Would it surprise you to know that many small business owners and managers think that they are not good at selling? It’s true. But most quickly realize that selling their product or service is one of – if not the most – important part of their business plan. No sales = no business! That’s where having and using a good marketing plan comes in.
Marketing is all about ways to attract customers to your business. Lots of folks think that marketing is the same thing as advertising, but in reality, placing ads is only one small part of a good marketing campaign, especially for smaller operations. You have to be creative, try new things and get the attention your business deserves. The next two articles will get you started with a few ideas that you can use to get and keep customers!
Only you know your goals and budget. There are hundreds of ways to promote a business but they all have a cost – either money or time. It’s up to you to determine how much of each you have available and are willing to invest. Some methods require very little of your time, but can cost quite a bit of money. There are other things you can do that cost little except your time and commitment. Think of it as a sliding scale with more money and less time on one end and less money, more time on the other end. The following ideas are just a sample and cover areas all over the scale. Some you may have heard before and maybe even tried. Your task is to be creative: personalize and expand on an idea so that it fits your industry and your unique business.
- Telephone book listing – this is something that many part time and home based businesses overlook, but having a separate business phone line and being included in the yellow pages gives your business a more professional image. And don’t forget, for many industries, the local phone book is where customers look first for the products and services they need.
- Public speaking – is a free way to get your business noticed. If you are an expert in your field or offer a particularly unique product or service the opportunities are practically endless. Not only are there local public service radio and television programs, but investigate giving a talk or seminar for community service groups, schools, colleges, churches, and business leagues. One caution: Although it is acceptable to pass out your brochure or business card, your speech should be more than just an advertisement for your company. Offer interesting information people can use and be prepared to answer questions.
- Provide a premium – people like to get something extra. Giving a useful item with purchase encourages repeat business. The item need not be expensive, especially if you are in a retail business; just be sure your company logo and contact information are included on or with the item. Giving a discount or gift for referrals brings in new business. Selling gift certificates brings in business from those that might not otherwise be customers.
- Investigate coupons – in a creative way. Everybody wants to save, and coupons aren’t only for the grocery store anymore. Of course you could simply place an ad with a discount coupon in the local paper, but there are many other ways to use this method. Make a flyer or write a special offer on your business card and distribute them in places where your customers are. And coupons don’t always have to be physically handed out. You can place a “mention this ad and receive a discount” offer almost anywhere. Put it on a bulletin board, on balloons, on your car, even on a T-shirt!
- A telephone campaign – costs only time and energy. There are three things you need in order to use this method effectively. The first is a short, well written script to use as a guideline. Know what you’re going to say. Second, put some effort into making sure you have a usable list of phone numbers. You don’t want to call homes trying to get prospects for a business service, and vice versa. (Both the internet and your local library have resources to help with this.) The third, and perhaps most important factor, is to have patience and persistence. Many people don’t like sales calls, and a lot of those that do take the call simply won’t be interested. But this is a proven method that can work for many businesses: That’s why so many companies use it! Think what you could accomplish if you set aside a certain amount of time every day to make your target number of calls. It’s a percentage game – you may have to make 50 or a hundred or more calls to get a prospect, but every call you make brings you that much closer to your goal.
- Network, network, network! When you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you have to spend more time. Tell everybody you know about your business. Join trade groups. Give out that business card. Find or create a link exchange group. Make agreements with other businesses to promote each other’s companies. Show your enthusiasm for what you do.
These are a few of the basics – some of the less expensive things you can try. Next time, we’ll discuss some things you can do if you have a bit more to spend. And as always, please free to email with your comments or questions!
Vanessa Shelton is a web designer, marketing consultant and copywriter with over 20 years experience. She uses “The Right Words – The Right Way” to bring your ideas and vision to the world. With newsletters, article marketing, the website refresh, and more in her arsenal, Vanessa is ready to help small business owners and independent professionals get attention, and get results. Visit http://vanessasdesk.com to see how Vanessa can help you.