Powerful Marketing Tips for the Small Business [column]
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Last week I attended the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe's luncheon, and I was intrigued by how some marketers feel that company executives do not fully appreciate the importance of marketing. This is not only true for big companies, but for small companies as well.
One marketing manager told me how for a few years, both her financial manager and the managing director always tried to shoot down marketing initiatives she presented. Whether she wanted to attend a business or networking event, or to launch a new marketing campaign, issues of cash flow would arise and her initiatives would be said to be of lower priority to other more pressing expenditure.
Sometime last year, the business was in a slump. Existing customers were slow in paying. New customers were hard to come by. Cash flow was really bad. It was only a matter of time before the company went bankrupt. It so happened that this marketing manager persuaded her boss to let her attend an industry exhibition. She spoke to a number of potential customers and exchanged contact details. Nothing happened for two months and things were still going downhill for the business. Then one day a prospect that the marketing manager had met at the exhibition called. He was requesting for a quotation for a large order. Upon receiving the quotation, he asked for bank details so he could pay straight away. The boss was surprised: "How did you do it?" he asked the marketing manager.
"That is my job as a marketer. Give me the resources and opportunities and I will get results."
From then on the marketing manager gets top priority when it comes to the budget.
Now some owners of small businesses might feel they cannot afford a big marketing budget. That could be true, especially in these harsh days of illiquidity and low business volumes. I will therefore give you a few powerful marketing tips that you can implement, even with a low budget.
Use buddy marketing to promote your business
For example, say you send out brochures to prospective customers, you could include a leaflet and/or business card of another business, which would have agreed to do the same for you. This gives you the chance to reach a whole new pool of potential customers. The same can work with email marketing. If you send out a regular email or newsletter to your customers, mention your buddy's products or services and they should also do the same for you.
Send a second offer to your customers immediately after they've purchased
For example, I have just finished developing a business plan for a customer. When I send it, I will include a handwritten note thanking them for their business and informing them that they may take advantage of a private offer, such as a 20% discount when they need to register a company or buy a shelf company. To create urgency, remember to include an expiration date.
Host a seminar or an open house
Hosting an event is a great way to gain face time with key customers and prospects, as well as getting your company's name circulating. With the right programming, you will be rewarded with a nice turnout and media coverage. If it's a seminar, limit the attendance and charge a fee. A fee gives the impression of value. Free often connotes, whether intended or not, that attendees will have to endure a sales pitch.
Did you know it costs six times more to make a sale to a new customer than to an existing one? You can use newsletters to focus your marketing on past customers. Keep costs down by sending them once a month or quarterly. Ensure they have high value content that is useful to your customers. For example, if you sell motor vehicle accessories, you might include articles on Do It Yourself car care and maintenance, safety tips and so on. If printed newsletters are too expensive, consider an e-mail newsletter that you can send to people who subscribe on your website.
Host a community event
Customers are drawn to businesses that are seen giving back to their communities. You can sponsor a sporting event; organise a school fete or a community cleaning campaign. Get T-shirts, flyers and posters printed with your company name. Look out especially for causes that are at the hearts of people in your community. Such activities will endear you to customers and create goodwill for your brand.
These marketing tactics are not so common, but others have used them and found that they are really powerful.
Repeating the same old marketing activities gets boring to your customers and to you and your people. Keep trying different approaches and see what works better. And please, don't forget to email me your feedback on what works for you.
Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit http://smebusinesslink.com.
Copyright Zimbabwe Standard. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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