Many people associate marketing with television, radio and print ads, but marketing includes any tools or strategies used to spread awareness and good word-of-mouth about your business. Potential clients or customers typically need to see your business name several times before they will be willing to pick up the phone and dial your number. Good small business marketing does take time, so don’t expect instant results. Use marketing tools to plants seeds for future business opportunities. It can take three months or more to see results from most low-cost marketing strategies.
Business Marketing Points
Figure out what sets your business apart from the competition. Why would a prospective customer choose your business over other local businesses that provide similar services? Check out the competition. Make a list of all the things that make your business better. These will be your key marketing points.
Media Marketing: Submit Press Releases
Write press releases about anything your business does that is even remotely newsworthy. Submit your press releases to your local community newspaper and area newspapers with wider readership. When newspapers have a small amount of blank space to be filled, they often use press releases to fill that space. You will also be putting your name in front of local media representatives. If a reporter needs to interview someone in your business field, she is more likely to contact you if your name is familiar to her. Did your business donate to a local charity auction? Submit a press release. Do you offer a service no other local business offers? Submit a press release. Are you teaching classes or running a promotion? Submit a press release. If you have a website for your business, publish your press releases to a “news” or “press release” page.
Social Media Marketing
Set up pages on social networking sites solely for your business. Utilize Facebook and Myspace. Update your status at least daily, and list any special offers, sales or promotions. Ask current clients to “follow” or “friend” your business; that way, friends of your current clients will see your information as well. Remember to stay positive in your posts on social networking sites and avoid any political, religious or negative posts or comments. These pages represent your business, not your personal views.
Start blogging about your business and the services you provide. For example, if you run a massage therapy practice, write blogs about the different types of massages you provide, what first-time customers should know, and how massage therapy helps with different issues. Create two to three new blog posts each week. Share your blog posts on the social networking sites you created for your business. Use keyword research and search engine optimization to help web users find your blog. If you aren’t confident in your writing skills, find someone to ghostwrite your blog for pay or trade.
Marketing Communications: Newsletters for Clients
You can create an email newsletter that lists any specials, sales or promotions, links to your social networking pages, and information from your blog. Direct this newsletter to current clients and encourage forwarding to anyone who might find the information useful or interesting. If possible, include a special offer, discount or printable coupon that can only be received in the newsletter. Make sure you avoid spamming by always including a link to unsubscribe. Many online services, such as Constant Contact, offer tools to help design a newsletter as well as email database subscription services.
Marketing Communications: Newsletters for Referrers
It may be helpful to create an email newsletter for people who are likely to refer business to you. For example, if you run a massage therapy practice, you may get referrals from chiropractors; direct an email newsletter to local chiropractic care providers and let them know why they should refer their patients to you. Include information from your list of things that make your business better than the competition. If you offer any incentives for referrals, include that information as well.
Marketing with Online Classified Ads
Many people find service providers by searching craigslist.com or other online classified ads. Consider paying the fee to post ads in the appropriate section. Keep your ad short and to the point, but make sure to include information about specials, promotions and sales. Update your ads weekly.
Directory Listing Marketing
Find listings for your business on as many online directories as possible and check them for accuracy and completeness. Claim listings whenever possible. Find your business on online map services and claim those listings as well. Keep the information current.
Marketing with Referral Programs
Word of mouth may be the easiest, least expensive way to increase your client base. Create a referral program to reward current clients for referring new clients to your business. Include an incentive. For example, if you run a massage therapy practice, give the referring customer a discount on his next massage, or offer a free half-hour massage for every five paying referrals. Make sure all current clients are aware of your referral program. Always thank people for referring new customers to you.
Acquire Testimonials for Marketing
Ask current customers for testimonials about your business. Have a form for customers to fill out, and ask them to fill it out before they leave. Send emails to current customers asking for testimonials. Testimonials can be used on your website, blog, social networking sites and online ads. Make sure customers are aware that their testimonials may be published online.