BizTips: The 12 commandments of small business marketing
To effectively grow a small business and survive in tough times, you need to use all the marketing tools available to you. Marketing is an ongoing process that never ends, but changes along the way. Ignoring market changes or not using all the tools available is just asking for trouble. A small business owner needs to budget the money necessary and when money is short, do the things that cost little or nothing. Here are 12 things that will guide your sales in an upward direction:
–Thou shall know thy target customer – it doesn’t do much good to spend your advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, and promotion dollars where they don’t reach your target audience. Learn who your target customer is and use the correct media to reach them. Don’t waste valuable marketing dollars chasing the wrong prospects or advertising in the wrong markets. Analyze your sales and responses often to see if your target market is changing and adjust accordingly.
–Thou shall provide outstanding customer service – your customers will remember how they were treated in your store, on a sales call or on the phone long after the sale. Treat them with the respect, courtesy, speed and the friendliness they deserve. Ask for their input and pay attention to what they tell you. Make sure your customer contact personnel are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. And remember, customers are the most important part of your business, because there is no business without them.
–Thou shall know what thy competitors are doing – how will you know if you’re offering the best quality, service and value if you don’t know what others in your industry are offering? You need to regularly check their ads and web site, shop their store and get on their mailing list. Find out what new things they are doing and discover a way to do it better. Don’t ignore your competitors because they are not ignoring you.
–Thou shall find out what the customer really wants – you’re in business to satisfy the customer with the products and services they want to buy. How do you find out? Ask them, have surveys, response cards and a suggestion box. Once they tell you what they want, you must follow through or explain other options. Getting the customer involved will build loyalty and keep them coming back.
–Thou shall go after free publicity often – send press releases, write articles, sponsor groups and give speeches regularly. Teach a class at a local college and share your expertise. Sponsor a local charity where you can make a difference. You can always think of something new and different that’s informative and newsworthy. The cost of a stamp or email is all it takes to put your business name in front of the media.
–Thou shall deliver more than thou promises – when you surprise your customers in a positive way, it leaves a lasting impression. Little things like faster delivery, free refills, faster quotes, free delivery, free upgrades or a small gift with their order can help cement a business relationship. Customers will expect the ordinary, but give them the extraordinary. It can cost only a little but mean a lot.
–Thou shall use a web site and email – you don’t have to be a computer expert to have a basic web site, your customers will expect it even if they don’t visit often. Email is now used as much as the telephone, have an address and use it. Check your email often and reply as quickly as you would on the telephone. You don’t need to spend a lot developing a web site, check prices with smaller independent firms. Have links to contact you on every page.
–Thou shall reward customer loyalty – the customers who come back often are the ones that will help you grow and survive in tough times. Find a way to provide that extra service or bonus for them. Keep a preferred customer list so you remember who they are. Do special mailings to them and offer advanced knowledge of any sales you’re planning. Keep them informed.
–Thou shall use advertising and direct mail religiously – one time mailings or ads won’t pull the response you really need to grow and prosper. You need to remind your prospects over and over again. It’s a proven fact that repetitive ads and mailing give much higher results. Go after your target market only and don’t waste valuable marketing dollars in the wrong media.
–Thou shall test, test, and test – monitor your response so you know where you’re getting the most for your money. Direct mail pieces and ads need to be changed occasionally to entice the reader to take action. Find lists or media where the responses turn into sales and not just requests for free information or samples. Keep searching for new lists and media to test and retest, they are out there.
–Thou shall always look for new products and new markets – new products and services will expand your target market and create more sales with existing customers. Look for other markets to promote your current products in and increase your market share. Partner with other companies that can provide service to your market without being competitors.
–Thou shall ask for referrals – if you don’t ask, you probably won’t get many. Your current satisfied customers are your best source and will send you new business whenever they can. Offer some type of reward, discount, or bonus for referrals that turn into sales. Ask them for testimonials you can use with other prospects to show you have satisfied others.
Now think of other commandments that pertain to your individual business or industry and read them often. Print the list out on your laser printer and frame several copies to hang up around your store or office. Always put them where you can see them daily to remind you of your marketing goals. Goals without direction are just wishes. And, wishes won’t help you grow your business and be a success.
Barry Thomsen is the publisher/editor of the Small Business Idea-Letter and author of the book When The Shit Hits The Fan: How to Keep Your Business Afloat for More Than a Year. For a free sample of the Idea-Letter, go to www.idealetter.com or call (877) 700-1322.