Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to market your business

This article has been written specifically for individuals who have recently set up, or who are planning to set up a small business in the near future and who are looking for cost effective ways to market their new enterprises. In this article we will be exploring different marketing techniques that don’t involve spending a small fortune, but which will nevertheless bring about very favourable outcomes. We will be taking a closer look at some methods that are completely cost free, and others that will incur only modest outlays. However before we start delving into this subject and examine all of its intricacies, let’s get the basics out of the way and give a brief description of what marketing is all about.
Marketing is basically businesses telling the world about their products and services. Effective marketing is conveying this message in a smart and cost effective manner. In pre-internet times this was largely accomplished by placing expensive ads in newspapers, making sure that companies were listed in the yellow pages and by producing expensive TV commercials etc. However with the advent of the digital age this process has changed dramatically. Effective marketing today is more geared towards the internet and social media than the slightly antiquated traditional media. Gone are the days of the media controlled advertising monopoly, and the mighty influence of the printed press.

The Internet revolution has quite literally transformed our societies and it has singlehandedly created the biggest marketplace the world has ever seen. Consequently it has brought about opportunities that were unheard of only a few decades ago. Today anyone can promote and sell their products from anywhere in the world by simply tapping away on their computer keyboard, tablets or smart phones, provided they have an internet connection.  And an increasing number of people are doing just that, they are making a very comfortable living by selling products and services online.
The levelling of the playing field has brought more punters to the table, which invariably means that the competition has become fiercer. This puts a lot of extra pressure on businesses as these are forced to work harder to promote themselves and offer better deals to their customers. Anyone who has run a business, regardless of size, will tell you that correct marketing is crucial if a business is going to expand, not to mention if it intends to maintain its current customer base.  It’s impossible to achieve success in today’s business world without engaging in proper strategic marketing.

Obviously the most effective marketing strategies are going to cost money, and lots of it. Big international corporations spend billions of dollars each year on marketing and image building, and these corporations just keep getting bigger and stronger. But don’t despair; businesses with more meagre budgets can avail themselves of a wide range of techniques that will guarantee similar results, admittedly on a much smaller scale, and without having to break the bank in the process. In some cases it won’t even cost a single cent, and those are the marketing techniques that we are going to take a closer look at here.
In an ideal world entrepreneurs would have the opportunity to sit down on a one to one basis with potential clients and tell them all about the terrific benefits associated with buying their products or hiring their services. Unfortunately we don’t live in an ideal world and thus one has to go about it in a slightly different manner.

The first step in any effective marketing campaign is to set up a website for the businesses or products that are going to be marketed. This is an absolute necessity. It is also very important that this website looks as elegant and professional as possible as it is going to be the company’s shopfront to the rest of the world. It has to contain as much relevant information about the company and its products as possible, and it should be presented in a credibly and straightforward manner.  The ultimate goal of the website should be to direct customers to the business and to generate as much money as possible for the owners. The next step is to start promoting it. This can be achieved by using a multitude of techniques, such as engaging in networking, specific and targeted use of social media, leaving online visiting cards; i.e. leaving links on various internet sites that will direct visitors to your website, comment on articles and blogs posts that are relevant to your business, write articles for other websites, start your own blog, use Twitter and Facebook etc. The list just goes on and on.
However, before embarking on a marketing campaign, it is essential to identify the primary target group or target groups, i.e. the customers that are most likely to buy products from your company. Determining which strategy is best suited for this purpose depends entirely on the type of products and services offered. It goes without saying that a business trying to target a younger audience will have to promote itself on websites that cater to this group, and likewise a business targeting a slightly older crowd will have to focus their attention on websites that individuals from this group is likely to visit. Identifying a target group is essential in order to carry out a successful marketing campaign. The failure to do so is almost as detrimental as not advertising at all.

So let’s run through the list of marketing tactics that businesses can avail themselves of, and that aren’t going to cost and arm and a leg.
The first method is a telemarketing. It’s a simple and proven way of reaching out to new customers, which allows businesses to engage potential clients, and present their services without having to ask for a meeting, which in many cases would probably not even be granted. The only thing required in telemarketing is to pick up the phone and dial a number. It’s simple and highly effective, and it only going to knock you back a few cents per call. Deciding on which clients to contact can be resolved by perusing public and private business registries, which can easily be obtained online. Yes it’s true, telemarketers are abhorred by some, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a very effective method of acquiring new customers, which explains why there are so many companies engaging in this type of activity out there. Telemarketing is probably the second most effective way to gain new clients, only surpassed by face to face meetings.

One of the reasons why it is so effective is that it involves direct interaction between a vendor and a client, which is still the most effective way of doing business in today’s world. It is also worth bearing in mind that the moment a salesperson manages to engage a potential customer is the moment that he/she is able to punch a tiny little hole in the barrier that is often erected by discerning, and at times reluctant clients. How effective telemarketing is going to be for your business will depend on the skill level of the person making the phone calls. Remember, always be well prepared and carefully craft the message that you wish to convey.
And this brings us to another important subject, and that is sales techniques.

Ever wondered why salespeople engage in small talk before they shift into full on selling mode? They do so because they are trying to lower the guard of the customer, which will make it a lot easier for them to sell their product. By acting friendly and jovial the salesperson is making it much harder for the potential client to dismiss their sales pitch and the products that they are trying to sell. The act of selling is just as much about psychology as it is about trading cash for a product. A good salesperson should be able to sell an inferior product by using some very simple and subtle tactics, combined of course with finely honed communications skills. Selling is all about instilling trust. People are rightfully reluctant to do business with individuals they don’t trust; however they seldom have any reservations about doing business with people they are comfortable with.
The second strategy is a targeted e-mail campaign. This is a very effective way of promoting a business, provided that it is done correctly. The e-mails must be carefully worded and they have to be to the point. Remember that the average business executive receives dozens of e-mails a day and that he/she is likely to dismiss your e-mail unless it stands out, or offers exceptional value for money. So do put some effort into it. Also, be tenacious; don’t despair if you don’t get an instant response. You might have to send off a hundred e-mails for each successful sale, so it could take some time before you make your first sale. The e-mails may also have to be tweaked several times to suit different clients. Try to use standardized e-mails (templates) that only require the name of the recipient to be filled out before being sent off. 

Another good strategy is to contact various membership organizations and offer them exclusive and affordable deals. Most people will take advantage of bargains if they see one, it’s one of the reasons why shops have sales and sell discounted product on a regular basis. It’s guaranteed to draw in large crowds. It is good practice for businesses to offer cheap deals, and especially when turnover is slow, something that would normal be the case for small businesses that have just started out. Also keep in mind that some customers are simply unable to walk away from a sale sign, irrespective of whether the prices actually reflect a true reduction or not. Businesses offering products at discounted prices are in reality waving a huge big flag with the word ‘Sale’ emblazoned across it. Remember if business is slow, sale is the way to go.

Publicity stunts are also highly effective ways to market a company, and they take place almost on a daily basis. It’s a very clever way of marketing because it is advertising disguised as sensationalism. Many businesses will engage in the most outrageous behaviour if they believe that they will gain from it. What makes these publicity stunts so effective is that they are in effect ‘pro-bono’ advertising ‘sponsored’ by the media, which in many cases are blissfully unaware of the fact that they are being stringed along. It is a technique that anyone should be able to use to their advantage, and it is a sure way to draw extra attention to a company.
Another good idea is to contact the local media and invite them to make a story about your business. This is an excellent form of marketing and one that is absolutely free. The tricky bit is of course to convince them to do so. New companies are established every day, and it goes without saying that the media can’t write in depth articles about every single one of these. In order to successfully pull of this feat it’s imperative to come up with an angle that is unusual and that is likely to resonate with the person that is going to cover the story. It can be anything from a unique business concept that no one has heard of, or the fact that your business offers exceptional value for money, or perhaps that it is run by a stay at home mum, or something along those lines. It is surprising how easy it is to come up with good ideas when engaging in some serious brainstorming. The carrot at the end of the stick is of course that it’s absolutely free and very advantageous for your business.

Another clever marketing strategy is to offer customers the opportunity to win gifts if they buy products from your business. It could be a fifty dollar gift voucher, which could be redeemed for goods from your company. The good thing about offering a voucher instead of cash is that whoever wins will have to make a second transaction with your company. And considering that your business is only paying retail prices, the actual expense incurred by giving away a gift voucher is a lot less than fifty dollars. Business that adopts such tactics should gain a significant advantage over their competitors that don’t engage in such schemes. Remember that people rarely pass up an opportunity to win free stuff, and provided the scheme is promoted correctly it should drive up sales.

Another sound marketing strategy is to take advantage of high traffic internet sites, either by leaving comments, or by establishing amicable relationships with the owners of these. This can be achieved by carrying out favours for free, such as writing articles or sending interesting tips and suggestions about topics to cover. It can also be done by offering products to be given away as prizes in competitions etc. This is a sure way to secure valuable exposure for your business. It is also a good tactic to post comments on bigger online forums asking other forum members about products stocked by your business. Start a discussion by querying whether anyone can recommend these etc. Including an innocuous link to your own site should attract new customers. Also be sure to list items on eBay and include links to your website. People who are checking out your ebay ad might not necessarily buy the listed item, but they could buy other products found on your business website.
It is also possible to adopt another and slightly more direct course of action, which is going to cost a little bit more money, but considerably less than advertising with some of the bigger commercial websites out there. The trick is to seek out high traffic blogs that cater to your specific target group, and offer these, say, ten dollars to feature ads for your business for a limited period. It is essential to do some research in order to establish what kind of traffic the various websites in question generate before deciding on which ones to contact. If you are successful in this endeavour you will effectively have managed to get targeted ads placed on highly popular blogs that cater specifically to your target group for a mere 120 dollars. Now that’s exceptionally good value for money.

Lastly, but not least engage in some effortless self promotion by placing big advertising stickers on your car. This has to be considered a very good and cheap form of marketing that is bound to draw new clients to your company. Stickers with a funny slogan or a funny looking character will have a bigger impact than a bland looking one. The odds of someone checking out your website are considerably higher if the sticker is going to make them laugh, or if it promises to offer them exceptionally good value for money. Just driving around town for an hour or so each day and perhaps even parking your car in a strategic location is a good marketing strategy. In some ways it’s like a having your own personalized mobile billboard, but only having to pay for the sticker and the petrol.
That pretty much concludes this article on effective ways to market your business. Please bear in mind that these are just a few of the techniques out there, but they are highly effective. How you tailor your strategies obviously depends on the type of business you’re running and what type of products that you are trying to sell. The best strategy is obviously going to be to combine both paid and unpaid marketing techniques. Remember that business at its core is a very simple and straightforward process. Business is all about making money. If someone sees the opportunity to make money by doing business with you, odds are that they will seize that opportunity with both hands.

It is also important to remember that once you have successfully built up a satisfactory customer base it’s important to hang on to this. One way that to do that is to treat your customers with respect and provide them with a first class service. In addition to that you can offer them loyalty schemes. Give them an incentive to continue to do business with you and your company, and they are bound to stick around for a long time.

So to recap, the important things to remember are:

Start a website
Identify your target groups.

Engage in networking

Work the phones
Targeted e-mail campaigns

Contact businesses and organizations
Publicity stunts

Contact blog owners about running ads for your business
Contact local media

Stickers on cars

Good luck!