In this economy, you need all the help you can get to ensure that your business is noticed amid all the noise. Marketing is key, but which is the best approach to take? The first thing that may pop into your mind is to send out email blasts or hire a consultant. However, the first option can be very hit and miss, and the latter can be pricey. Besides, there are lots of things you can do on your own that are cheap or even free.
So get creative! Use the web and other resources at hand to try to rise above the fray and mark your business out as a winner.
Increase visibility in your community
Join local organisations that provide business networking opportunities, or start your own. Do volunteer work for a large charity. You'd be surprised at the marketing support such activities can bring.
Participate in online marketing groups
Search Twitter and other social networking sites for groups meeting to discuss marketing.
Submit information to blogs
Blog writers are always looking for content for their sites. Target appropriate ones and send them press releases or descriptive emails. Be polite, and bend over backwards to be helpful.
Reward existing customers
Offer an exclusive incentive to your regular customers – and only your regular customers. Notify them via email or other contact methods, and direct them to an otherwise inaccessible page on your website where the offer appears.
Get your customers to bring in new customers
Offer an incentive like a discount to customers who get a new customer to make a transaction with your business.
Spruce up your website
Stale sites don't attract business. Fresh, frequently updated websites show your customers you're a vibrant and active business. Let users subscribe to get update notices, then update frequently.
Provide free, helpful information to your customers
Such content should be related to your type of business and can include tips, hints, reviews, and other information that can help drive sales. For example, a business selling paint can provide a guide to selecting the best paint for different uses. Such informative content is often available from suppliers. Use it.
Use downtime for marketing
When business is slow, keep employees busy contacting customers. Create email marketing documents your employees can send to individual customers. Personal contact with customers gets results. Mass emails are less effective and, given today's email spam filters, may not be seen by many. Go for quality contacts rather than quantity.
Visit your own website frequently
Look for ways it can be improved. Too often, small business websites load slowly, are poorly organised, and are difficult to navigate. Fix bottlenecks that impede customers and look for ways to get customers to act. Make sure all links work and lead to up-to-date content.
Get active in the online community
Encourage employees to do the same. Don't spam discussion forums or other social sites, but don't be afraid to use signature lines containing links to your site. Establish common-sense rules for yourself and your employees regarding social networking and discussion sites, and always strive to be positive and helpful on them.
Check out your suppliers' websites thoroughly
Add links on your site to informative and helpful content on those sites. Many corporate sites offer instructional videos and other material that can inform your customers and lead them back to you, ready to do business.
Launch a blog on your site and update it daily
Nothing says "I don't care" like a blog on which the most recent entry is a week old. Assign this task to employees who can write and spell – an illiterate blog is worse than no blog at all. Introduce people to your company and its staff. Highlight products. Run contests and give away company swag. Announce specials and upcoming product line changes. Establish a "customer-of-the-month" tradition and do regular write-ups. Surely there's something you can say to your customers daily.
Use social media
If you don’t have a Facebook or Twitter page, your potential customers may well be asking themselves why – so sort these out. Take some good pictures of your offices and your employees (unless you'd rather leave those details to your customers' imaginations), or find some way to put a more human face on your company identity.
Getting new and potential customers to notice you is an ongoing – and sometimes uphill – battle, and one you can't ever stop fighting. Pick a new idea every week or two and implement it, no matter how small it is. Call a meeting of employees, order a pizza for lunch, and brainstorm; offer an incentive for ideas you implement. Before long, your marketing might just pay off in new sales – and happier, more involved customers.