Even in a downturn, if you don’t get in front of people and explain your unique value proposition then your chances of selling will be restricted to current customers or accidental passersby. Marketing is what sets you up for selling. However, there are three important things you should appreciate before you start.
1. Your target customers need to hear your marketing messages at least 7 times to influence a buying decision. Sounds like a lot – it is. People just don’t always take in all the information at any given time. Especially the first time they hear it, so you need to choose strategies that allow you to repeat them often enough to work for you.
2. Expensive ads don’t guarantee sales – even when they are popular with the public. Companies have gone broke over big ticket ads. Every marketing dollar has to translate into sales.
3. A sure way to improve sales is to use multiple marketing channels. Your underlying message should be consistent, but you need to get it out in a variety of mediums.
So, if you’re a small to mid-sized business on a limited budget your tactics should be to optimize your spending so that you get in front of the right customers regularly and in a variety of ways. Here are four techniques you can use to achieve that.
Identify and target niche customers
Unless you are a major player with an unlimited amount of money to devote to scatter gun marketing – go narrow. Do your market research and focus on niches – those groups of customers you can clearly identify who would be interested in your offering. Customers who are affordable for you to reach! Then get your message out into local clubs, trade shows, industry publications, niche newsletters, anywhere you can reach those specific prospects.
Local media are always on the alert for new content. Recently a local dress designer in a city suburb went to register her own personal name for her fledgling business. She discovered that an overseas singer used it as a stage name. The local designer publicized the resulting legal negotiations over the right to use her own name in her local area. Hey presto – plenty of ongoing press coverage in all the local papers lead to lots of sympathy and interest for the local girl and promoted her new business better than any form of paid advertising could have done.
Seek out co-opetition and alliance opportunities
Co-opetition is forming friendly alliances with businesses that are competing in your market, but with a slightly different focus to yours. By forging an alliance with a group of small companies or a large corporation which is complementary to your business you can lower your costs and expand your public presence. You might also be able to provide your customers with a more holistic product offering which will enable you to enter into new markets and create new distribution opportunities. Here’s an example; a local business specialized in fresh, healthy, low fat pre-prepared meals for busy people. They approached their local gym with an offer of special deals to gym subscribers and a free meal pack for clients on weight loss programs who achieved target goals. The gym benefited from the free prizes they could offer while the business got lots of publicity through the gym’s enewsletter and promotional literature. The gym’s clients tended to be working people who wanted to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle and this supported their goals. Co-opetition provided a perfect win-win situation for these businesses.
Develop a structured referral program
The most cost effective method of reaching hot prospects is by referrals from satisfied current customers. A satisfied customer who tells their family, friends and acquaintances about your business is more effective than any fancy ad campaign. But are you spending time to get customer referrals on a regular basis? Make it part of your marketing plan and stick to it rigorously – you’ll see the results. One business we know provides their customers with a number of their business cards that they can then pass on to others. This makes referral easy and gives the prospect your contact details in a form they are likely to hang onto.
These are just a few of many tactics and strategies used by small businesses to create a high-impact marketing plan on a low budget. Marketing success comes from employing creative approaches that target the specific needs of your ideal niche customer; not from having the biggest budget.
Information in this article is sourced from RAN ONE © 2010 Bullseye