By Edwin Dearborn
In today’s precarious economy, it is extremely difficult for any existing small business or new start up to develop effective marketing tactics that fit within a restrictive budget.
In fact, seemingly with what amounts to almost nothing in terms of available funds to conduct an effective marketing strategy, small businesses need to move forward with a course of action. Not marketing is not an option as the competition is stiff. Small businesses are going to have to learn how to bootstrap it for a while so as to make progress in their marketing endeavors.
For over twenty years, I have coached thousands of small to medium business people on how to market their products or services effectively. During those years, I have come across some very cost-effective methods to developing an online presence, as well as proactively generating more referrals from existing clientele. Here are a few key marketing strategies that I share with those that I am coaching.
Utilization Of Online Directories – Online directories such as Yelp, MerchantCircle and Manta, represent a major opportunity for a local business to be found online. But less than 20% of small businesses will have a full
presence on these in 2013. With over forty online directories available, most of them allowing any business to list for free, over 150 million Americans will utilize them to find a local business. There are marketing companies, like World Class Media, that can list your small business in all of them for a few hundred dollars. This is a small price to pay in relation to the return on investment that is possible through this method all year round.
Video Marketing – YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Additionally, video has a much higher conversion rate than the written word. Yet less than 10% of American small businesses are utilizing video as a marketing stratagem to marketing themselves online.
For very little money, you can produce videos with still photo’s and a professional voice over. These videos not only are useful to being found online via YouTube, but can be also placed in one’s website, blog posts, online press releases, posted on social media and emailed to your entire client base on a regular basis.
Email: The Backbone of Online Marketing – A study done by the Direct Marketing Association found that email has a 40:1 ROI. That is $40 back for every $1 spent! I believe that you should be cold-calling and networking to build leads, while adding those very people to your email list. You need to be emailing once a week with some type of article, offer or newsworthy item that will position you as a thought leader and someone that provides what they are looking for.
With email formats, such as Constant Contact, you can now have your emails spread via social media as well. I know one small coffee shop that does this regularly and has turned around monthly sales into viable ranges.
Blogging: The Secret Weapon – Those who blog consistently, can increase inbound leads by 77%, according to HubSpot. If you cannot do it, this can be outsourced inexpensively to local bloggers who love writing. According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, “Writing is still the clearest and most definitive medium for demonstrating expertise on the web.” Your website should be on a WordPress format. I strongly urge for any small business owner to blog 2-3 times per week, and then to send your best one out to your email list. But always distribute each and every blog article to all of your social media channels.
Referral Awards – Membership has its benefits. I know how to generate referrals by rewarding clients with a gift card idea that has proven to be a profitable winner. It looks like a gift card and is monetized like one. By “gifting” your best clients with what looks like a credit card, they feel privileged to hand these gift cards to friends and family. Your clients are now promoting your business with some type of exclusive offer, such as a greatly discounted service on their first visit. We have used these very successfully with dentists to generate dozens of new patients.
While this is but a short list of what we coach small businesses on, any small business can effectively market their products of services within a relatively small budget. These tactics will allow you to compete and leverage your business that most of your competitors are not utilizing fully.