Cost Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies and Tips – Part 5

In my last article on Cost Effective Marketing Strategies for small businesses I discussed how you can use Mass Media on a small budget very effectively. In this Part 5 article I will concentrate on Marketing Tactics, Customer Based Marketing and Important Marketing Elements.

GREAT MARKETING TACTICS

Free Consultations: Provide a free half hour or hour long consultation to prospects giving them advice and information. Follow up in two days and ask for the sale. This tactic establishes you as an expert and even if the prospect doesn’t use your services, you will have a fantastic referral source (make sure you ask for referrals!).

–Power your Consultation with visual aids and demonstrations.
–Turn your Free Consults into testimonials.

Writing Articles: Being published as an Expert will bring you targeted, continuous business. Be sure to submit your articles online and back link to your Website. Your web traffic will increase exponentially. Then offer Free E-books on your Website to solidify the relationship. When prospects understand your expert status, they will give you business, as well as, refer you to others.

Seminars: Depending on your business having a FREE or Paid Seminar can be a great way to mine prospects. Again, this strategy works well as the Expert strategy and piggybacks well with Free Consultations, Articles and E-books. Free Seminars can be unpredictable, but a nominal fee Seminar can be enough to guarantee success. A nominal fee ensures the attendee will show, while providing a ton of value for the information provided. Be sure to video all your seminars and sell them on your website.

–Lecture / instruct for half an hour to forty five minutes, then open it up for questions. Wrap up the seminar at the hour mark. Have an area with coffee and sweets set up so you can network before and after the seminar.
–The goal is to get as many business cards and contact information as you can from the prospects. Follow with a mailed hand written note or a personal email within 24 hours. Then call the prospect a day later. Have the Seminar on a Tuesday and follow up Thursday or Friday via phone to set appointments for the next two weeks.
–Have two Seminars a month. Make them a little different so you can attract the same prospects again! Give your previous attendees a VIP Pass. If you don’t sell them the first round you’ll have a much better chance after the second seminar.
–Write a Book and your Seminar attendance will increase three fold. The more you can foster the Expert Status, the better your results will be.

Free Demonstrations: I love Free Demonstrations! I cut my teeth in Sales in my youth selling Electrolux Cleaning Systems (ok, so they were vacuums and dry cleaners). Selling a premium product which had a ton of value built in required a Free Demonstration. If I couldn’t sell the prospect in 45 minutes then I would leave the Cleaning System with them for two days and return at a prearranged time to pick it up. With a good financing package backing me up, I closed 8 out of 10!

–A Free Demonstration can also be short in front of a crowd and take orders afterward. Depends on the product you are selling.

Note: At Seminars and Mass Demonstrations, make sure you have plenty order takers and appointment setters on hand. You can’t be signing up prospects and talking to them at the same time!

Open House Events: Opening up your business to existing customers and prospects for a day every three months is an awesome way to solidify relationships and drum up more business. Have refreshments and employees staged in different areas explaining how the business works. You, the owner, mix and mingle and mine! Make sure each employee is schooled prior, to get business cards and contact information. Be sure to teach the employee to make notes on the prospects’ biz card or contact info so you have personalized means of future contact. Make sure you have a demonstration room for the serious prospects! Make sure you are fully staffed fro an Open House. All hands on deck event!

–Send Press Releases to local / regional publications and look for creative ways to advertise your Open House. There are loads of Free Online and Offline Event Directories. Use Social Networking!
–Social Online Networks such as Linked In, Facebook and Twitter can be excellent forums to getting out information about your Open House or other Company Events and News. See my Article on Internet Marketing for more details.

Trade Shows: I am not a huge fan of Trade Shows because many shows will have absolutely no merit for the money and time you spend. However, many businesses have been successful with Trade Shows because they figure out through research which ones really have qualified buyers and know little success secrets. Some Trade Show Keys to keep in mind:

–Always attend and research a show prior to your participation.
–Determine ways shows let you contact prospects before and after the show.
–Partner with a good Strategic Partner and share a large 20 foot booth together. This attracts attention and offers prospects the best solutions.
–Have “roamers” walking the show continuously handing out circulars and flyers, which pictorially show prospects where your booth is. Offer a Freebee or discount for the prospect to come to your booth. Require the prospect to register to receive the Freebee or Discount.
–Have Brochures available at your booth for the motivated prospects.
–Be sure to mine each prospect’s information and product / service interests. Don’t rely on them to contact you after the show.
–Visually demonstrate your product or service. Let prospects see the final solution.
–Have plenty of staff on hand to sell, take information and greet prospects.
–Big Signs, Big Graphics, Large Font, Video, Audio – these are all key in helping the prospect visualize / own your solution.
–Take lots of pictures and video so you can post to the web during the show to create a viral buzz.
–Always get a prospects email address so you can send them an Opt In for your Newsletter, Company Alerts, RSS, etc.
–Make sure all of your Staff is instructed to take notes on the prospects’ business card so you can jog your memory on the prospects’ relevance and importance.
–Direct Mail response rates to Tradeshow Participants can be as high as 20%, as compared to the average 2% response rate for a first mailing.
–Trade Shows can be a good way to kick off your penetration into a new market.
–If you are going to the expense of going to a Trade Show, be sure to run some advertising prior (with an incentive to come see you).

Newsletters: I think Newsletters (both offline and online) are an excellent information and sales tool. This goes hand in hand with the Expert Role, providing interested prospects valuable information, while having information on how to contact you or a web page to visit. Newsletters should be sent once per month with an expert article as the main focus. I like to have the article in the center of the Newsletter with a narrow column to either side with supporting information and resources. These side columns are great areas to partner with other businesses to offer more expert information and help. Be sure to feature your FREE half hour or hour consultation service on the Newsletter and any seminars, webinars or such coming up. The more you get into and use your Newsletter, the more exponential the results. And, please, write your own content! You are the Expert!

Write a Book: I’m not saying get in the book business. A book sets you apart as a bonafide Expert and gives you instant credibility. It is one of the best sales generator tools you can use! Two books that I have written, The Business Success Guide and The Comprehensive Business Plan Workbook – A Guide to Effective Business Planning, lend instant credibility to my experience as a Business Planner and Consultant. You can use Print on Demand Publishing to print books and drop ship to customers as they are ordered individually for a price of $10 – $14 per book. Get writing!

Speaking at Club Events: Being a featured speaker at a private club event can drive great business for you. Make sure to have a brochure and make sure to feature an easy to remember website address. Feature a special promotion for just the club attendees. Again, being a Club Speaker sets you up as the Expert and a fantastic way to advertise your articles, newsletters and books.

YOUR BEST MARKETING SOURCE = YOUR CUSTOMER

Having excellent relationships with your Customers is the absolute best way to get a steady flow of qualified prospects. Moreover, it gives you the opportunity for repeat, highly profitable business. Ask for referrals before, during and after a sale to build an excellent pipeline of business.

A Mentor Group
–Select a group of 4 – 6 business people you respect and have a mentorship meeting with them once per quarter. They will not only help you with the direction and success of your company, but also they will be an excellent source of highly qualified referrals. This type of referral gives you instant credibility.

Networking Clubs
–Join one that doesn’t have too many competitors and can send you your “ideal” client. You can spend all day needlessly and unproductively going to networking events. Choose a couple and go consistently. Bring valuable information and advice with you!

Who is Your Best Customer?
–Simple Answer: Your Customers! Understand that a satisfied customer is your best repeat customer, as well as, referral source. One satisfied customer can exponentially bring you increased sales. 60-79% of your Marketing Budget, or Emphasis, should be directed toward your existing customers. I said “or emphasis” since marketing to an existing customer can be quite cost effective. It costs 80% less to keep an existing customer as it is to land a new customer. Remember two things: Repeat Sales and Referrals. Between the two, your marketing plan is 70% covered, which minimizes the necessary cash out lay for the remaining 30% of your Marketing Budget.

SOME ESSENTIAL MARKETING ELEMENTS

Not all Marketing is about running an Ad Campaign or sending out a newsletter; rather, good marketing is also about running an effective business and doing things to strengthen your Marketing Plan. These elements will help you successfully pull together a cohesive, effective Marketing Plan.

Service: Service should always be #1. Service is not what you offer the customer but really more what the customer wants and wishes for. If you define your Service Policy around what your Customers” want, then your Marketing success will be exponential! Listen closely to what your customers want and provide the services to fill the gaps.

Why do Customers patronize a business? The five top reasons are:

–Confidence
–Quality
–Service
–Selection
–Price

Address all five elements in a Cohesive Marketing Plan, you will be successful. Remember that each builds on the other in the indicated order, so Price becomes less of a high or low question, and more of how it relates to the preceding four elements. You can also put Referrals on top of the list, as that instills Confidence and an expectation of Quality. Referral Business is the best business.

Public Relations:
Cost you little or nothing but can brand your business very effectively, giving you a well known Identity in your Market place. Free PR stories, articles and news clips can be extremely effective in establishing your Identity. You Marketing Programs will be much more effective when you have a well established Brand and Identity. Good publicity gives you credibility, stature and authority. However, bad publicity can quite harmful so it is very important to honestly and forth rightly address any bad publicity or dissatisfied customers. When submitting company news to the media, always send a story that is worth publicizing. Give them a reason to give you free publicity.

Put together a good Press Kit (hire a PR Pro if needed) and take the media person to lunch. Relate your Company story and hand over the Press Kit. You are 80% of the way there! Cultivate your media relations so get great broad exposure when you submit your news. Always give the media an angle – a reason to run your story. Become a Media Resource by giving your media contacts important information about industry changes or consumer tips or free business advice. It will come back to you three fold!

Remember, PR is all about creating a Buzz. Word of mouth, viral marketing can be extremely successful for your business if it is positive publicity. Social Networking can be a powerful way to spread publicity about a business. Remember to have a system and forum in place to address any bad publicity because viral marketing can really accentuate the negatives, very quickly!

Follow Up:
Most businesses lose customers and momentum when they stop following up and being in contact with Customers. Marketing really begins after the sale; Marketing is a continuous cycle. Stay in front of customers with handwritten notes, newsletters, email tips, phone calls, specials, discounts and most importantly, asking them for referrals. Provide your customers news about your business as it occurs to keep them connected to you. Form and keep that bond – it is the future of your Company!

Word of Mouth:
Word of Mouth advertising can be very effective if you figure out where else your clients conduct business. Then partner with those businesses to effectively self-promote and spread the word. It is a win-win for both companies as you are more effectively satisfying your customers’ needs.

Competitive Edge:
All the Marketing in the world will be ineffective if you don’t have an Edge or Advantage to offer your prospects compared to the Competition. Remember, it isn’t solely about price. It is matching benefits, advantages, service quality and value with a fair price that helps you beat out the competition. Your Marketing should stress your Competitive Advantages – don’t wait to express them during your sales presentation. Competitive Edge should be the center point of any Marketing Plan.

20-30 Seconds:
This is normally how long you have to interest a prospect. So it is vitally important to be able to clearly communicate your offering and advantage very quickly and succinctly whether it is through a Marketing piece or when in person with a prospect. The first 10-15 seconds is critical. This is when you peek enough interest to listen to why doing business with you is a must. Always keep the presentation (whether through Marketing or in person) personal to the prospect and personal to you. There should be a common sales presentation theme throughout all your Marketing Programs, Advertising Pieces, Personal Contacts, Telephone Calls, Emails – any and all contact with prospects.

Guarantee / Warranty:
Both are see through, hollow promises unless you have something credible and real backing them up. This says to your prospects that you believe 100% in your product and service. Don’t use it unless it is genuine! Show what your customer satisfaction will be or look like, make it real to the prospect.

Branding:
Develop your Brand through strong Identity Marketing. Good branding can only be achieved with consistent, widespread Marketing through a cross section of related advertising mediums. Commonality of Marketing Themes throughout all your Marketing Platforms goes a long way toward establishing your business identity and brand. With that platform in place, use Viral Social Networking to spread your brand globally.

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