General Marketing Advice
In talking with many small business owners, it has become apparent that my basic advice, things that I know to be true from years in marketing, would be helpful as a starting point and worth writing down! So here is my "two cents" on the basics of marketing.
Marketing is broadcasting your specific clear message to those that need to hear it. It is creating mutually beneficial relationships that save you money and develop your network. It is a way to highlight how you are different and finding the people that need that unique set of skills. This is what a marketing consultant should be doing for you. A smart creative approach will cost less and be more effective than any new fancy website, shiny expensive marketing materials, or advertising purchase.
The best advertising is free advertising. Word of mouth and offering incentives for referrals are a good place to start. If you're ever going to pay for advertising, make it a very specific targeted small audience which will cost you less and be more effective with visible results. Niche marketing is great for a small budget. A recent client saved hundreds of dollars after we shifted their marketing tactics from paid advertising to free promotional opportunities, including more effective free exposure in the exact same target publications they had been paying to advertise in!
Networking also creates cost effective promotional opportunities. We recommend inter-business marketing strategies and encourage our clients to work together to gain smart exposure that doesn't break the bank. There are many great ways that small businesses in different fields can mutually benefit from working together in their marketing efforts.
Another thing many business owners forget to think about is client retention. Keeping the clients you have and turning them into repeat customers is the cheapest way to keep your base income going while you try to grow your business. Think of all the companies that have a rewards program and rewards for referrals program. There are so many programs we encounter because it works.
Sending an email blast to your current list with a forward link, launching a gorilla Facebook publicity initiative, or offering free informational sessions are all more effective than spending oodles of money sending out expensive mailers to a random cross-section of people. If you do decide to do some print work I can give you some ideas on how to save money because there's the expensive way to do it and then there's the cheap way to do it and I have to say there's not a lot of difference between the quality or effectiveness of the two options. There are great third party tools for sending emails, designing websites, and hosting content. I am happy to walk you through your options and what level of DIY you are comfortable with.
The other theory these days is that giving free content will bring the audience that you're targeting to you. Pinterest albums, blogs about your business and your business knowledge, interesting educational Facebook posts for your business, free content that your current clients want to share with other clients or that your potential clients could find on the web can all do wonders for client acquisition and will only cost you some elbow grease and brainpower!
Another important part of marketing that deserves your attention is actual testimonials from your clients. These have more power than you think. Ask your current clients to write a little something about their experience with you and list those reviews on your page, your yelp listing, your Facebook page, and any marketing piece you do.
Your best source of information on what to do should come from your current clients. Often, asking a couple of key pointed questions to current clients can give you the answers that you need on how to acquire new clients. Creating a win/win situation for you and your clients is the goal of marketing. Delivering what the client needs, making sure that they are aware of how your service fits their needs, and setting yourself apart from the competition are essential to success. Beyond this general advice, marketing techniques are really specific to your own personal market, what you're selling, and who you are selling to as to how you should approach your advertising budget and marketing choices. We love what we do and are happy to help!