I know, you own a small business and seem to be plagued by salesmen trying to sell you newspaper advertising, magazine ads, coupon book inclusions, radio spots, TV spots and various online marketing arrangements. Depending on your business, some make more sense than others. One shoe doesn’t fit all feet. Not all deals being offered you are the next best thing since the invention of the cupcake, but when carefully chosen, some of them can contribute significantly to your business.
First of all, decide what you want to accomplish; increase traffic, increase the average dollar value per sale, build your brand, thank your customers for their loyalty, or any other goal. That goal must be clear in your mind before deciding on your marketing methods. A lot of tools are available for free or little cost and a good small business consultant can be worth his weight in gold by helping you sort out the many options open to you. As a general disclaimer, let me assure you that this is not an ad for my services, unless your business is in Collier, Lee or Charlotte Counties, Florida.
In my dealings with small businesses at first, there seems to be a resistance to hearing what the sales person or consultant has to say, the assumption being that everything is a scam. Granted, there are a lot of companies as well as unprincipled sales people willing to take your money and give little in return, but in 95%of the cases, a quick search of Better Business Bureau sites as well as a search of the company you’re checking on with the term “review” or “scam” added, will alert you to the red flags you should be aware of. When I am considering a new company to represent to my clients, I thoroughly vet them this way before even making contact with them. If you are considering taking advantage of an offer being made, take the time to do your homework, then pose questions to the sales rep in order to dig even deeper. In some cases, where a company is growing so fast that its customer service needs overwhelm its staff, a veritable snowstorm of complaints will result. If the company is obviously addressing these problems, it probably is aggressively trying to accomodate the unexpected growth. If complaints remain unanswered and never dealt with, that may be an organization to stay clear of. The mantra here is, do your due diligence before commiting your hard won funds.
Sometimes there actually is a free lunch. When I approach a new potential client, I always recommend that they make sure they claim the generic business listing that is available to them for free in most of the search directories. I offer to do it for them at no cost in the search directory I represent, then they can basically cut and paste that information from that directory to as many others as they wish. Their cost is only time.
Local search and local coupon marketing is growing exponentially, but only 11% of eligible businesses are taking advantage of it either by doing it themselves for free or contracting with a marketing company to do extensive work at a reasonable cost. It is a highly specialized field, so the investment in true professional help is well worth the expense.
Your business can’t prosper without clients or customers, so you have no choice but to invest time and/or money in developing and executing a realistic and affordable campaign.
Once your plan is designed, there are two things you must attend to in order to decide how effective the various parts of your plan are. The first is tracking. No matter what form of advertising you are using, you need to know how effective it is. On line marketing is easy to track and you always want to make sure that the analytics are provided to you. Print advertising can be tracked by including a coded box number or other method of separation. Radio and TV can be tracked by using a different response phone number. The second is testing. No matter how pleased you are with the results of an ad or coupon, test another version. You then choose the one that’s most successful and test again. Doing this wil constantly improve not only your marketing campaign, but also build your education and effectiveness at advertising and understanding the needs of your customers.
Remember, your comments and questions are always wecomed on this blog.