Just expecting your business to grow organically, and waiting for your customers to tell you what they want, will not work in today’s highly competitive marketplace. We have put together some essential marketing tips for our business customers, because we want to see you not just survive financially, but actually thrive in your business life.
It’s a simple 6-step process.
1. Make a marketing plan
Your marketing strategy isn’t going to happen if you don’t start with a plan. You’ll need to:
Identify your target market (e.g. local, national, internet, specific demographic) Work out some goals (e.g. build brand awareness, increase foot traffic and/or website traffic by a specified percentage, create and grow email contact list)Set a budget (if you can’t afford to commit $$$, you can still invest time)Allocate responsibilities if you have employees (or set aside time if it’s just you)
2. Be extremely visible online
Make it easy for potential customers to find you, and discover what you do. We’re well into the 21st century, when every business needs an online presence – the more extensive, the better. But you don’t need to be a digital genius.
If you don’t already have a website you need to make creating one your first priority. It doesn’t need to be too fancy but it should be professional-looking. You can try doing it yourself using tools like Weebly or Shopify, or engage the services of a website designer for around $3,000 for a simple small business website.
You’ll also need to engage with your customers on social media, with pages for your business at Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as an Instagram account. If you feel confident about making short video clips you can also create a YouTube channel. Visually-focused social media has risen to the top of the pile in the last few years.
Don’t overlook your local community Facebook pages. Join the groups, make relevant posts about your business and respond to any comments.
Google My Business
Your Google business profile is a free resource you also need to claim if you haven’t already done so. Type your business name into the Google search field and your business profile should appear in the right-hand sidebar. Claim the business profile as yours via Google My Business if you haven’t done that yet. Update it with links to your website and Facebook page, your phone number, opening hours, and a few attractive photos.
3. Respond to customers
Customers are the reason your business exists, so nurture them. When people engage with your business on social media, respond quickly, courteously, helpfully, individually – no auto-responses. It takes time but it will pay dividends. Express gratitude for positive feedback, and find ways to turn around negative comments – don’t just ignore them, ask what you can do to improve their experience.
Competitions, subscription newsletters and blogs are a great way to garner email contact details for future promotions. But don’t overdo the love. An avalanche of emails will see your customers hitting the ‘Unsubscribe’ button and possibly taking their custom elsewhere.
Your aim is to build up a strong pool of engaged, loyal customers who will tell a story of satisfaction to other people.
4. Differentiate your product
Above all, you need to set yourself apart from your competitors. Find a product or service that is needed but different, so that customers have a reason to choose you rather than move on to the next option. If you’re a cafe it might be a special toastie or smoothie that’s available nowhere else locally, and funky decor that will appeal to your target market. A service industry could tweak its offerings to suit a niche audience, such as an accounting practice promoting specialised tax returns for full-time workers with a side hustle – an eye-catching poster in the window may be all you need.
Even though we’re in the digital age, networking doesn’t have to be just about social media. Nothing beats the face-to-face personal touch. Networking for businesses is less about sales promotion, more about building trusted relationships – the sales will follow later.
Harness the power of your family and friends, former colleagues and existing customers to spread the word-of-mouth about your business. Join and actively participate in your local Chamber of Commerce. Sign up with your industry association. Give away caps, pens and t-shirts emblazoned with your logo or sales pitch at community and business events. Approach new contacts you think may be able to help you by offering to help them first, or giving something without asking for anything in return.
In the end, it’s all about brand awareness, and you may find it necessary to use paid advertising to establish your brand. You will need to experiment to find out what works in your locality for your business, and which method reaches the customer demographic you are focusing on. It could be the local newspaper, a business directory, bus-stop digital signage, an old-fashioned billboard or Google Adwords. Try different avenues one at a time, and when you do get a new customer, ask them how they heard about you.
When you know you have a good product but customers are not coming through your door, it’s probably because you need to pay more attention to marketing. Market it properly, and they will come.