Small businesses must be extra imaginative with their marketing efforts in order to attract customers and get them to open their wallets. Even more challenging is that most entrepreneurs have shallow pockets and shoppers are being more selective as a result of the sluggish economy and volatile stock market. The following are six proven low-cost marketing ideas that help small businesses increase sales and generate referrals, ultimately helping you build your cash cow, while spending very little.
1) Word of Mouth: Provide your customer with a great product, service, and experience and they’ll tell their friends and family about it – hence, “word-of-mouth.” The best part is, a word-of-mouth marketing won’t cost you a thing!
2) Referrals: Bonuses are a low-cost incentive that reward customers with discounts for referring their friends or family. Create brochures or coupons to hand out to customers. Give some thought to ways you can create buzz for your product or service; focus on a unique attribute or selling point. Even if it’s just a beautifully printed 5-by-7 post card, any copy shop (such as FedEx/Kinko’s) can print them in next to no time and for a small fee.
3) Social Media: This strategy is about connecting with your potential and existing customers that’s informal. The goal is to create a connection, sometimes emotional, with the person that is separate from the company website, which can be more formal and structured. For starters, create a Facebook fan page, which is free. This will allow you to post company developments and articles of interest to your prospective and current clients. With millions of users, setting up your business profile on Facebook is a no brainer. (Example: Wicked Start’s Facebook) If you like to write, consider a blog and write about topics that are of interest to your target market. (Example: Wicked Start’s blogs Other social media to consider are YouTube where you can post videos about your product or service which creates an opportunity for customers to see you. (Example: Wicked Start’s YouTube channel)
4) Marketing Partners: Marketing partners are other businesses with which you cultivate a business relationship to cross-promote products. The expectation is that you will increase business for each other due to the relationship. Generally, you’ll share some characteristics with your marketing partner, such as common customers in different markets, but you won’t be direct competitors. Cross-promotion can be as simple as providing brochures to each other’s customers. An example might be a cleaning service leaving brochures in a high rise rental building in New York.
5) Website: Every business needs a website. This is your calling card. It’s how customers are going to find out about you and learn about your product or service. Today, everyone searches online for everything. Make sure that you have a web presence as this can be your primary sales channel. There are many low costs solutions for setting up a website such as Intuit.com, 1&1.com, WordPress.com. Remember to “Optimize” your website. This is known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO. The goal is to make sure that when a potential customer in search terms on Google, Yahoo or Bing, that are relevant to your business, you want to be one of the first businesses results to be returned. Getting a top listing will mean making sure that keywords relevant to your business are included on the pages in your website.
6) Customers on the Fence
Before you send off your next proposal, call your prospect and tell her the proposal she requested is ready. Tell her you'd like to forward the proposal, but before you do, ask her what time tomorrow would be convenient to discuss the proposal. Remember, always set up your next appointment before releasing any information.
Remember, the more comfortable we keep our customers, the longer they’ll stay, the more memorable experience they’ll have and the more they’ll spend, or pass on positive word-of-mouth. When you’re planning your next marketing activity, remember to stimulate your customers’ senses, including eyes, ears, nose and mouth