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Marketing Tactics

Smart Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses

How to boost your business with a tiny marketing budget.

Casandra Visser

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You’ve scraped together every cent that you have to get your business up and running but have you included marketing costs in your budget?

If not, know that there is a way for you to still promote your business and not have to try and find additional funds. There is always an opportunity available, regardless of the industry that you are in.

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas will not get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca

How to Evaluate Small Business Marketing Ideas

Before you start trying to tick every marketing box possible you need to take the time to understand which marketing ideas are going to give you the fastest and best return on investment.

Consider the following points before you decide which marketing opportunities will work best for your business:

  1. Objectives. Your marketing needs to match your objectives so refer back to your marketing plan to remind yourself what these are. Do you want to build strong relationships with clients, do you want to increase your sales by a large percentage in the next 6 months or do you want to establish your brand as an expert in your industry?
  2. Customers. It might seem obvious but many entrepreneurs tend to overlook their customers and don’t analyse exactly how they are spending their time. Another aspect that needs to be considered is when you want to reach your customers. This will also help you to decide on your marketing options.
  3. Product. The type of product or service that you will be marketing will also play a role in how and when you should market it to potential customers. When would your users be in the best frame of mind to receive information on your offering?
  4. Cost. Obviously cost is not going to be your biggest concern if you have a very small or no budget at all but there might be some small business marketing ideas that will require you to fork out a small amount of money to get the benefits that you’re looking for so keep this in mind and perhaps see where you could possible get the funds for this.
  5. Time. You need to ask yourself how much time you have available to spend on your marketing efforts as this too will contribute to the marketing ideas that you decide on. Some platforms such as social media require daily monitoring and activity while getting someone to hand out brochures is a whole other ball game.
  6. Competition. Where are your competitors currently advertising? If you’re looking at the same marketing platforms that they are currently present on then ask yourself how you can be better. Otherwise, take the time to consider options that they might not have considered yet.

Small Business Marketing Idea Options

By deciding on the right mix of marketing ideas you can really give your start-up a fighting chance so forget the idea of marketing being expensive and difficult and check out some of the many free small business marketing ideas that you can take advantage of.

1. Get Networking

Get-Networking-Low Cost Marketing Ideas

You’ll be surprised at how many small business networking events are taking place all over the country every week so take advantage of this. These events will not only give you access to potential customers but they offer you an opportunity to market your business for the price of an admission fee if anything.  Contact your local chamber of commerce or keep an eye on websites like the National Small Business Chamber.

Top Tips

  • Don’t try too hard to impress people at a networking event. Being yourself will earn you more respect.
  • Avoid interrupting others. Listening is important as it shows you are genuinely interested in what someone has to say. Don’t answer your cellphone or stop to greet someone else while they’re speaking either.
  • Be prepared. Walk into an event with business cards and be able to answer basic questions about your business to avoid looking like an amateur.

Useful Links

2. Design a Free Website

Design-a-Website-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Almost every business you come across today as some sort of a website because most consumers tend to turn to the web when they need information. Luckily, setting up a basic website is a lot easier than you think. Sites such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly and Yola are all perfect options for creating a simple online presence for your business. If you are looking for something more advanced, you can choose to purchase a specific WordPress template for a small cost that will give you the online features that you need.

Top Tips

  • Choose a website address that explains or gives browsers an idea of what your website is about.
  • Simpler is better. Don’t go overboard with colours or how much information you include on your site.
  • Make it easy for browsers to contact you.

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3. Create a Business Card

Business-Card-Design-Low Cost Marketing Ideas

Many entrepreneurs tend to overlook the smaller, tried and tested marketing ideas that are still very effective. Business cards are very affordable to print and it could mean the difference between missing an opportunity at a networking event and building a relationship with a long term client.

Top Tips

  • Colours and fonts are important so think twice before you choose a font that is hard to read.
  • Provide the receiver with more than one way to contact you so think about including your landline, cell and email address.
  • Present your card properly. Don’t push it towards someone over a table or leave it on their notebook. Hand it to them face-to-face wherever possible.
  • Business cards don’t need to be boring. You can really get creative and design it in an unusual shape that represents your brand.

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4. Write Up a Storm

Write-a-Blog-Small Business Marketing Ideas

A great way to establish yourself and your brand as an industry expert is to find blogs that you might be able to contribute to. Create a list of some key blogs that have good amounts of traffic and create a few pieces that you can submit to the blog owner but make sure that whatever you write is of benefit to their readers and that you’re not just punting your own product. Another option is to start your own blog if you already have a website. Update it weekly with content that your users will enjoy reading and will pass onto their friends, family and colleagues.

Top Tips

  • Always make your content relevant to your audience as well as to what your business does.
  • Online content is usually scanned so take advantages of sub-headers and bullet points where possible
  • If you’re submitting a blog post to another website try and get the email of the person who will be making the decision to publish it or not to find out if they have any criteria that you’ll need to meet
  • There is always a way to draw a reader in regardless of what you are writing about. Find your uniqueness.

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5. Become the Talk of the Town

Social-Media-Marketing-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Having a presence on social media is another free small business marketing idea to take advantage of. This doesn’t mean that you should register your business on every social network possible but instead select one or two where you know that potential customers like to spend their time. Social media pages need to be monitored and updated on a regular basis so make sure that you have the time to do this or at least have someone who can attend to any queries that you might receive.

Top Tips

  • Make sure that your social media pages are complete. Don’t leave your avatar blank, fill in your profile and include a way for users to get in touch with you
  • Always respond to comments, questions or complaints directed at you within 24 hours
  • Thank users for good feedback and find out how you can assist them when the feedback isn’t so great
  • Keep promotional tweets to a minimum or you won’t end up with much of an online following

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6. Create Loyalty

Loyalty-Rewards-Programme-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Loyalty programmes are the perfect way to keep customers coming back and it doesn’t have to cost much either. Decide whether your loyalty card will be printed or online and how customers will earn points. You should also make sure that the reward you are offering is something that you can actually deliver on. Another benefit of loyalty programmes is that they usually have a knock-on word of mouth effect.

Top Tips

  • Keep the tasks realistic. If customers are finding it difficult to complete a task to receive a reward then they will lose interest in your programme
  • Rewards don’t need to cost you a fortune but spend what you can to make the incentive worthwhile for your customers.
  • Partner with another brand or business. This way you can save costs and you both benefit from it.
  • Make sure that the rewards suite your business. Cash rewards and discounts are perfect for a retail business while the same approach won’t necessarily work for a gardening business.

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7. Pop Them An Email

Email-Marketing-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Your website can have so many other benefits besides your customers finding you online. Why not setup a newsletter sign up box to start building an email database. You can then use this to send out a weekly or bi-weekly mailer to your list informing them about your latest specials, interesting content or a new competition that you are currently running. Everyone hates spam so put some time into making your mailers stand out and be worth the open.

Top Tips

  • Put some thought into the design and layout of your newsletter. Does it properly represent your business?
  • Don’t overwhelm your readers with a busy mailer that is purely promotional. They will more than likely delete it.
  • Make it easy to subscribe and unsubscribe from your marketing mailers.
  • Use powerful wording to get more people to open your emails.

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8. Don’t Forget the End Bit

Email-Signatures-Low Cost Marketing Ideas

Every bit of exposure for your brand is going to count so don’t forget to add a good looking email signature to everything you send out. Having links in your email signature is a completely free marketing tool and will generate website and social media traffic.

Top Tips

  • Add your logo to your signature to give it a visual element.
  • Add social media logos to your signature so that people can follow and like your pages.
  • Go easy on the disclaimers. Make it short, simple and professional.

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9. Make them Winners

Competitions-Small Business Marketing Ideas

Customers and potential customers are always keen to win something so why not take advantage of the excitement of a competition and run one on your site or even your social media pages. You can even take it a step further and get users to fill in a survey in exchange for an entry into a draw. This way your business benefits in more ways than one.

Top Tips

  • Don’t make your competition entry instructions overly complicated, it puts users off.
  • Make the prize worth their while.
  • Try to run your competition on your website instead of directly on your social media pages. Advertise the competition on your social media platforms so that they can be shared and execute the competition on your website to increase visitors and product/services exposure.

Useful Links

10.  Ramp Up Your Customer Service

Customer-Service-Low Cost Marketing Ideas

Customers remember where they have received outstanding service and tend to recommend these brands to people they know more often than a brand that gave them average service. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and a marketing idea that will never cost you anything. It doesn’t take much to provide your customers with a memorable experience so capitalise on this whether you run an online store or a B2B company.

Top Tips

  • Aim to please your customer but not to an extent where you are jumping through hoops and jeopardising relationships with other clients or your employees
  • Get your team onboard with excellent customer service so that customers have a great experience regardless of who they’re dealing with.
  • Always be polite and professional, even when you’re having a bad day. This is your business afterall.

Useful Links

Casandra Visser is a Digital Marketing & Content Strategist and writes for Entrepreneur Media SA.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. SpitBraaiSA

    Jun 3, 2014 at 20:38

    Some great tips – thank you!

  2. Riaan Miles

    Oct 22, 2014 at 08:34

    I am always surprised to see blogs give small businesses the advice to build a free website. Being visible on-line is critical to the survival of a small business and most of these free tools do not provide the basic Search Engine Friendly code to be visible on-line. If they do… the creator does not understand Search and neglects important actions to become visible on-line. I would rather suggest you speak to an agency with a strong track record of creating search engine friendly and responsive websites. This will guarantee at lease some return on the time spent.

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Marketing Tactics

Useful Marketing Tactics For Growing Businesses

Customer acquisition, customer experience and content marketing can be identified as the three most important marketing strategy areas to focus on.

Jandre de Beer

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Digital marketing offers the business world so many advantages, including the ability to communicate with their target markets quickly and easily. Unfortunately, digital marketing has also opened doors for companies to flood mail boxes, news feeds and ad spaces with junk mail and spam resulting in customers tuning out to anything irrelevant and suspicious.

Customers have become less likely to trust companies and less receptive to messages. The only way for valuable messaging to stand out from the noise is if a business knows how to market itself properly.

Over and above advertising, there are a lot of other aspects that contribute towards an effective marketing strategy, these include research, email, content creation, list curation, social media and even customer service. To be a successful marketer it isn’t necessary to become an expert in every single marketing tactic, but it is important to master the most important areas. Customer acquisition, customer experience and content marketing can be identified as the three most important marketing strategy areas to focus on.

1. Customer acquisition

Of course, not all customers are the same. Some customers are only interested in buying products on sale from a particular brand and then never interact with that brand again. Acquiring, and of course retaining customers with a high lifetime value should be the overall objective for businesses, but this requires more time and money being invested in better, more qualified leads. While the upfront costs might be higher, in the long-term this investment will pay off with continued business from these lifetime customers.

2. Customer experience

Competitive pricing can’t be the only aspect that businesses focus on in order to stand out against competitors. In the current digital era customers expect a good customer experience when they deal with brands so this should be an important focus area for all businesses. Customers expect fast and seamless experiences such as intuitive user interfaces and processes, fast websites and service response times, as well as accurate information about the problems they face.

Customers don’t want to waste their time on websites that require them to jump through hoops, and they definitely don’t want to feel misled by anything a business is communicating. Customers will quickly move on to other sites that offer better experiences as well as other businesses that are more trustworthy. Good customer experiences can go a long way.

Offering more personalised, interactive engagement tactics and improving the customer technology interface should be high priorities for businesses.

3. Content marketing

Marketing is no longer about telling customers that your brand is the best. With the movement towards content marketing, marketing has become about showing customers why you are the best. Content marketing is a legitimate, effective strategy that every business and brand should make use of. While content marketing is a lot more cost effective than outbound marketing, it also generates three times as many leads and offers many other benefits.

Content is a key feature for growing businesses who want to survive in an information rich environment. Customers are looking for brands that provide value beyond their products so creating high-quality content can help you grab your audience’s attention.

In conclusion

Although there are many other factors that are involved in an effective marketing strategy, seeking out customers with a high lifetime value, providing them with a great customer experience while also providing them with valuable content is a recipe for success.

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Marketing Tactics

An ‘Outside-the-Box’ Approach to the e-Commerce Unboxing Experience

Get started by keeping three elements in mind – recyclable/re-usable packaging, personalised thank-you notes and free samples.

Daniella Shapiro

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With a predicted 24,79 million e-commerce users in South Africa by 2021, online shopping is here to stay, making it impossible to escape the predicament of perfecting the art of product packaging. It’s time to think outside the box when it comes to creating a meaningful unboxing experience. Get started by keeping three elements in mind – recyclable/re-usable packaging, personalised thank-you notes and free samples.

Recyclable/Re-Usable Packaging

Certain types of product packaging are having a tremendous negative impact on our environment, with 5.35 trillion pieces of plastic debris littering the world’s oceans, and with 269,000 tonnes of this amount floating on the surface – and plastic isn’t the only culprit. Did you know that it’s impossible for Styrofoam to ever be broken down completely? And that 1 million single-use coffee cups wind up in landfill every single minute of every day? These statistics make it obvious as to why it’s becoming so important for business owners to be more conscious about the type of packaging that they use.

Many business owners wonder if their customers really care whether their business is doing its part to protect the environment. According to Forbes and a 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, the answer is a resounding ‘YES, they most certainly do!’.

87% of the consumers surveyed stated that they always have a more positive image of a company that supports social or environmental issues, and 88% claimed that they usually feel more loyal toward a company that they know supports social or environmental issues.

Thoughtful Thank-You Notes

The unboxing experience should be a unique and personal one, and it should be just as memorable as the experience of utilising the product itself! So, make it all the more special and build customer loyalty by including a personalised thank you note. Address the customer by their first name, thank them sincerely for their patronage and end off by giving them some helpful advice regarding the product, or share an interesting benefit of using it. Go the extra, extra mile by hand-writing the letter too.

Free Samples

Everyone loves getting free stuff. Why not bolster the unboxing experience by sending over a little bit more than expected? Not only will a free sample put a big smile on the face of the receiver, if they actually enjoy using it, there’s also a good chance that they’ll be coming back to order more. According to Shopify, free samples have the potential to boost sales by as much as 2,000%.

When it comes to packaging, make the right choice. Sustainable, thoughtful, memorable. Your customers, and the environment, will thank you for it.

 

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Marketing Tactics

The Facebook Ads Strategy That Can’t Lose

It’s a numbers game.

Entrepreneur

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Running a profitable Facebook Ads campaign is simple. Not always easy, but simple.

There is a formula that can guarantee a profitable Facebook Ad campaign. Once you know the formula and the values to plug in, you’ll never sink money into a losing digital ad campaign again. I know it sounds too good to be true, but stick with me…

The Guaranteed Growth Formula

Here’s the entire formula: CPA < AP

Were you expecting coefficients, remainders and dividing by polynomials? Nope, there are only two values that matter when assessing your digital marketing funnel.

1. CPA – Cost Per Acquisition

2. AP – Average Profit Per Client

If your Cost Per Acquisition, the amount you pay to generate a paying customer using Facebook Ads, is less than the Average Profit you make from each new customer you’re guaranteed a profitable campaign.

Calculating Average Profit

To get average profit per client, sum your total revenue from new clients and subtract what you spent to serve them. Divide the result by the total new clients. For example, if you made $75,000 from 10 new clients over the past year and it cost you $40,000 to serve them, your average profit is:

 ($75,000 – $40,000) / 10 = $3500 Average Profit Per Client

If your average acquisition cost for similar future clients is less than $3500, your campaign will technically be profitable.

Of course most businesses won’t want to spend all of their profit on acquisition. An average business can expect to invest at least 7 percent but no more than 15 percent of revenue in sales and marketing. If Cost of Goods accounts for 60 percent or more of total revenue, your low profit margin may make it difficult to afford successful advertising. Decrease operating costs by increasing efficiency or adjust your margin by raising prices.

Don’t make the mistake of calculating Average Profit based on revenue only from the first sale. Use at least six months of revenue or your lifetime client value as the basis for your calculation, or you risk underfunding your marketing and sales budget.

Related: Here Is Why Your Facebook Ad Campaigns Aren’t Producing Results

Calculating Cost Per Acquisition

Let’s assume you’ve considered all of your marketing and sales costs and determined you can spend $350 per new client on Facebook Ads. Let’s reverse engineer your ad campaign to see if a $350 cost of acquisition is reasonable.

The simplest Facebook ads funnel includes four metrics that build upon each other to determine your acquisition cost. I’ve included standard benchmarks for use as a starting point, but your results may differ:

1. Click-Through Rate (CTR) – Percentage of people clicking on your ad. Your CTR should be near or above 1 percent.

2. Cost Per Click (CPC) – The cost of one website visit. CPC should generally be below $3.

3. Lead Conversion Rate – The percentage of site traffic that becomes qualified leads. This value should be 20 percent or above.

4. Sales Conversion Rate – The percentage of leads that convert to a sale. Aim for sales conversion at or above 5 percent. (E-commerce companies often skip the Lead Conversion stage and have a Sales Conversion Rate of 1 percent or greater.)

If 10,000 people view your ad at a 1 percent CTR, you’ll get about 100 website visits. At a $3 CPC, you’ve spent $300. Since 20 percent of your traffic will become leads and 5 percent of those leads become closed sales, we can calculate that you’ll generate approximately 60 leads and three new customers.

Your estimated acquisition cost using Facebook Ads is $100 per client, which is well within your budget of $350. This cost may rise as you scale and target less optimal prospects, but as long as your acquisition cost is less than $350 you’ll make an acceptable profit.

Complex funnels can include several ads and conversion points, but the Guaranteed Growth Formula of CPA < AP still applies. There’s no immediate reason for concern if your metrics differ from the benchmarks. You can and should split test ideas for improvement if your numbers are far from what you expect, but don’t mess up a good thing until you’ve got a better one.

Optimising Your Guaranteed Growth Funnel

If unhealthy metrics cause your acquisition to cost more than what you’ve budgeted, start with these adjustments:

Click-Through Rate Too Low or Cost Per Click Too High

If your CTR falls far under 1 percent Facebook may stop showing your ads or show them to second-rate audiences causing your traffic to tank and CPC to increase. To improve your click metrics, adjust your ad copy (headline and body text), ad creative (image or video) and highlight the benefits in your offer.

Refine your audience. Tailor your copy, images and call-to-action to the audience you’ve selected and ensure that your audience has the desire and means to act.

Lead Conversion Too Low

If leads aren’t converting at 20 percent or more, either the promise made by your ad isn’t congruent with your landing page, or the process of moving forward is too difficult. Try using the same image and headline in your ad and reduce the form fields in sign-up forms to the bare minimum. Also try retargeting visitors who don’t sign up with ads stating the benefits of acting now, or with a different offer.

Related: Staying Relevant In The Facebook Age Of Meaningful Social Interactions

Sales Conversion Too Low

If you’re an Ecommerce brand with sales conversion below 1 percent your shopping cart or sales process may have too much friction. Simplify the sales process to decrease clutter, or increase trust by adding testimonials and trust signals near important calls to action.

Your sales process may need improvement, but that is beyond this article. In the meantime, you can still increase revenue by cross-selling and upselling those who convert. You may also improve client retention with recurring contracts. Yes, that’s why many software companies are switching to cloud-based subscription models.

When used properly, The Guaranteed Growth Formula of CPA < AP makes Facebook Ad marketing an investment, not an expense. Using the formula, the most you should ever risk is a small initial budget to test whether your estimated calculations hold true in practice.

If your net profit is 3X your acquisition cost, your funnel returns $3 for every $1 you invest. Instead of asking “How much should I spend on marketing?” The question becomes, “How much do I want to make?” I’ve built a Facebook Ad Growth Calculator that incorporates the Guaranteed Growth Formula to help execute your growth strategy. Input your revenue goal and it will estimate the Facebook Ad impressions and traffic required to reach it.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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