Small Business Owners: Low Cost Marketing Strategies to Increase Profits

Have you ever wondered if you could think of a marketing idea that can propel your business to sky. Like, Wendy’s commercial in the 1980’s ‘Where’s the beef’, Coke ad about it being the ‘The Real Thing’ and Nike selling tennis shoes by spreading the word of ‘Just Do It’. How ingenuous of those companies.

When people think of marketing they tend to think of advertising which can be expensive, ineffective image-based advertising. There are many ways to position yourself as an expert and build a personal connection to attract new clients, customers and patients.

Effective marketing is not cheap; however, there are strategies you can implement for little or no cost. Low cost strategy is a pricing strategy in which a company offers a relatively low price to stimulate demand and gain market share (increase the number of customers), it is usually employed where the product has few or no competitive advantage. This leaves many small business owners wondering how can I compete, with razor thin margins.

Ideally, a small business owner should spend around 35 – 50% of their time marketing their product. If you have a marketing department to support your business make sure it looks like the customers you are serving. The power of hiring people from many different cultures, products and industries to come together and create products for your consumers is powerful. The depth of ideas, understandings, insights, creativity and the blending of cultures can bring out the best solutions for your business to make more money is awesome.

Below is a list of 10 low cost strategies that can help you improve your profits.

1- Join your areas Chamber of Commerce and participate in community service events. Get involved in your community by volunteering, donating to and/or sponsor local events. It gives you the opportunity to network with other business owners and maybe cross promote with other local. These monthly meetings let you know what going on economically in your area.

2- Social Media: the ability to provide information about your products all over the web.

 

  • Share what you do and what merchants you love. Completed a new project, offering a new product, and have a customer testimonial.
  • Write about it on twitter, website, Facebook, LinkedIn or on a industry blog. Photos and videos helps others to understand who you are, what you do and how it can help them solve a problem.

3- Tell your story in 90 seconds.

 

  • a. Develop an elevator pitch story to inform others about your business. Your story should contain the following elements.
  1. Who you are
  2. What you do
  3. Why your different from your competitors
  4. Why should they care about your products or service (what’s in it for them)
  • Does your message create an emotional response from your target audience demographics. Hint, use plain English in creating your message

Example: We help to make your life easier by (explain your product or service).

Note: People are unlikely to want to use your product unless they understand what it does and how it helps them. Using simple language is the best way to get them there.

 

  • Selecting a business name that sells for your business doesn’t cost a penny. Your name should tell prospective customers exactly what you do and why they should do business with you.

Remember, the product that you are offering serves a need or satisfies a want. Use customer testimonials to persuade your customers to purchase from you. Ask for them from satisfied customers and use them, make sure they are genuine and go into a little detail with real names.

4- Develop a simple marketing plan for your business

 

  • There are (4) secrets to marketing commitment, investment, communicate, consistency. It’s difficult to maintain all (4) four without some basic plan.
  • Make sure your plan describes how well the product or service meet the customers need or problem?
  • Make sure your logo and marketing message use words that paint a picture of an experience using your product that creates an imagination in the customer that generate a profit (that makes them want to buy your product or service).
  • It could consist of ordering business cards, attending networking opportunities, book speaking engagements and submit press releases about your product offerings.
  • Create an email signature, with web links to your business website and twitter link. Also, include your company name, most current achievement, telephone number and email address and tag line if your company has one.
  • Exit strategy, what will happen if the customers don’t buy the product.

5- Put together a list of previous customers and send them new information and promotional offers to reactivate some of them.

 

  • Reward loyal customers with discounts. It will keep them coming back and help generate referrals. Good referrals from satisfied customers is often more effective than expensive advertising.
  • Use social media, to offer SMS marketing (texting) to provide existing customers with new information about ‘must have’ discounted or liquidating items.

Improve Customer Service

Customer Service is a form of advertising. You’re advertising that you care, that gets noticed

Use your vehicle

Vehicle Graphics are seen by thousands of people each day. Turn your vehicle into a mobile billboard.

6- Offer free public seminars or workshops to general public to come and find out how you can solve a problem for them and show them how approachable and helpful you are.

 

  • Expensive and exposure does not necessarily translate to increased sales

Rule of Thumb:

Your target customers need to hear your marketing messages at least 7 times to influence buying decisions. Example, you can craft your message a public service radio announcement to get it played for free on the radio stations and small internet radio stations

Get a Piggy Back

Hitching a ride on the marketing of another company can save your small business time and money.

Example: Locating near a Wal-Mart to be near price conscious consumers on a low budget

Low attendance at seminars, charge $5 bucks

Always charge a fee for all you marketing events. Fee-paid seminars and workshops almost always generate more participants than free events. The fee implies (2) things (1) there’s something of value and the get more than what they will pay for, (2) it shows customer commitment to show up

7- Stimulate Customer Senses

 

  • Talk to your customers about how they feel about your product and store experience, why they buy from you versus other stores, they will be honest with you.
  • Continually educate your customers about the benefits of buying your products from you.
  • The more comfortable we keep our customers, the longer they’ll stay, the more memorable experience they’ll have and the more they’ll spend or pass on positive word-of-mouth.

Example:

Do you think the smell of fresh baking bread flowing throughout the grocery store or music is playing by choice? (duh)

Retail businesses have been going out of their way for years to stimulate shoppers and keep them browsing scented bathroom spray works better than disinfectant.

Did you know that Disney, which is known for its films, animation and theme parks, is very well known for its cleanliness, order and friendliness from employees.

8- Make Yourself Newsworthy

 

  • Get a mention of your company in the right media
  1. For doing a good deed in the community or a humorous tie-in with a sports event
  2. Develop a relationship with your industry trade publications (magazines) they are always looking for ‘free relevant content’, write and article for them. It can help you to appear as an ‘expert’ to others in your industry.

9- Form a joint venture

 

  • Forging an alliance with a group of small companies or big company, give you ‘biggest bang for the buck’. Lowering your costs to enter new markets and create new distribution opportunities.
  • Make offers to other businesses that serve people in your target markets to pay them for referrals or sharing their list with you
  • Support Fundraisers
  1. Donating your products or services to select charitable events is a great way to get your name out into the community. Be sure your target market will be attending and that your brand will be well represented.

10- Under Your Nose

 

  • Are your vendors doing business with you? No, call them and everyone you do business with. If your product is not a current match to there needs, he or she probably knows someone who should be doing business with you. At minimum, ask to display your business cards and flyers at their office. Oops, I forgot, take a moment and make sure people in your immediate personal circle understand what you are selling.

Get out and walk

1. Look for underutilized store front windows in high foot traffic areas. Approach the owner and offer to pay a small fee to advertise your business in their window or reverse it, and do the some for a fellow business owner.

2. Scan your friends social media sites Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Ask them to send out a advertisement on the friends page about your business. Ask a friend if you can place an ad on his business website.

Marketing can be really creative and fun to implement to get the message out about how great your product is and how it will help other people lives to be better.

It can take a lifetime to build a business reputation, but 20 seconds to tear it down with the wrong message in your marketing campaign or an employee doing that reflects badly on your business. You, small business owner are the ‘gatekeeper’ of the image of the company you are trying to build. Monitor all communications that is released to the press about your business, you and someone else review all media coverage and commercials about your business image, to make sure it is consistent with what your business is all about. Most importantly, be honest in all communications, dishonesty can boomerang on you in a nightmarish way.

Finally, marketing is about making the customer aware of your product and building a trusting relationship with the customer, and hopefully grow with the customer needs, as they expand.

Easy profits in your pocket!

 

Making Sales Calls Pay for Small Business

Small business owners know that they have to be a jack-of-all-trades within their organization, and a master of at least a few. That can be a very difficult position for a small business owner to be in, because often their expertise is in whatever line of business they perform. And although they know their product or service well, believe in it, and are often its biggest champion, time, responsibilities, and other demands – like getting that product or service out the door – tend to keep them from being their own best sales people.

Sales Staffing in the Real World

This is where sales staff come in. In theory, it’s simple: hire excellent sales staff, train them up on the product or service being performed/delivered, and then unleash them on the world to bring in the clients and orders. Great theory, but in the “real” world that’s often not how it happens.

In the real world, sales staff require oversight. They need someone to keep them honest and efficient. Even the best of them need excellent tools to help communicate their efforts, successes, and failures, too, to you who are in charge. But you who are in charge are a busy person. So while you value and need that information, for both you and your sales staffs’ sake you need a good way to do that.

The Sales Call Software Challenge

Fortunately, today we live in the age of technology. So getting on board with a good software program for sales call reporting should make your life easy. Except, for small business owners, often they don’t. Small business owners frequently find that the amount of time it takes to train both themselves and their sales staff, maintain that training, and then access and make sense of the reporting consumes both man hours and money. Hours that you could be attending to your own duties; and hours that your sales staff could be out there selling. All of that aside, the sheer expense of these programs (which are frequently not really geared to small businesses, and thus not really ideal to begin with), is cost-prohibitive.

Sales Reporting Solutions for Small Businesses

This is where mobile apps come in. A big business with a sales force of hundreds might require something more high-end, but a small business is more likely to need something manageable, mobile, accessible, and efficient. Investing in the right software with just the features you do need, but that actually has the features you seek, is the only way to make both your sales staff and your software tracking system pay.

Take, for example, IHATECALLREPORTS available in the GooglePlay store. This app functions efficiently for both the sales representative and the owner. It is completely mobile, low-priced, and it delivers.

For the sales representative, there is a survey-format based call report that can be filled out in under two minutes, but that still targets all the most important information for the rep and for management. Its specific goal is to identify the high value accounts and initiate planning for the next step.

Management has access to this report and information, but also gets features like time-stamp auditing to see when calls are made and identify large gaps where representatives are perhaps not really doing all they say they are doing. In addition, there is a GPS audit function that makes it nearly impossible to fake a location, so you can be sure your reps were where they say they were.

Mobile Apps like these are doing a lot to fill the gaps in effective small business management software. They are putting reporting and tracking back in the hands of small business sales programs, and making it cost- and time-effective to do so. For small business owners, they are the solution for sales in the real world.

 

Creating a Google-Powered Small Business to Maximize Performance

Google has come a long way since its inception and initial public offering in 1998 as a search engine while competing with heavyweights Lycos and AOL back in those days. However, what separates the company from the pack is their ability to invent and scale up free tools and resources that small businesses can use every day. In a world where small business is boundary less and globalization is as easy as incorporating, that’s a pretty savvy and strategic focus. With these tips, you can create a Google-powered small business that’s efficient, lean, and best of all, maximizes its operational performance.

Sure, Google is a powerful search engine for information on just about anything your little heart may be looking for, and the company has done extremely well in that core business (revenues were nearly $24 billion last year and if you want a piece of the action, be prepared to shell out about $600 a share these days). But over the past few years, Google’s bread and butter has become their small business apps that have allowed companies of all sizes to exchange emails, calendars, documents, spreadsheets, pictures, video, website analytics, advertising, and just about anything else you can imagine – for free.

Here’s a few of Google’s small business apps I use every day that my shop doors are open.

Gmail – Google’s flagship email client Gmail allows for anyone to set up a free account with a 28G capacity; and don’t worry if you don’t understand what a Gig is, because you don’t have to. Just know that’s a lot of space. My favorite feature about Gmail is the new Google Voice application that allows you to make free phone calls to anyone in the US using VoIP. You can even add a “call me” widget to your small business’s website that allows visitors to call your office right from your homepage. When you’re ready to make the conversion, you can import your existing email address, contacts, and emails to your new Gmail account for a seamless conversion.

Google Docs – Google Docs is short for documents, a web-based application that allows for people to create, share, edit, and download word processing and spreadsheet documents and presentations. While there are no fancy features like those available in Microsoft Office’s programs, all of the basic functionalities are there and that’s good enough for most businesses. No longer will you be endlessly emailing documents to and from collaborators every time a revision is made; you and your team can just log on to Google and use the Docs App.

The Docs are stored in what’s called “the cloud” – formally known as cloud computing – which essentially allows for files to be stored and accessed not from your machine’s local hard drive, but from the web-based provider (in this case, Google is the provider). One particularly useful feature is the auto-save and viewing capability. As your editing a document or spreadsheet, Google is automatically saving it for you every second and the people you’ve shared that document with can view your revisions in real-time.

Google Places – It’s a free directory for listing your local business so that it may be found by a Google or Google Maps search. You can add your business’s address, description of services, business categories, areas you serve, keywords, pictures, video, and so much more. Arguably, the best part is that it’s entirely free. Yahoo.com, Local.com, and the Yellow Pages are all paid local business directories, and the irony of it is that most people use Google when searching through local business listings anyway. I also love that Google adds a picture of your store front by default when you enter in your address (Google pays people to take pictures of every address in the world – no kidding!) If you run your business from home like I do, you can easily turn the picture feature off.

Google Social Media Apps – Some analysts and experts quip that Google has had a particularly hard time breaking into social media and bringing unique platforms to the mass market, but I disagree (with the exception of Google Buzz, which allows you to create a profile and share updates, videos, photos and more and was recently hit with a lawsuit over privacy protection). In 2006, Google bought YouTube, the undisputed champ of the social video-sharing sites. As a small business, you can create, upload, and share across multiple end-user outlets that include your websites pages and email marketing campaigns. Use these simple, informative, and attractive online videos to introduce your business, product, or service.

Google’s free blogging platform, Blogger, is one of the biggest blogging platform on the Internet today (close rivals would include WordPress and Typepad). You can easily set up a profile, integrate Blogger into your small business’s website, and you or your employees can begin blogging today about your industry trends, new products or services you’re rolling out or featuring, and just about anything else that relates to your company. Having a blog is becoming extremely more and more essential to building a strong web-based brand for your small business because it gives your company a voice and authority, which immediately helps your Google search rankings.

Lastly, Google Picasa allows you to upload, store, edit, and share hundreds of photos that integrate seamlessly with your small business’s other Google apps, website, and other social media sites.

AdWords, Analytics, and Webmaster Tools – The last category of indispensable Google Apps for small business has to include AdWords, a platform for creating and managing advertisement campaigns on Google; Analytics, a comprehensive platform for detailed tracking of your small business’s website visitors and how they behaved on your site; and Webmaster Tools, the brother of Analytics that helps your small business’s webmaster to understand how Google crawls, indexes, and ranks your website.

My small business is run almost exclusively on the vital Google Apps listed above, and I couldn’t be any happier or more productive. If you need help establishing and maintaining any of these tools, or you’re wondering how you can begin using Google to help make your business run faster, smarter, and more efficient, take a deeper look at Google’s small business tools.

Note that that you don’t have to sign up for each of these small business Apps individually; rather, simply sign your company up for a new Google Account, fill in the necessary information, and then simply “add” these apps right from your account settings page.