Many business owners get carried away with complicated technology and trendy ways to market their business, and yet there are some very simple and effective marketing strategies that are being overlooked. In fact some of the tried and tested methods bring the best results and don't require a vast marketing budget either, so they are also less risky for a small business. Here are a few simple ways to market your business that have been proven to work time and time again.
- 1. Word-of-mouth
Old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising is still the best way to market your business -- it acts just like a recommendation and people who hear about you from your loyal and satisfied customers are far more likely to become customers themselves. One popular way to encourage your customers to recommend your products and services to others is to run a ‘refer friend’ scheme. Reward your customers for telling others about you with inducements such as money off vouchers, cash rewards, special offers or freebies.
Another way to get word-of-mouth recommendations is to use customer testimonials in your marketing materials and on your website. Make sure you use genuine testimonials -- preferably handwritten with a signature or even a photo of the customer. Testimonials are a powerful way to convince prospective customers that you are worthy of their trust and many people are willing to write these for you if you ask.
In today's world of the Internet, there are many more opportunities than there have ever been to promote your business by word-of-mouth. Think of all the social media sites, forums, discussion groups and blogs that you could use to promote your business and get people talking about you.
- 2. Network
So many business owners these days are glued to their computers and rely on Internet marketing to promote their business -- yet there is really no substitute for talking to people in person. People respond better to a personal approach and will remember you for longer than any advert could possibly achieve. There are plenty of ways you can network.
How about joining some local business networking group? You never know who you might meet and what amazing deals could be struck between you. Enquire locally and on the Internet for groups further afield.
You could also give a talk to some local groups about your business? Try thinking of an interesting angle or story that could form the basis of a 30-50 minute talk. Groups are always on the lookout for an interesting speaker and are usually happy to pay reasonable expenses. Even if you don't make money on the day, you will have raised awareness about your business and got people talking about you and passing on information to others. Do some research on local groups in your area.
Another way to network is to get some leaflets printed and go out onto the streets and speak to people -- you can also use it as a way to do some market research at the same time to find out what people think about your products and services and the way you do business. You may need permission from your local authority to do this but an occasional day spent out and about talking to people could significantly increase the amount of new business you get without having to spend money on advertising.
A great way to network your business and make some money at the same time is to organise an event and invite other related businesses to attend with a stall or booth to promote their own business. You can charge a fee for this. Then invite members of the public to come along. Think about wedding fairs, health and beauty fairs, art and craft fairs, antiques fairs and so on. If you didn't want to organise your own fair or event, there are plenty of organised events that you can attend and it's a great way to promote your business by networking.
- 3. Cross promotion
One very effective way to increase your business is to cross promote with other related businesses -- basically it's a way for you to tap into other people's customer list and for them to do the same with your list. It can be mutually beneficial and goes a long way to creating goodwill between businesses.
The first thing you need to do is identify some local businesses that you could approach, then put together a couple of ideas for cross promotions with each one. For example, hairdressers can cross promote with beauty salons, pet food shops can cross promote with pet care services, car sales can cross promote with car maintenance and repairs, gardeners can cross promote with garden centres and so on. How about putting together a joint promotion where both businesses benefit such as a gardening lesson on how to take cuttings at the local garden centre, or a deal where the customer gets a voucher for a half price car valet when they buy a second-hand car. Take some time to work out the details so you both get a good deal.
Another way to cross promote is to give other businesses vouchers to hand out to their customers for your products and services. For example, if you are a handyman, you could give your local DIY store some vouchers for money off your services when they spend over a certain amount at the store. You can reciprocate by handing out vouchers for them.
There is a huge amount of potential to do business with cross promotion and it is a very quick and effective way to advertise to large numbers of people at low cost.
- 4. Traditional marketing
With today’s preoccupation with the Internet, it's easy to forget some of the more traditional marketing media which is still an effective way to promote your business. There are some recent studies that show that the more traditional media is still the most trusted source of information. A recent study by Triton Digital showed that print, radio and TV are still the most trusted source of information with over 45 percent of respondents saying they trusted television more than any other media. Only 12.5 percent trusted the Internet and only 4.1 percent trusted social media updates –social media was last on the list. It seems that traditional media are more trusted but people do still turn to the Internet for further information before making a purchase, so try to include both. The best way to do this is to include a web address with all your offline marketing, so people can read more information.
Traditional marketing methods also include direct mail and when you think about it, if your market is targeted correctly, your prospects can't fail to see your flyer, brochure or a letter when it comes through their mailbox. When people are becoming tired and overwhelmed with the sheer amount of e-mail marketing being done these days, the more traditional methods such as direct mail are definitely worth considering. Not least because with fewer marketing messages being sent this way, your message is more likely to be seen.
Ideally, you should employ a combination of different methods of marketing your business but don't neglect the simple and effective ways outlined above. The Internet is a brilliant marketing tool but there's still a place for the old-fashioned but tried and tested methods.