Use social media – the most popular sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, are all free to use and can lead to a huge number of business opportunities. If you don’t know how to set up a page or use the sites, don’t be afraid to ask someone who does. You don’t necessarily need to pay for the advice (although those people should be the best people to ask!), a teenager is always a good start for asking social media questions! Once set up, be consistent in using the sites for promoting your business and keep the pages up to date.
- Show off your company name everyday by wearing a branded t-shirt, shirt or jacket – it might seem a little tacky to some, but people will see your business name constantly when around you and it will help to push your business to the front of their mind when they need your services. If you have employees, make sure you’re all dressed the same for maximum effect.
- Write articles and press releases – keep a look out for topical issues which relate to your business and submit articles or press releases to local publications. Readers are far more likely to read editorial than look at adverts, so get in touch with the editors of local publications (their details will usually be found within the first couple of pages) and send them content they can use. Small businesses looking for local customers should consider smaller publications such as parish magazines, as these are often read by local residents and so will reach your target audience perfectly.
- Consider becoming a public speaker – if your business is of interest to others and you feel comfortable doing so, you could offer yourself as a public speaker for networking groups, such as Rotary, W.I., or other such meeting groups. They are always looking for interesting speakers, and it is a fantastic opportunity to speak directly to a number of people at once. It will take a little work to set up and you may need to do a couple to find your confidence, but if you can tell an interesting story about what you do, the people you come into contact with or the impact of your business on the local community, people will listen and you will win a new audience.
- Don’t forget your existing customers – collect email addresses from your existing customers and send them a regular newsletter using a low cost email system such as Mail Chimp or DotMailer. Send updates on new products or services offered by your business, and keep them up to date with relevant industry news. Staying at the front of your customers’ minds will help to encourage future sales.
- Consider using social media to give something away for free – you could run a competition on Facebook or Twitter to win one of your products or a sample of your service (i.e. a 20-minute meeting) if the entrants share or retweet your competition content. This will extend your audience to those contacts of your existing online followers and will help to build ‘likes’ or followers.
- Don’t forget to get the basics right first – have a plan of what you want to achieve with your marketing and identify who your target audience is. This will make sure that you make the right choices to get your message to these people and don’t waste vital resources (which includes time, as well as money) on marketing activities which will not appeal effectively to your targeted customers.
Regardless of whether your business has no budget or a multi-million pound budget, marketing your business is essential for ensuring you know where your next customers are coming from, and so by putting a few simple activities in place, you can help to push your business in the right direction – i.e. upwards!