Amid the volatile markets of today, it can be tempting to save on advertising and marketing efforts to improve your bottom line. Research, however, suggests that marketing is actually more crucial during challenging economic times. Look at it this way… when the economy improves, good marketing will give you a heads-up over your competitors.
So, instead of scaling back on your advertising efforts, rethink your marketing strategy. Pull out those budgets from the relevant sections in your small business software – all you need is little, for there are plenty of low-cost ways to build your brand and advertise your products or services.
Here are some easy and economical advertising ideas that are also easy on the pocket:
Your logo is your best salesperson
Are you doing enough with your logo? There are many opportunities to gain exposure for your logo and thereby your brand. The simplest of course, is including your business card in all professional and personal interactions/correspondence. However, you can go beyond the obvious places such as your sign, business card, and stationery.
Try including inexpensive items such as mailing labels, plastic bags or bookmarks that have your logo on it, with customer orders. Most prominent Indian stores go a step further with their own gift wrapper – complete with a logo and website link. You may want to explore too! Another great way to get larger publicity is by bartering with other businesses to display your logo in their stores or offices in exchange for similar free advertising for them.
Newsletters to the rescue
Marketing is as much about retaining the customers you have, as it is about attracting new ones. Use your small business software to build a database of customers to be included on an email distribution list. This is a great way to build a community, keep your brand relevant and keep customers coming back for more.
The trick to creating a successful newsletter is to make sure there is a mix of engaging, original content, and exclusive offers. For example, you can offer a 25 per cent discount for customers who refer a friend. Or customers on your mailing list get special previews to new products and bonus gifts for early purchases.
Cash in on coupons
Coupons are an inexpensive way to reach out to customers. Even cheaper, are coupons created online and emailed to customers. Given the rising inflation, customers are always looking for ways to get a better deal. Many coupons offer the buy-one-get-one-free offer, because customers are willing to spend for rewards. You can also hand out coupons at trade shows, networking seminars or community events; just make sure your website is prominently printed on them.
Blogging is big
Blogs offer a fantastic, free marketing opportunity. You can create your own blog that offers advice or your take on the latest issues in the industry. You can also link to interesting news stories that may be of use to customers. If you don’t want to invest the time needed to maintain and update a blog regularly, read other blogs in your industry and participate in them via comments. Remember to leave relevant comments followed by your company name and website.
Be a Twitter-bug
Twitter is a powerful tool for small business marketing; all you need is sufficient time to keeping it updated and relevant. Not only is this social networking website inexpensive, it’s also a really effective way for small companies to market efforts and reach out to existing and potential customers. You can tweet (individual messages on Twitter) about deals, coupons, and special offers.
You can also link to articles and news on your website, thereby increasing footfalls to your site. The biggest advantage of Twitter is that it lets you interact with your customers directly. Make sure you include your Twitter handle (address) on marketing materials.
As the popular saying goes, there’s strength in numbers. Another great and inexpensive way to garner publicity is by teaming up with another small company for a cross-promotional marketing campaign.
For example, a chocolate manufacturer and a decorative packaging specialist can use cross-promotional marketing to reach out to each other’s customers. Chocolates can be suggested to customers ordering pretty gift boxes, and people placing orders for chocolates can be asked if they’d like it packed in decorative boxes.
Throw in a special referral discount– or offer to pack free for large orders? Such a cross-promotional strategy works best when you select a complementary business. You can also use it to seek testimonials and recommendations. For example, a print design specialist can recommend a printer and vice-versa.
More in less
For small businesses, marketing can sometimes get limited as cost-cutting measures don’t do anything for your market exposure. Rethinking your strategy is not so much about scaling back, but rather innovating so you can do more in less.