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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.

Useful Links

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.

Useful Links

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

Useful Links

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.

Useful Links

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

Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?

How do you market your company to this generation?

Stuart Scanlon

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According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.

They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.

So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?

1. By being transparent

Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.

Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs

Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.

Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.

2. By offering options

A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.

That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.

3. By being forward thinking

We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.

On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.

1. By being transparent

As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.

2. By offering options

Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.

Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.

Related: The Z Generation

3. By being forward thinking

They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.

The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.

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Marketing Tactics

Free Sample Marketing Plan Template

You don’t need an MBA to write a marketing plan for your business. While no two businesses are alike, all solid marketing plans need to provide specific information. Use this sample marketing plan template to get you started on the right foot and cover all the essential information.

Tracy Lee Nicol

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Your marketing plan should provide a comprehensive blueprint of the business, its market and associated market activity, its position in the market, target and expected customers, offerings, competition, solutions and contingency plans.

Using a sample Marketing Plan Template can save you a lot of time in creating your own marketing plan.

Download a Sample Marketing Plan Template

Use the free templates below to help make sure you’ve covered all the important bits:

Download Our Free Marketing Plan Template Here.

PDF-download-marketing-template

Recommended Marketing Reads: 


Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

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Marketing Tactics

4 Steps To Writing Content That Converts

Hook them, engage them and tell them what you want them to do.

Syed Balkhi

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Is your content persuasive enough to convert your visitors into leads?

Some pieces of content you create will drive conversions, while others will be lost in the archives. As a marketer, you always want to write content that is persuasive enough to turn your visitors into leads and thereafter, into paying customers.

Writing persuasive content is not magic. Let’s take a look at some ways to write content that converts.

1. Craft an enticing title

The title of your content is the most important factor that influences engagement. A whopping 8 out of 10 people may not even read your content if the title isn’t captivating enough.

Using Headline Analyzer by Coschedule is the best way to create a magnetic headline that attracts your audience. Just enter your headline and the tool will report back with a score and a grade along with some suggestions to improve.

For analysis, the tool looks at the following factors:

  • The headline type: It capitalises on the type of headline that converts, including lists, how to’s and questions.
  • Word balance: It helps you to curate an enticing title by checking to see if it has the right word balance.
  • Character length: It also looks whether your title is scannable and easy to digest.

Related: How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives

2. Fulfill your title’s promise

Getting clicks on your title is just half of the equation. Ensuring that your content fulfills the promise of your title is another equally, maybe even more, important part of driving conversion. If your content can’t keep the promise your headline makes, your visitors will likely abandon your site without further engagement.

When crafting each line of your content, keep in mind that the purpose is to get your visitors to read the next sentence, then the sentence after that and all the way down to the end of your article.

Aside from providing value, you’ll also want to evoke a desire for what you’re offering.

3. Make it scannable

Most of your website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website, meaning people quickly skim through the content instead of reading word for word.

If your content is hard to scan, meaning it contains long sentences and paragraphs, it’s likely that your visitors won’t stick around. Chances are, they’ll go to your competitors to find content that’s easier to consume.

To create content that is easily scannable, you can follow the actionable tips below:

  • Short paragraphs: Write short paragraphs, preferably 3-4 sentences at most. Breaking down your content into short paragraphs makes it more digestible for your readers.
  • Use attractive subheaders: Readers should be able to bounce around to seek out the pieces of your content that interest them. By using attractive subheaders, you can pique the curiosity of your readers and keep them engaged.
  • Use bullet points: Using a bulleted list is the easiest way to ensure that your content doesn’t strain your visitors’ eye to read through it. Since bulleted lists stand out from the rest of your page, they make the entire piece easier to skim through.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

4. Add a call to action at the end

The best way to convert your visitors into leads is to add a call to action, such as an email subscription form, at the end of every article you publish.

Some tips to speed up the growth of your email list are:

  • Offer a post-specific resource: Create a post-specific resource, and offer it for download in exchange for the email address of your visitors. When the resource is post-specific, readers are more likely to engage with the campaign, in turn boosting conversions.
  • Creating a premium library: To increase both perceived and actual value, you can create a premium library consisting of ebooks and other valuable course materials. You can then persuade your visitors to subscribe to your list by adding a signup box at the end of each article.
  • Content gating: Content gating is a popular strategy to boost conversions on your site. For instance, you can grow your list by blocking a small section of your content for subscribers only, which encourage your readers to sign up for your list.

The best way to create content that converts is to use emotion in your copy and evoke a desire for what you’re offering. By following the above tips, you can write content that converts your visitors into leads, and soon thereafter, into paying customers.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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