5 Tips to market your small business
Too many small-business owners don't think about marketing their business until they are out of business.
The best time to market is when you have business. When marketing is continuous and targeted, business gets easier. If prospects have a positive view of your products and reputation, you're that much closer to getting a sale.
Here are 5 cheap ideas for doing that.
1. Make customers feel special.
Customers respond to being recognized, especially in these rush-rush, get-the-lowest-price times. "Even with a web-based business, good customer service is possible," says Denise McMillan, Co-owner of Plush Creations, an online retailer of handcrafted travel bags. McMillan encloses a small, rose-scented sachet in every jewelry and lingerie bag she sells and also sends a handwritten thank-you note. "The sachet and note cost pennies but add something special to the purchase," she says.
2. Create business cards that prospects keep.
Most business cards are tossed within hours of a meeting. Instead of having your card tossed, create one that recipients actually will use—say, a good-looking notepad with your contact info and tagline on every page. "The business card notepad is referred to almost daily, kept for 30 days or so, and carries a high remembrance factor," says Elliott Black, a Northbrook, Ill., marketing consultant who specializes in small businesses.
3. Stop servicing break-even customers.
If this idea makes you gasp, think harder. You're falling for the fallacy of increasing sales instead of boosting profits. If you stop marketing to unprofitable customers, you have more time and resources for customers who actually grow your business. "More than likely, 20% of your customer base is contributing 150% to 200% of total annualized profit (TAP); 70% is breaking even; and 10% is costing you 50% to 100% of TAP," says Atlanta marketing consultant Michael King. Take a detailed look at your customer profitability data and then direct premium services and marketing to customers who count.
4. Become an online expert.
This is the "free sample" approach to bringing in business. Research active email discussion lists and online bulletin boards that are relevant to your business and audience. Join several and start posting expert advice to solve problems or answer questions. You may need to keep this up for a bit. But the rewards come back in paying clients and referrals.
5. Finally, don't let customers simply slip away.
Make an effort to reel them back in. It costs a lot less to retain a disgruntled or inactive customer than to acquire a new one. If you haven't heard from a customer in a while, send a personalized email (you can automate this process), inquiring whether all is well. For a customer who suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone, acknowledging the unpleasantness and ask if there's anything you can do. A discount can't hurt either. Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do.