Many business owners can be forgiven if they assume an effective marketing program requires an in-house department practicing expensive outreach methods. But what if those expensive resources don’t exist?
Must a business rely upon air dancers (Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tubemen*) and home coupon mailers?
Since marketing is, simply put, a method to get your message in front of a customer, a bit of imagination (and more than a bit of effort) may help to expand your brand.
Whether you have a brick and mortar business, or a virtual storefront, here are 5 things you can do to successfully market yourself on a relatively limited budget.
1. Make your business identity fun, and/or appeal to customer emotions.
Few businesses succeed by being boring. An interactive website, colorful promotional items showcasing your brand, tie-ins with complementary (but non-competitive) businesses can make customers pay attention.
Do know the difference between grabbing attention and being potentially offensive so run your ideas past people whose judgment you trust.
The bottom line: If you don’t find a way to stand out in a crowd, your competition might. Your outreach should make people smile, or be moved to react positively to your brand.
Think about the advertising you’ve recently seen that did, and did not get your attention. What played on your emotions will most likely work for others. Just don’t be derivative. Consider which approach works best to promote your business. An appeal to the senses? Humor? Examples of past work? Cost savings?
2. Build customer relationships & continue to reinforcement them.
One of the oldest sayings is, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” This is often used for those looking for a job, but it is also a very useful philosophy for those looking for new (and wanting to maintain) customers.
If you’re looking for local customers: attend networking events; join your (and neighboring) chambers of commerce; sponsor, or host seminars/events on topics related to your business. If there are no geographic limitations to your customer base, hold regular online contests with giveaways.
Stay in touch with your customers without flooding their inboxes. Be mindful that there can be a thin line between staying connected, and spam. You should be able to tell the difference because it’s most likely being done to you on a daily basis.
3. Customer service
This ties in with #2 above, but is important enough to earn its own category. We’ve all experienced bad customer experiences, both online and off. The best way to lose business is to demonstrate to customers that they should try out the competition. Unless you have a monopoly on your product, your customers always have alternatives to you and your business. (Even if you have a monopoly, customers may decide that you’re not worth the effort.)
Not every customer is reasonable, but most can be turned into your booster if handled with the same TLC you’d expect in a similar situation.
The road to success rests with satisfied customers.
Satisfied customers are also willing to give you testimonials. Sprinkle these kind words generously throughout your marketing materials.
4. Keeping it fresh.
Unless you have full-time employees whose sole responsibility is to create content for all your social media efforts, it’s exceptionally difficult, if not impossible to give your customers a reason to return to a) your website, b) your business Facebook page, c) your Twitter account, d) Snapchat, Pinterest, Linkedin, Instagram, Youtube, etc. on a regular basis.
How then do you keep your content continuously updated, and give your customers a reason to want to make your message a regular part of their schedule (and reinforcing your brand)? How do you make your customer a (your business name here) junkie?
If you can’t afford a professional, put the word out to your local college marketing/communications department that you’re looking for students who want to build a social media portfolio.
Caveat: You may not have the time to create content, but it’s important that you check the content before it’s posted in your company name. Imagine the damage that can be done to your brand (intentional, or not) by the wrong words, or images.
5. Research, research, research!
The only way to build and maintain awareness for your business is to continue to gain knowledge of your customers, your market, and your product.
If you stay in touch with your customers, and if you make your communications interactive, you can better understand what is working about your business, and what is not.
The history of businesses is littered with failed companies that didn’t remain responsive to changing times and trends. However, it’s also filled with successful companies who continuously make the effort to see what might be successful tomorrow, not what worked yesterday. This is not to discount yesterday’s success, but to be open to new opportunities.
Practice the 5 marketing points above, and you can successfully grow your business without an internal marketing department.
* Thank you, Family Guy!