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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.

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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

6 Things To Consider For Putting Together Your Best Holiday Marketing Plan Yet

When autumn starts, will you be ready for the holidays, having already created a gift guide, email and social media strategies and more?

Syed Balkhi

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‘Tis the season for online shopping. Well, not quite yet, but it’ll be here before you know it. In fact, according to CPC Strategy’s survey results, 35.5 percent of shoppers surveyed planned on starting their holiday gift shopping before Thanksgiving. That’s why you need to start putting together your holiday marketing plan now.

As soon as autumn hits, shoppers are bombarded with stunning holiday advertising and jaw-dropping deals from companies that will be fighting for their attention during that busy season.

But how will your company break through the noise and get consumers to make holiday memories with your business?

Let’s get festive, then, and think about seven things you might consider when putting together your holiday marketing plan.

Create an email marketing strategy

There’s no better way to boost your holiday sales than to send deals straight into shoppers’ inboxes. Email still converts the best for online holiday shopping. According to Shopify, a staggering 8.8 billion data points were collected on Black Friday in 2017, in the form of email sign-ups and other lead-generation tactics.

Since holiday shopping starts as early as November, you’ll want to craft your email marketing messages now and schedule them to be sent automatically.

Not all customers are created equal, either, so use your customer data to segment your email marketing. For example, if a large proportion of your customer base are busy moms, don’t send a broad, generic email; instead, send them one with products and tips to ease their stress during the holiday season. Personalised emails will make you stand out from the rest.

Related: 5 Ways to Dazzle and Delight Your Customers This Holiday Season

Have a countdown timer for sales

holiday-store-open

Ever heard of FOMO (a.k.a. “the fear of missing out”)? Creating a sense of urgency is one of the most effective strategies to make consumers feel that something valuable is being offered that they don’t want to miss out on. An eye-catching way to create urgency is to display countdown timers for sales.

For example, American Express displayed a countdown to the expiration of a special Amazon deal it offered its customers.

You can easily add a countdown timer to your website for free using the T(-) Countdown plug-in for WordPress. Seeing a visual symbol, like a countdown timer ticking down the minutes, pushes consumers into action by raising the urgency level to high.

Think about a “free” shipping strategy

Since consumers today are spoiled with Amazon Prime and same-day shipping, your business needs to offer awesome shipping deals this holiday season in order to compete. By reducing shipping costs for your customers, you’ll increase your chances of shoppers buying from you instead of from a big-box retailer.

Want to offer free shipping but afraid of losing money? Set a minimum order amount – for instance, customers must spend $50 to unlock free shipping – or offer free shipping on select items, like your lightest items only.

That way, you can offer customers free shipping without cutting into your profits.

And remember to account for realistic shipping times and cutoffs throughout the season to ensure your customers receive their orders in time for the holidays.

Craft holiday-themed content

Content marketing is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your site, so add a little holiday cheer to your blog.

Crafting holiday-themed content will get your business in front of a ton of consumers searching Google for holiday-based and buyer keywords. Make sure your content is valuable to the reader; if it helps solve their holiday problems, they’ll be more likely to share it.

Lululemon does this well by creating holiday-themed lifestyle blog posts as well as posts about gift ideas for your loved ones.

Start thinking about content ideas now so you won’t have to scramble at the last minute. Brainstorm some fun holiday topics and plan out your content using a content calendar. CoSchedule offers free content calendar templates that will help keep you organised during this hectic season.

Related: Gear Up your Marketing for the Holiday Season

Devise a social media strategy

Getting festive on social media is a great way to capture the attention of shoppers on the lookout for deals, and to inspire a cheerful connection between consumers and your brand.

A great tip to avoid becoming overwhelmed come November is to create all your social media graphics ahead of time.

Don’t have a graphic designer? Don’t worry. Canva is a free tool where you can easily create all the stunning graphics you need to advertise your products with high gross margins and your free shipping holiday deal. You can also find fun images to use to wish your customers a happy holiday.

Schedule all your posts with a tool like Buffer, to make your life even easier. And consider enabling a Facebook retargeting pixel, too. It’s a highly effective strategy to recapture those shoppers who left your site without buying. When users abandon your site in search of other deals across the web, a retargeting ad will “follow” them and display specific ads to encourage them to return to you.

Create a holiday gift guide

Finding the perfect gift can be stressful, so make things easy for your customers by creating a holiday gift guide. With a gift guide, you’ll be able to showcase your best products and increase organic traffic by taking advantage of the shoppers searching “gift guides” on Google.

Etsy curates stunning products for a gift guide its shoppers can easily browse.

You don’t have to be a computer wiz to add a gift guide to your site, a clever hack to create your own is to use a free menu plugin for WordPress like Restaurant Menu by MotoPress. Instead of food photos, add photos of your products and product descriptions; your customers will now have a convenient way to see what items you recommend.

You can also reach out to other websites or publications that will feature your products in their gift guide so that even more people will discover you.

Don’t wait any longer: The holiday season is right around the corner. With these simple strategies, your holiday marketing will turn jaded shoppers into jolly customers, and the boost in your revenue will be the best gift you’ve ever received.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Related: 8 Shopping Habits Of Millennials All Retailers Need To Know About

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Marketing Tactics

Ask These 3 Questions To Determine Where To Spend Your Marketing Budget

Stretching your marketing budget is imperative, especially when there aren’t that many marketing rands to stretch.

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As you grow your business, it’s important to be creative and efficient with your money. When it comes to marketing, there are a number of cost-effective ways to spend and save your money. So, if you’re worried about marketing on a limited budget, here’s some helpful info to know.

First, great marketing is about highlighting wants and needs and attaching them to desired outcomes. It’s possible to do that regardless of budget — and every company’s strategy will be different.

For example, when my consultancy worked with Dollar Shave Club to grow its platform beyond viral videos, we focused on establishing a unique voice, which led to creating an editorial component. When we worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger on his fitness and nutrition products, we focused on creating a core mission and understanding why he was involved in the product. And when we worked with Four Sigmatic to market its coffees and teas, we focused on customer acquisition and retention.

Related: 5 Ways To Market Your Business On A Limited Budget

3 Questions that Cut Through the Clutter

Those projects all started with the same three questions: What is the value and purpose of your product or service? Who is your target audience? And what is the best platform on which to reach them? That’s where you’ll want to invest most of your attention before you determine where to spend your money. (Notice my word choice: Your planning is an investment; where you spend is a cost.)

1. In general, we prefer to use digital campaigns

It’s easier to track what works and what doesn’t. Plus, digital creates multiple opportunities to engage. Think of it this way: 10% of your audience will buy, 10% won’t and 80% will be on the fence. Would you rather have one shot to convince that 80%, or multiple? By retargeting through something like Facebook ads or Google, or even creating a distribution channel like an email list, you can communicate repeatedly.

2. If you don’t have an audience, spend money fishing in small ponds where you know you can get a bite, and then set yourself up to communicate repeatedly

(This is where creating content as a form of acquisition or building an email list can be incredibly valuable.) Depending on your product or service, this could mean a very targeted ad to a small audience on Facebook — rather than attempting to reach millions — or setting up a pop-up shop, or getting a spot at a local farmers’ market.

Related: 4 Unique Marketing Ideas For SMEs On A Budget

3. If you already have an audience, turn them into super-fans who will bring their peers into your universe

Identify previous buyers and give them direct access to you through focus groups or calls. Reward them for their time with product or a gift certificate. When you show your consumer that you care about and appreciate them, it not only increases the likelihood of repurchase but also helps them personally invest in the soul of the business. Not to mention, their insights will help you understand why they bought and how to replicate that process.

Whatever you do — and no matter how big or small your budget — keep finding better answers to the core marketing questions and your success won’t hinge on any one platform.

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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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