So, you have a small business and you want to build your customer base, but you have a limited budget, right? Well, there are some rules of thumb and a couple of ways to increase your reach for free! I’ll cover them one at a time and then mention some other tools that can bring big returns for a small investment in time and treasure.
First, your most important advertising medium is your current customer or client. On the average, a pleased customer is responsible for bringing in 5 new faces. A displeased customer can result in untold damage. Both results are free, but only one ends up going to the bottom line. A customer you have already served will be a lot less costly to keep than generating a new one. The rule of thumb here is to do whatever necessary to keep your clients or customers happy and ready to patronize your establishment again and again. What is necessary? Deliver at least what you promise. Above all, be courteous and insist your employees be courteous. Listen to complaints carefully, and deal with them immediately; learn from them. When a customer is dealing with you face to face or over the phone, demeanor is everything!
Your marketing plan should be the driving force for attracting new customers and creating your individual “brand.” The first step is to make sure you claim your listing on various local online directories. This is free to do and will make your business more available to be found by search engines. Email newsletter marketing, though not completely free, can be very reasonable and can even be automated. The key to any form of marketing in today’s overcrowded, busy world, is to offer real value.
A final word on using other media to help build your brand. These aren’t free, but can be very effective if used properly. “The newspaper is dead” say the pundits. “The smart phone has sealed the fate of print media” they pronounce. Well, I remember when the parents of those same pundits were predicting the death of radio when television started its boom. Radio evolved, yes, but it hardly “died.” The same will be true of print media, it will evolve, change its’ approach, but will not die away. In the meantime, the shrinking of advertising income to newspapers and local interest magazines can benefit you, because now there is less competition for the reader’s eye in every issue, so if your advertising is crafted well, print media can work extremely well for you.
Speaking of radio and television, the expense ratchets up with these media, but should be considered within an overall brand building marketing plan.
I know, you’re saying “What about blogs and other social networking tools?” Yes, they can be effective and free. However, if you are going to utilize them properly, keep in mind that you will have to devote a significant amount of time each and every week in order to keep them effective as a marketing vehicle.
I’ll write more on this subject, but enough for now.