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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
2. Design a Free Website
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.
- 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.
- Five Ways to Build Customer Trust Online
- How to Keep Visitors on Your Site for Longer
- (Video) Simple and Effective Web Design Tips
3. Create a Business Card
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.
- 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.
4. Write Up a Storm
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.
- 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.
5. Become the Talk of the Town
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.
- 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
- (Video) Social Media Dos and Don’ts
- How to Get Positive About Negative Online Comments
- 5 Ways That Social Media Can Be Disastrous for Your Business
6. Create Loyalty
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.
- 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.
7. Pop Them An Email
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.
- 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.
8. Don’t Forget the End Bit
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.
- 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.
9. Make them Winners
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.
- 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.
10. Ramp Up Your Customer Service
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.
- 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.
4 Steps To Writing Content That Converts
Hook them, engage them and tell them what you want them to do.
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.
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.
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.
5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble
If you don’t want your cash flow to turn into a drip, you’ll want to take a look at these mistakes you might be guilty of.
I am often confused by the decisions normally very smart entrepreneurs make when it comes to marketing and sales, and growing their companies. It’s as though logic flies out the window and emotions rule the day when we start talking about sales and marketing.
Of course, I’m not suggesting entrepreneurs need to be perfect – in fact, I personally made one of these mistakes last year. My issue is with the entrepreneur who doesn’t realise when they are screwing up and continues to let their mistakes hurt their business’s long-term ability to grow.
I recently read a study that looked at businesses’ cash flow. It found that only 12 percent of businesses never have a cash flow issue. That means 12 percent of businesses can consistently pay their bills, pay themselves, and have profits left over. Of the others, 47 percent of businesses say that cash flow is sometimes a problem, and 41 percent of businesses surveyed said cash flow was a consistent problem.
To be fair, this study didn’t publish any additional info about the business owners – for example, did all of these businesses have less than $1 million in annual revenue? If so, I would assume those businesses would have greater cash flow issues than a group of businesses at $1million-plus in revenue. For this discussion, let’s assume this is accurate (based on my experience of working with small businesses, it is pretty close). How do you fix a cash flow issue for any business?
The interesting thing is that in the vast majority of cases, your marketing is linked to cash flow issues. The mistakes many entrepreneurs are making with marketing, sales and business growth are the same five mistakes that are causing their cash flow issue.
1. Not making customer retention a priority in your marketing strategy
I’m going to start with the one that is most near and dear to my heart: customer retention. You don’t have to use a newsletter to grow and maintain retention (although that is a good idea). But, you do have to do something, and that something needs its own budget. Retention is not a portion of the marketing budget. Without customers, your business is worth just about zero.
The reason so many businesses struggle to grow is they invest nothing in retention. These normally smart entrepreneurs have deluded themselves into thinking that their product and services are so amazing and life-changing that people will continue to buy over and over again without prompting.
So what lie do these same entrepreneurs tell themselves when they have 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? Tens of thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands – of dollars spent on marketing, and only 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? If you’re a large retail chain, that isn’t bad, but for dentists, lawyers, financial advisors, or anyone in a service-based business, that is far from good.
Starting today, you must have a customer retention budget. Use the budget to increase retention, and from there, upsell the existing customers. The longer a customer is with you, the greater the chance for a referral. Their customer lifetime value goes up, too.
Done correctly, your retention campaign can increase sales and create more prospects. Regardless of how you use it, you must have a retention budget.
2. Getting bored with things that make you money
As entrepreneurs, we are prone to getting bored, and that even happens with our marketing. Regardless of how well it is working, we get bored with it and want to try something new. This is a toxic practice on many levels. I understand wanting to try something new, but you never cancel marketing that is working (even if it isn’t exactly crushing it) to try an unproven new thing. When people do this, they are basically saying, “I hate money.”
How many times have you tried a marketing program, only to have it not work out as promised or as quickly as promised? Do not cancel good marketing to chase unicorns. You can also call this tendency “shiny object syndrome.” It’s particularly severe when it comes to hip cutting-edge marketing tactics, like influencer marketing.
If you want to try something new, create a budget and try it. Don’t kill a pipeline of incoming cash to drill for a hopefully more profitable pipeline, because when it doesn’t work, you are screwed. If you can’t afford the new marketing without killing the old marketing that is working, then you shouldn’t be starting the new campaign until you figure out how to pay for it.
These are two huge mistakes that I see small-business owners make all the time that destroy your cash flow.
3. Not investing enough money into marketing
I was chatting with a dentist from the greater New York area a while ago, who claimed to be getting patients with this one type of marketing for about $175 each. That is good in the greater New York area because of all the competition. However, just because you hit a home run doesn’t mean you can expect to hit a home run every time you’re up to bat. In that area, it costs $250–$450 to get a new patient in the door.
You will never grow if you’re not willing to invest a realistic amount per new customer. I’ve chatted with entrepreneurs who want to get 50 new customers per month, which should require a budget of at least $12,500, but currently, they only have a budget of $3,000 per month. I hate to break it to you, but you’re never going to hit your goal. If anything, the $12,500 per month you have devoted to marketing may not be enough, because as you scrape the low hanging fruit, you often find you need to increase the amount you’re willing to pay to get a new customer.
4. Feast or famine marketing
This is actually the mistake I made in 2016. We had so much going on in the first half of the year (the feast) that I didn’t plan well enough for July, which is typically a slower month for us (the famine). In July, I need to do more marketing and even spend more money on marketing to make up for all the business I lose when people go on vacation and forget about their campaigns. But, I was planning a vacation myself in July, and in turn, I actually ended up cutting marketing because I didn’t want to do the work that was needed.
Bad planning and a cut in the already planned marketing for July tanked the month. It was our worst month for new sales in nearly two years. You can’t allow a busy period to take your eye off the ball. If you have traditionally slow sales months, you must do more, spend more, and market more, in those months.
5. Cash flow issues demand more marketing, not less
This is the last of the bad ideas for today, but when you are having cash flow issues, shutting down the pipeline that is bringing in the cash you do get is just dumb.
Of course the argument I always get is that the marketing wasn’t working anyway. Well, if that was true, why didn’t you cancel it earlier? Typically, the entrepreneur doesn’t really know whether their marketing is working or not. All they know is they need money, so they cancel marketing to free up cash. That may help the problem this month, but it creates a new problem next month when no new customers show up.
When times are hard, you need to reinvest more in marketing, not less. You must figure out how to close more sales, not get fewer leads. There are lots of good ways to shore up your cash flow situation, but cutting off revenue-generating marketing is not one of them.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
3 Ways Start-ups Can Build Loyalty With Millennial Customers
Be available when they need you, wherever they need you.
One of the top challenges for startups is more than just how to market their brand. It’s how to build customer loyalty, especially with millennials.
Customer loyalty is a big deal. Companies invest millions of dollars to get loyal customers – customers who will repeatedly buy their products or services and generate more revenue and ROI to their business. Because Generation Y has an estimated purchasing power of up to $600 billion, it makes sense for you not just to attract them with your fancy products, but to build a loyal, lasting relationship with them.
Here are three ways to make that happen:
1. Be obsessed with quality
That’s what matters.
Regardless of how sophisticated your products look or taste or how successful your marketing campaign is, if your products are substandard, your customers will neither buy them again nor stay loyal to you. Being obsessed with building quality products is about loving your millennial customers and having the passion to build products that will improve their lives.
They require quality products that work. They need quality products with great features. They want quality products that are beautifully designed. Your millennial customers desire quality products that will make them proud to use and recommend to their friends.
It doesn’t matter that they’re expensive. If your products are of superior quality, millennial customers will buy from you and stick with you for a long time.
2. Be there when your customers need you
You have no excuse to stay silent, irresponsive or completely absent when your millennial customer needs you. You must be around and ready at all times to assist them if you want them to fall in love with your brand and stay loyal to you. One of the best ways to be accessible to your Generation Y customers is to be active on social media.
For example, my friend told me that he buys his glasses from Warby Parker because “they respond to my tweets in minutes,” he says. “They delivered my eyeglasses on time after many companies have frustrated me.”
Never underrate your customer. If you truly want to create a loyal customer base full of millennials, be there for them when they call, text, email, tweet or message you. Understand that building a business is not just about trying to sell your products. It’s about helping your customer with the information they need at the right time to solve their problems.
3. Be social
There are a number of ways to put a human face and character on your startup and attract massive millennial prospects, clients and customers.
- Constant communication. Reach out to your millennial customer anytime to say hello or ask their opinion about your new product. Don’t just reach out to them only when you want to advertise your product. Communicate with them freely, with an open heart. Be their friend. That will build trust, engagement and loyalty.
- Reach out to them on their favorite hangout media. You need to understand their favorite hangout spots. Do they frequent Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat? Develop a social media strategy that you’ll use daily to reach out to your target market and share emotional stories that touch their hearts.
- Make them look cool. Remember that most millennials are not just buying products because they need them; they’re buying them because they believe the products will make them look good in the circle of their peers. For example, Coca-Cola’s Share-a-Coke campaign makes people feel special. By printing individual names on cans and bottles of its products, the company makes its consumers identify with the product. Be creative. Do something similar to the Share-a-Coke campaign – in your own style.
The goal is to keep your millennial customers satisfied with what you are offering. Only when they’re satisfied will they come back to buy, become loyal to your brand, talk about it with their family and friends, and help you expand your customer base and cash flow.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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