Guest Post by Jodie Shaw
Small business owners often avoid creating a marketing plan due to fears over costs. This is to their own detriment, however, as marketing is an important part of the growth and stability of a small business.
Small business owners who ignore marketing and don’t make it a part of their yearly goals and budget are setting their business up for a stagnant year of potential profit regression. If you’re a small business owner who is intimidated by marketing and assume you can’t afford to put a strategy or budget in place, it’s time to get creative.
Small Business Marketing for Less
By creating a few simple and inexpensive ways to please customers and make a name for your small business, you can see steady growth. Here are three things to remember when attempting to develop a marketing strategy for your business.
Do Some Research
Before you can decide what’s important to include in your marketing plan and what can potentially be skipped for the year, you’ll need to delve into the characteristics of your target consumer. According to Inc. Contributor Mandy Porta, “Small businesses can effectively compete with large companies by targeting a niche market.”
Learn where the bulk of your repeat customers come from and cater your marketing plan to the mediums that will gain you the most exposure. If you decide that your target customers are reading the newspaper, you should consider running an advertisement that highlights one of your products. If most of your potential customers are on social media platforms, a sponsored social media advertisement or giveaway may give you the most exposure. Learning about your target market, where they look for products and what types of products you have that may interest them, will ensure you won’t have to spend a fortune on multiple advertisements through different mediums.
“Target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets,” writes Porta. “This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business.”
Implement Low-Cost Marketing Concepts
There are many ways to market your business and gain exposure for your products without spending any money at all. Since word-of-mouth is one of the most effective ways to gain new customers and referral sources, networking events can be worth attending.
Kevin Stirtz of Business Know-How recommends business owners set a time budget each week or month for networking. “Plan to attend a specific number of meetings or events at which you can network. Make sure your other tasks and responsibilities fit around these meetings. It’s best to balance networking with your other lead generating activities. This way you can measure the value of your networking leads against the time spent acquiring them.”
Most events are free or inexpensive — making them easy opportunities for networking with other business owners (as well as potential customers). You can use networking events to encourage people to visit your website and learn more about your business.
Get Creative with Free and Valuable Resources
With your expert knowledge of the industry you operate in, you have a lot to offer potential or current customers. By hosting seminars, writing blog posts or spreading helpful information on social media, you can get potential customers to start thinking about you (and your business) as a thought leader.
Additionally, you can start up a referral program to help encourage your current customers to talk about your business more. “Referrals are likelier to translate into more clients than leads generated through other marketing methods,” says Jonathan Long, VIP Contributor for Entrepreneur Magazine.
You can offer a referral program to current customers that rewards them for referring friends and family members to your company. Long also recommends establishing yourself as a thought leader, publishing case studies and your client list, and honing in on your niche to boost referrals.
Contests and coupons are also great ways to gain exposure and add value to your small business without spending a fortune.
Before you write off the concept of creating a marketing strategy for your small business again this year, take the time to consider these three ways to create a plan within budget. Your marketing doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. By using your creativity, knowledge, research and resources, you can satisfy your customers and gain new leads in fun and inexpensive ways.
Jodie Shaw is the chief marketing officer for The Alternative Board (TAB), a global organization that helps forward-thinking business leaders grow their businesses, increase profitability, and improve their lives by leveraging local business owner advisory boards and private coaching.
Featured Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash
Additional Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash