Marketing your small business is essential to its short and long-term success. By engaging in marketing efforts from the minute you set up shop, you build up a reputation for your business and increase public awareness of what you have to offer. A sustained marketing effort keeps your business on the radar of current customers and exposes you to new potential customers.
According to Small Business Administration research, most small business owners say they wish they had invested more into marketing when they started their businesses. A good marketing effort can help start-up businesses gain customers quickly, allowing the business to get off to a good start on sound financial footing.
Marketing is more than just buying a few TV or print ads or hiring a guy in a gorilla suit to stand outside your location. Marketing is the evolution of a brand and image for you business, and should not be undertaken in a haphazard, fly-by-night manner.
The following are a list of proven marketing strategies that work for small businesses, particularly recent start-ups.
1. Send a press release to your local newspaper or media outlet. Many newspapers and other outlets have a section in their print edition or website for community happenings. By sending information about your business to these outlets, you may be able to take advantage of a little free advertising to get the word out about your business. Also, if your press release has a unique angle or concerns a special event, you may get a news story out of it, increasing your business’ public exposure at a minimal cost.
It may also be beneficial to send out a few press releases each year and cultivate relationships with local media, as they will be more likely to help their friends with coverage.
2. Have business cards printed. It may seem a little 20th century, but the business card has been around more than a century for a very good reason. It provides potential clients with a portable and quick to access point of contact for your business. Once you get some business cards printed out, distribute them around town in public spaces like diners and gas stations, and carry a few around to distribute yourself to potential clients.
3. Build a database. When possible, try to get client contact information so you can get in touch with them about sales or new products. By keeping detailed contact information, such as individual customers’ favorite purchases, you can make more targeted promotions.
4. Build a brand. When starting your business, have a definite brand image in mind for your enterprise. Have a logo for your business, and have it printed on a variety of media, such as business cards, t-shirts, mugs, etc. By building a likeable brand, you can build consumer loyalty and build a sense of community around your business. The more you can get your customers to identify with your business, the more likely they will be to support it for the long term.
5. Opening event. Don’t just open shop one day. Stage a grand opening to make a first impression with the community that you are serving. Grand openings for home-based or online businesses may be impractical, however. Instead try offering opening discounts or other incentives to get your name out and score some inital customers.
6. Keep track of your marketing efforts. Track how foot traffic or web traffic to your business, sales and other metrics go up or down after a marketing effort. From this data you can see what marketing efforts are working, and the ones that you may need to re-tool or abandon. Marketing dollars are precious, so making the best use of each one is key to your success.
7. Don’t spend it all in one place. The key to a successful marketing strategy is duration. If you spend all of your marketing budget on just one or two promotions, these events or deals will eventually subside from the public consciousness, leaving you with minimal benefit. Dole out your marketing budget carefully throughout the year, sponsoring several promotions in order to stay current with the public.
8. Let’s make a deal. One easy way to market is by offering promotional deals or discounts. If you’re new to a business, this is a great way to get the public in your store and if you’re an established business, it’s a great way to get them to come back. Even if you’re an online or home-based business, offering the occasional price break is an excellent way to make sure your existing customers stay loyal, and to attract a little new blood to your revenue stream.
9. Guerilla marketing – Unconventional marketing that gets the most bang for the advertising dollar has become the new wunderkind of marketing in the current economic environment. Publicity stunts, direct contact marketing and other techniques have proven to be very effective for smal niche businesses. Guerilla marketing relies on creativity and improvisation, so it doesn’t hurt to be a little unconventional with your marketing approaches when trying this tactic.
10. Get in good with public safety. By offering discounts to cops and firefighters, you gain a valuable customer base, and one that can keep your business safe. It also helps to reach out to civic organizations, giving them donations when you are able. By becoming affiliated with these groups, you gain loyal customers.
By using these 10 marketing tips, small businesses and new small businesses can grow their brand and make the most out of their marketing dollars. As your business grows and prospers, you’ll likely be able to increase the scope and your dollar investment in marketing your business, moving into areas such as television, radio and print advertising, social media marketing, search engine optimization anThe importance of good marketing in a competitive economy cannot be understated, as you can go broke having the best products and services in the world if no one knows about them.