When you’re running your own business, marketing can quickly fall by the wayside as you attend to the daily ins and outs required to keep things humming along. Managing staff, talking to clients, answering emails, handling the finances…the list goes on, as you know. And aside from being busy, sometimes marketing just sounds like an intimidating prospect. Maybe you don’t feel creative enough, or you’re not web-savvy, or you feel like marketing just requires too much schmoozing. Fair enough. But these are all challenges that can be avoided or overcome—and without a huge time investment.
Cliché as it is, this is true: If you’re not developing new leads and maintaining your business’s reputation and appearance, you’re leaving money on the table—or worse yet, losing it. So check out the simple suggestions below, put them to work, and be sure to track your investment and results.
Give it away! (But make sure it’s not throw-away junk.)
Advertising premiums are a time-tested marketing tool. Get some items your potential and existing customers will actually keep; have them branded with your business name, website, and phone number; and give them out everywhere. Your company will be top-of-mind and your contact info will be handy the next time they need what you offer.
All that said, do not fall into the junk trap so many businesses do. Because when was the last time you actually used a tiny calendar that sticks to your refrigerator (and refuses to come off at the end of the year)? Or a cheap frisbee with some indistinguishable logo on the top? How about that rubber bracelet with the name of an obscure printed company on it? If you’re going to spend marketing money on premiums, make sure they’re something truly usable, unique, or both.
A few favorites that are always in demand at our own stores and promotional events:
- mini flashlights
- pocket screwdrivers
- premium baseball caps
- pad-folios and note cubes
Not sure what to have created? Give away what you already have. Clear out surplus inventory by doing a promotional freebie week, create a coupon for a free consultation or estimate, or hand out free guides on how to do something people have a lot of questions about. As with all things marketing-related, add value to your customers’ lives. (And remember, part of the point here is to make sure your business’s information is included on or with the giveaway.)
Ask for reviews and referrals.
More often than not, people want to talk—more accurately, they want to be heard. Just give them the forum, and they’re usually forthcoming. Third-part websites like Yelp and Yahoo! Local are great for making review gathering easier for everyone. When you’re confident your customer is happy with the product or service they’ve gotten from you, ask if they wouldn’t mind leaving a few words on one of these sites. If your business has a Facebook page, customers can also leave starred reviews there; or they could simply write a post about your business that their friends and family will see. ZenDesk reports 88% of consumers “have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision.”
But if it sounds intimidating to directly ask your customers for feedback, you have a few options: conquer the fear or incentivize the process. If you’re ready to conquer your fear, there are some great articles from experts here, here, and here. They cover approach, timing, and what not to do when requesting referrals. And if you want to go the incentive route, come up with a system in which your customers refer friends or give written testimonials in exchange for an entry in a prize drawing, a discount off their next order, or even just the opportunity for their words and name to be featured on your website or brochure.
When in doubt, outsource it.
A lot of marketing these days can and should be done digitally. 89% of consumers research businesses online before they make buying decisions, which means your website should be current, well-executed, user-friendly, easy to find, and capable of tracking leads. If you don’t know the first thing about SEO, website design, online copywriting, or analytics, best to leave it all to the pros. Yes, it’s an investment—but one your business needs. An unprofessional website tells potential customers that your company is unprofessional too. And if people just can’t find your website, naturally they’re much less likely to find your business.
Take some time to research available freelancers or agencies in your area who will work with you to make sure that your site is not only conveying the right message to visitors, but also capturing data on those visitors. Again, if all this sounds foreign, trust it to someone whose job it is to make you look good and help you find new business online.
You know marketing is vital to sustaining and growing your business, and it really doesn’t need to be a daunting task. The best place to start your marketing strategy is to pick three to five initiatives you know will work or you’d like to try. Prioritize them as you see fit based on how and what you want to communicate to the public, and then take on one project at a time. We promise it won’t be too painful—and you’re practically guaranteed to see positive results in your sales.