Cashflow. Yep, that word… As most small businesses know it’s the barometer of how your business is faring. Once that cashflow dips, all manner of problems come out of the woodwork.
One way to help ensure a healthy cash flow is a sound customer base. It’s not rocket science. If potential customers don’t know about you then they can’t buy from you. That’s where marketing comes in.
The trick for small businesses is to market smart so that they can attract customers without breaking the bank with expensive marketing activities.
Here’s some ideas on how to promote your business on a tight budget.
Whatever marketing activities you think you might like to try, you’ll find it hard to achieve your goals without a marketing plan. No plan? Then plan to fail, as they say.
So to help give your marketing the best chance of success, it’s worth reflecting on your business in a holistic sense. What do you want to achieve, what’s your bandwidth for staffing up your marketing efforts and what’s your budget?
Then you develop an effective marketing strategy for promoting your business. Yes, that will include marketing activities but without a road map you’re not going to find your destination. So you need to do some marketing planning.
To help your marketing efforts succeed you need a strategy that’s based on your business plan. Without a strategic approach, whatever marketing you do will be like shots in the dark (scattergun shots at that).
MARKETING PLAN 101
Your marketing plan won’t pop out of a cereal box. You’ll need to do some planning and preparation before you get started on “doing some marketing”. As part of the journey you’ll need to:
- Determine your business objectives
- Work out your budget
- Put in a time frame to keep you on track
INGREDIENTS OF A PLAN
Even if you opt for low-cost marketing activities, you risk wasting your own time by diving in without a plan. Here’s a top-line list of what your marketing plan could cover:
- Vision statement – what’s your plan for the business? What are your goals?
- Mission statement – summary of how you will achieve your vision
- Goals – long-term and short-term
- SWOT analysis – what are your strengths, weaknesses? What are the opportunities that could help your business and what are the threats? What can you do to counter the weak points and capitalise on the opportunities?
- Product/services – what do you offer, does it meet market needs, what do you plan to offer?
- Market position – where does your offering fit into the market; how are you positioned against your competitors
- Unique Selling Proposition – what does your offering provide customers that the competition doesn’t
- Pricing strategy – what is your approach to pricing and can it be improved to meet the market
- Growth potential – refer to research or other data to determine the growth potential for your business
YOUR BRAND – YOUR BABY
Always keep in mind that your brand is your ticket to the future. It’s like your personal reputation. It’s built up slowly and regularly requires TLC. But it can also be damaged overnight. You’re never too small to start building your brand. An integral part of marketing is brand building. And any marketing activities you undertake should enhance – not detract from – your brand.
LET’S GO MARKETING!
Let’s just touch on some of the marketing activities you could consider using to promote your business. In future articles, we’ll cover these in more detail. Consider this a possible menu of activities to get you started thinking.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are just some of the social media platforms you can use to market your business. There’s no doubt that done well, social is a great option for small businesses looking for a cost-effective approach to marketing. In fact, some say that you can’t afford not to be on social media as more and more of your competitors are getting involved.
Pick your social media platform carefully as they’re not all the same. The user base for each can vary greatly, and that has a bearing on the content you use. And to do social well you need to be active and consistent. So it’s best to start with one platform that is best for your brand, rather than spreading yourself too thinly across them all. Master that and then consider other options down the track. Plus social media takes time to maintain. When choosing platforms think about how much time you have to dedicate and the skills you need to make it work. Become a user yourself to help you decide which platform is best for your business.
CONTENT IS KING
There’s an art to developing and maintaining a “brand voice” while travelling through the social-sphere.
Remember, social media is not a billboard. It won’t work if you use it to blatantly spruik your wares. It’s a community where people visit voluntarily. Treat it with respect and moderate the spiel. Some commentators say businesses should apply the Pareto Principal to their social media presence; limit self-promotion to 20% and devote 80% to other content. Oh and, always encourage feedback. It’s a community after all. But perhaps the best guiding principle is to provide value to users.
A good place to start is to become a social media user yourself. Get familiar with how each platform works. Visit the accounts of other businesses particularly those in your game to see what works well.
Despite the predictions that social media would reduce its popularity email is stronger than ever. And no wonder, it’s an expensive way to get content to lots of potential customers. Email marketing works best when it’s targeted. You might be a start-up or a new business but as James Moore – ZestDesk co-founder and Optus Your Shark Tank contestant, says it’s never too early to build your email list.
Email is easy to use so you can get up and running fast. You can use it to update your customers on new products and services, upcoming events as well as provide helpful information. The idea is to generate trust with your users so that they will open your email. So ensure you provide value in each email. Email also reduces the need for paper
PR is a great low-cost marketing activity that works best when part of an integrated approach, supported by a marketing plan. For example, the content that you generate for PR can be re-purposed for other activities like social and email marketing. Some of the PR avenues open to you are trade media; local newspapers; blogs; and radio. And don’t overlook opportunities in your industry like speaking opportunities at trade shows and industry awards. Overall PR is a great option for small businesses looking to get value from their marketing efforts. Right now the media industry is in a state of flux. With few journalists working in media and more opportunities opening online, it’s a great time to get your content noticed. The basic principles still apply: you have to be relevant and the content should be newsworthy. Remember your brand reputation is at stake. But the effort you put in will be well worth the awareness you generate.
There are lots of ways to promote your business that won’t break the bank. It just takes a little planning and commitment. But put in the time and effort and see your customer base grow!
Looking for communication solutions for your business? Contact an Optus business specialist.