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This is part two of an article on marketing for small businesses. For part one read, achieving big results from a small marketing budget.
There are many tools and resources that can help your marketing to look professional, which is a vital ingredient in getting results from a limited budget. Marketing and especially digital marketing work well to generate new customers.
Once you start to build a list of prospective contacts in your database you can use free email tools such as MailChimp or Constant Contact to send out emails with personalised and relevant content.
As not all prospects will be ready to purchase straight away, look to set up an automated sequence of emails, which use different messages to take your potential customer through the buyer journey. This technique can be used to send emails at predetermined intervals. You’ll keep prospects warm and you’ll have multiple opportunities to get them to take the call to action that you are looking for.
One of the most efficient ways of finding new customers is to ask your existing customers for a referral. It is almost always easier to start a conversation with someone who has been recommended by an existing advocate for your business.
It is important to have a plan in place for your customer referral program. Start by asking your existing customers for a referral. If you incentivise the referral process, it can work incredibly well, and tiered reward programs may also be useful.
You have two choices for incentives – cash and non-cash incentives. The latter works if you have a good reward to offer. But bear in mind that some companies have strict policies about not accepting gifts.
Public Relations or PR for short is one of those activities that sounds like it might be a bit fluffy and a waste of time, but it can be really useful in helping to raise brand awareness. There are a number of different aspects to PR; for example, you can ask customers permission to write or film a case study or testimonial on how they are using your products or services – because consumers trust each other more than they trust your brand.
If you have a new product launch coming up, then writing a short press release can be a good way to announce the story. There are usually industry publications or websites that your customers and prospective customers will read, and sending relevant news to these can help to get your message in front of your target audience.
Blogging is another good activity, but it takes time and commitment. Many entrepreneurs start with good intentions about regularly blogging only for other business priorities to get in the way, and the frequency drops off. Set a realistic schedule and stick to it. Look for guest blogging opportunities with 3rd parties that can get your message out to your targeted audience. Always try and include relevant keywords in your blog, which will benefit your search engine rankings.
There are business awards covering lots of different industries, and you can see a listing here. Although they can seem like an exercise in vanity, they do provide several benefits; from raising your profile, to giving added reassurance to your customers that you are great at what you do.
The submission process can vary from providing a detailed written submission, to peer nomination from within your industry. Regional retail awards, for example, can highlight stores in a local area.
It can be personally satisfying to be recognised for being great at what you do within your industry and by your peers. If you are fortunate enough to be shortlisted for an award, you will often be invited to an awards ceremony. These are attended by vendors and customers in your market and are a great place to network for new contacts.
Events can help to raise awareness, generate leads and build credibility in your marketplace. However, the opposite is also true, poorly attended or poorly organised events can damage your brand.
In many ways, the simplest way to promote your business is to host an event which can be a great way of generating leads in a highly focused way. But remember, not everyone wants to sit through endless PowerPoint slides so think about the format carefully, think about how you can get your audience engaged with your topic. Overall, you must create a great experience to win you fans.
There are a number of different types of events that you can get involved in and they vary considerably in terms of cost and effort.
Attending trade shows offers the chance to meet lots of different customers, as trade shows often attract many 100s or even 1000s of attendees. The organiser is mainly responsible for generating the audience, many of whom are in active buying or research mode.
Depending on the type of event, the cost can range from a few hundred pounds to many thousands. If the thought of spending this much puts you off, there are a range of more cost-effective options:
Breakfast or lunch events - These work well if you have a market that is locally based. Hotels, restaurants and conference venues can offer a cost-effective location. If you are hosting a roundtable discussion, then your main cost will simply be food and beverage.
Dinner events where you want ‘wine and dine’ the attendees should be used carefully as you want to make sure that genuine prospects and customers attend it.
Business networking events, such as BNI, allow you to network with other like-minded businesses. The aim of these to help drive sales to other members.
User or customer meetings – when you have built up a customer base, getting your users or customers together on an annual basis provides lots of networking and sales opportunities
Customer days (or prospects) can be relaxing and fun. These events can help you to establish a closer relationship with key buyers and influencers in an informal setting.
An alternative to hosting or attending a physical event are online webinars. This is because it is getting harder and harder to get people to leave the office. The growing popularity of webinars is that they offer you the ability to present your message to your target audience’s computer screen.
Without physical costs, webinars are a relatively low-cost option but it does take time and effort to generate the audience. A well-presented webinar can be recorded and watched on-demand to cater to busy lifestyles.
If you are running your own event, the key to success is detailed preparation. Do not underestimate what it takes to put on a really good event. Have a clear view of each task, set deadlines and allocate responsibilities.
You can use tools such as Eventbrite to manage the registration process and to promote the event. As long as you are not charging for attendance, there are no fees.
Organised properly, events can form an important part of your overall marketing plan.
One of the most important points to bear in mind for any marketing activity is not to put all of your eggs in one basket. A good marketing plan should have a mix of different activities such as events, email, PR, social media and digital advertising. The actual mix will depend on the outcome you are looking for.
The marketing activity should be viewed as an integrated set of initiatives, to build up brand awareness and generate leads/sales. By combining the various activities, your results can become bigger than the sum of the parts. For example, if you are doing an event, you could do email marketing to let people know what you are doing, use social media in the run-up and during the event, and use PR to continue to get your message out.
Use the same messaging throughout all of your marketing efforts so your audience sees and hears a consistent story. This is a key part of establishing a strong brand message and identity.
A rule of thumb is that it can take up to 7 interactions with your message before a potential customer will be receptive to what you are looking to achieve. This reinforces the value of the integrated approach outlined above.
It’s also why you need to allow a reasonable timeframe before judging whether your marketing has been successful. It is so easy to think that you haven’t seen any results but it takes time to build market awareness and for people to respond.
Did you know that there are over 5700 Marketing Technology (MarTech) tools available? At the bottom of this page, we have presented a list of our favourites for analysing and optimising your marketing efforts and driving lead generation.
Whilst most businesses will tell you that sales or delivering excellent customer experience are the lifeblood of the organisation, the importance placed on marketing shouldn’t be too far behind.
By leveraging the available marketing technology tools, you can go along to make sure you do achieve big results from the smallest of marketing budgets.
Let us know in the comments below what you think of these tools, and if you have any that you think should be added to the list.
Direct Marketing guru Drayton Bird, coined the phrase 'common sense direct marketing'. This applies to a lot of how you should think about marketing in general. Because with a dose of common sense, you can achieve highly effective marketing that looks professional and gets results without spending a huge amount of money.
New blood. Fresh ideas. Extra pair of hands. Hiring new staff is an exciting time and offers many benefits. However, finding the right person can be a tricky process. If you get it right, you could quickly accelerate your business growth.
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