Tag Archives: marketing

10 Low-Cost Ways to Market your Business

Too many small-business owners think marketing is like a trip to the dentist — something you just gotta do every six months or so.

But when marketing is continuous and targeted rather than occasional and shotgun, business gets easier. If prospects have a positive view of your wares and reputation before you call or before they start shopping, you’re that much closer to nailing a sale.

The next news flash is that ongoing marketing isn’t tied to a price tag. It’s defined only by putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

Here are 10 ideas for doing that — on the cheap.

1. Take steps to make customers feel special. Customers respond to being recognized, especially in these rush-rush, get-the-lowest-price times. “Even with a Web-based business, good customer service is possible,” says Denise McMillan, co-owner of Plush Creations (www.plushcreations.com), an online retailer of handcrafted travel bags. McMillan encloses a small, rose-scented sachet in every jewelry and lingerie bag she sells and also sends a handwritten thank-you note. “The sachet and note cost pennies but add something special to the purchase,” she says.

2. Create business cards that prospects keep. Most business cards are tossed within hours of a meeting. Instead of having your card tossed, create one that recipients actually will use — say, a good-looking notepad with your contact info and tagline on every page. “The business card notepad is referred to almost daily, kept for 30 days or so and carries a high remembrance factor,” says Elliott Black, a Northbrook, Ill., marketing consultant who specializes in small businesses.

3. Stop servicing break-even customers. If this idea makes you gasp, think harder. You’re falling for the fallacy of increasing sales instead of boosting profits. If you stop marketing to unprofitable customers, you have more time and resources for customers who actually grow your business. “More than likely, 20% of your customer base is contributing 150% to 200% of total annualized profit (TAP); 70% is breaking even; and 10% is costing you 50% to 100% of TAP,” says Atlanta marketing consultant Michael King. Take a detailed look at your customer profitability data and then direct premium services and marketing to customers who count. (Microsoft Outlook 2010 with Business Contact Manager can help you analyze customer histories.)

4. Develop an electronic mailing list and send old-fashioned letters. Most businesses have harnessed the power of e-newsletters — and you definitely should be sending out one, too. It’s very cost-effective. But exactly because e-mail marketing is now nearly ubiquitous, you can quickly stand out by occasionally sending personal, surface mail letters to customers and prospects. Just make sure the letter delivers something customers want to read, whether an analysis of recent events in your field, premium offers or a sweetener personalized for the recipient (a discount on his next purchase of whatever he last purchased, for instance). “This mailing has to have value to those that read it, so it reflects the value of what you offer,” says Leslie Ungar, an executive coach in Akron, Ohio. “Remember, the best way to sell is to tell.”The process is simplified by creating a letter template and envelope or customer label mailing list in Microsoft Office Word in Office 2010, which you can print out. The mailing list is easily created in Excel and then imported into Word.

5. Boost your profile at trade shows and conferences. You can quickly create signage, glossy postcards with your contact information, product news inserts or an event mini Web site — all with Microsoft Office Publisher. Check out its versatile features.

6. Combine business with pleasure — and charity. Spearhead an event, party or conference for a cause you care about. That puts you in the position of getting to know lots of people, and shows off your small business leadership skills. “I host an annual baseball game where I take hundreds of clients to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field,” says Kate Koziol, who owns a public relations agency in Chicago. “Last year, I took 300 people and we raised $10,000 for a local children’s hospital. Few people turn down a game and it’s a great networking opportunity for guests. It lets me reconnect with current clients and impress potential clients.”

7. Create a destination. Bookstore chain Barnes & Noble has its coffee bars. Furnishings giant Ikea offers child-care centers and cafeterias. Why? So customers gravitate to the stores to enjoy an experience, to hang out for a while. Sunday morning at Barnes & Noble becomes a pleasant weekend routine, rather than a shopping errand. Steal this idea. This tip isn’t limited to offline destinations, either. Using pay-per-click advertising, you can cheaply drive traffic to a one-time news event or specialty offerings, points out Jay Lipe, a small-business marketing consultant based in Minneapolis. Lipe set up a Web site for Games by James (www.gamesbyjames.biz), a retailer of board games, and quickly attracted customers via pay-per-click ads. “The effect was overnight,” says Lipe. “Traditionally in the marketing world, it takes weeks or even months to generate acceptable awareness and traffic. Here we saw traffic spike overnight.”

8. Become an online expert. This is the “free sample” approach to bringing in business. Research active e-mail discussion lists and online bulletin boards that are relevant to your business and audience. Join several and start posting expert advice to solve problems or answer questions. You may need to keep this up for a bit. But the rewards come back in paying clients and referrals. “E-mail discussion lists have been my single largest source of clients over the last eight years,” says Shel Horowitz, a small-business marketing consultant based in Northampton, Mass.

9. Court local media. Editorial features convey more credibility with prospective clients than paid advertising does. To get coverage from the local media, whether from the town newspaper, from TV or radio stations, or from trade journals, you need a fresh, timely story. It’s usually worthwhile to hire an experienced publicist to position the stories, target appropriate media representative and write and send press releases. Usually, you can work on a short-term or contingency basis.

10. Finally, don’t let customers simply slip away. Make an effort to reel them back in. It costs a lot less to retain a disgruntled or inactive customer than to acquire a new one. If you haven’t heard from a customer in awhile, send a personalized e-mail (you can automate this process), inquiring whether all is well. For a customer who suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone, acknowledging the unpleasantness and ask if there’s anything you can do. A discount can’t hurt either. Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do.

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/business/en-us/resources/marketing/customer-service-acquisition/10-low-cost-ways-to-market-your-business.aspx?fbid=uMphmXSrgZ2

Posted in Marketing Strategy | Tagged , , , , ,

Three Effective, Budget-friendly Ways to Advertise Your Small Business Online

Pay-Per-Click Ads
I’m always surprised when a small business doesn’t take advantage of pay-per-click advertising. Usually they reason it out of their budget by saying that it’s only useful for big companies with a widespread brand — that couldn’t be more wrong. Google AdWords, for example, is one of the most targeted forms of advertising you can buy into. They even recently launched Google AdWords Express , which automatically determines the most common search phrases for your type of business and plugs your ad anytime those phrases are searched for by someone who lives close to you. If nothing else, it increases awareness as people begin to see your business’s name pop up in their search results. It is also cheap, and the analytics are easy to digest, so there isn’t any reason to not test it out at least once.

Blogging
Cross-blogging remains one of the best ways for people to find out about your business, especially if your business is based online. You send in a couple of articles to different media outlets related to your industry from time to time, and people will begin to see your name, your picture, and the name of your company popping up all over the place. Remember, though, that you can’t just write advertisements and expect the readers to only want to read posts about how great your brand is. We cross-blog with a few different businesses, and while the majority of our blogging partners are great, there are a few who think assaulting readers with a blatant advertisement about their company is a good use of a blog post. When you do blog remember that what you write needs to convince the reader to trust you enough to take your opinion seriously. Look to writing up posts on how-to topics, stories about your successes and failures, and lessons learned in the business to start building up trust and a distinctive voice for your company. If all your post amounts to is ‘BUY MY STUFF NOW BECAUSE WE’RE THE BEST!’ that trust will not be built.

Social Media Marketing
And that doesn’t just mean using Facebook, even though Facebook is an important part of any good social marketing strategy. Small business owners sometimes struggle with social marketing, unsure of what kind of content or message they should be posting, or even where they should be posting it. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are the main three sites your business should have a page on. Facebook and Twitter have a strong user base, and Google features Google+ profiles in local search results, making it easier for your business to stand out from the competition. As for content, it is okay to occasionally advertise specials and sales – these deals are one of the main reasons people follow the social accounts of businesses – but mainly social marketing should be used to better connect with your customers and keep your business at the forefront of their mind. If you constantly advertise, they will either tune you out or unfollow your accounts. They are doing you a favor by following you and allowing your business to maintain this ongoing conversation, so treat that relationship with a bit of respect. Unless you outsource or hire someone else to handle them, the biggest expense that cross-blogging and social marketing accrue is time. Pay-per-click advertising, especially if you are a smaller business, costs very little. But all three of these new marketing channels can really help new customers find your business, as long as they are used correctly. A well-placed Google advertisement and active Facebook profile may not get you the same attention as a $4-million Super Bowl spot, but it will help your business to grow and establish strong relationships with your customers.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-sweeney/three-effective-budget-fr_b_3690082.html

Posted in Online Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Why Social Media Is Far More Important Than You Think

The growth of social media as an influencing factor in our lives is truly breathtaking.

91% of American adults who are online use social media. Nearly a quarter of the total time spent online is on social networks. There are now over 800 million Facebook users in the world, with more than 200 million joining in 2011 alone. Nearly 40% of those 800 million log in every single day. It is not just Facebook that’s growing either – Twitter is adding half a million users on a daily basis, and there is a new kid on the block that has managed to attract over 90 million users in just over half a year.

Why Is This Relevant To Me?
It is relevant to you because you own a brand. It doesn’t matter if you are a part-time blogger, a small business, or a huge corporation – you have a brand. And if you have any interest in furthering your brand, you cannot ignore social media. And social media doesn’t want to ignore you. Over half of social networkers follow a brand. Moreover, 56% of consumers say that they are more likely to recommend a brand as a fan. That’s right – half of your customers are just waiting for you to reach out to them, and they are primed to promote your brand for you. You may be shrugging your shoulders at this point. You probably already use social media. But I’m willing to bet that you don’t value the power of social media as much as you should.

The True Value Of Social Media Users
When it comes to the internet, a social media consumer is the best type of consumer. There is ample evidence to effectively argue that social media users are far more active and influential than the average internet user.

Gigya recently published data gleaned from their onsite social media login platform. Analysis of the data provides some pretty fascinating insights. They found that on websites with social login functionality, logged-in users spend 50% more time on site, and view twice as many pages, than those who do not log in. The data strongly suggests that statistically speaking, people always want to be social, regardless of where they are on the web.

But that’s not all – social media types will give you more money too. Take these statistics, for instance, relating to social media users:
• 75% are more likely to be heavy spenders on music
• 47% are more likely to be heavy spenders on clothing, shoes and accessories
• 26% are more likely to give their opinion on politics and current events
• 44% are more likely to give an opinion on television programs

Social media users spend the most, and are more influential on their peers, than the average internet user. They are exactly the kind of people you want to attract to your brand.

Here’s the kicker – even if you already pour an enormous amount of time and resources into social media, you probably aren’t doing it in the most effective way possible (best case scenario), or you are getting it completely wrong (worst case scenario).

So let’s explore what you should be doing to make the best use of social media in marketing your brand.

It’s Not All About Facebook
Facebook is undoubtedly the king in terms of market share, but they should not necessarily be the primary social media network that you target. Consider this – 40% of people who login via Gigya’s platform use social media logins other than Facebook. Nearly half of social media users prefer alternative platforms.

When formulating a social media strategy, you should consider the makeup and target demographics of your brand. Depending on who you are targeting, Facebook may make up less than half of your target audience. Consider these facts:
• Twitter has the wealthiest users
• Facebook has the oldest users
• Digg has the best educated users
• StumbleUpon is a haven for graphic designers

When it comes to dividing your focus amongst social media networks, you would do well to consider how your resources are best allocated. The StumbleUpon fact is there as more of a wildcard than an actionable piece of data – it demonstrates that there is much more to social media success than throwing all of your eggs in the Facebook basket.

The Importance Of Interaction And Incentive
As with many things in life, social media will only give you as much as you put in. The key to social media success boils down to two factors – interaction and incentive.

Interaction
The same Gigya study mentioned above showed that people spend the most time on websites when they are commenting. Or to put it more generally, visitors spend the most time on websites where they can voice and share their opinions. If you can engage with visitors to your site, they will hang around for longer. And the longer they hang around, the better exposed they are to your brand.

You can get ahead of the game when it comes to social media interactivity by following two simple steps:
1. Do not automate
2. Communicate

Auto-posting to Facebook decreases likes and comments by 70%. If you are going to autopost, you may as well not waste your time in setting it up and do something else instead. And nearly four out of every five consumers interact with brands on Facebook primarily through reading posts and updates from the brands.

Even though interaction is so plainly important, 95% of Facebook wall posts are not answered by brands. That’s a whole load of brands missing out on a whole load of potential.

Incentive
Increasing your follows or likes is not rocket science. Effective growth is generated by a strategy based upon a very simple principle – people will rarely do something for nothing. Generally speaking, people will follow you because they get something in return. The majority of people choose to follow a brand for one of two reasons:
1. They are already a customer
2. They want to receive discounts and promotions

The first group will take care of themselves – as long as you effectively promote your social media presence, they will come across you, follow you, and begin to spread the word. It is the second group that you need to focus on primarily. In order to gain their attention, you must incentivize. Don’t just slap up a Facebook page and expect the likes to roll in – give them a reason.

Takeaways
There is a lot of information to digest in this article, and a lot of strategizing to follow, no doubt. However, there are three clear and simple facts to take away:
1. Social media is vital to the growth of your brand
2. There are right ways and wrong ways of using social media
3. You should do it the right way

Social media does not have to be wildly overcomplicated. Just concentrate on offering value, incentivizing, and interacting.

The rest will follow.

Source: https://managewp.com/the-importance-of-social-media

Posted in Online Marketing | Tagged , , , , ,

The Importance of Marketing for the Success of a Business

The heart of your business success lies in its marketing. Most aspects of your business depend on successful marketing. The overall marketing umbrella covers advertising, public relations, promotions and sales. Marketing is a process by which a product or service is introduced and promoted to potential customers. Without marketing, your business may offer the best products or services in your industry, but none of your potential customers would know about it. Without marketing, sales may crash and companies may have to close.

Getting Word Out
For a business to succeed, the product or service it provides must be known to potential buyers. Unless your business is known in the community and have communication with your customers readily available, you have to use marketing strategies to create product or service awareness. Without marketing, your potential customers may never be aware of your business offerings and your business may not be given the opportunity to progress and succeed. Using marketing to promote your product, service and company provides your business with a chance of being discovered by prospective customers.

Higher Sales
Once your product, service or company gets on the radar screen of your prospects, it increases your chances that consumers will make a purchase. As awareness becomes a reality, it is also the point where new customers start to spread the word, telling friends and family about this amazing new product they discovered. Your sales will steadily increase as the word spreads. Without employing marketing strategies, these sales may not have ever happened; without sales, a company cannot succeed.

Company Reputation
The success of a company often rests on a solid reputation. Marketing builds brand name recognition or product recall with a company. When a company reaches the high expectations of the public, its reputation stands on firmer ground. As your reputation grows, the business expands and sales increase. The reputation of your company is built through active participation in community programs, effective communication–externally and externally–and quality products or services, which are created or supported by marketing efforts.

Healthy Competition
Marketing also fosters an environment in the marketplace for healthy completion. Marketing efforts get the word out on pricing of products and services, which not only reaches the intended consumers, but also reaches other companies competing for the consumers’ business. As opposed to companies that have a monopoly on products and services that can charge almost any price, marketing helps keep pricing competitive for a business to try to win over consumers before its competition does. Without competition, well known companies would continue to sell while lesser known companies or new companies would stand little chance of ever becoming successful. Marketing facilitates the healthy competition that allows small businesses and new businesses to be successful enter and grow in the marketplace.

Considerations
Although marketing is hugely important for a business to succeed, it can also be very expensive. In its first year, a company might spend as much as half of its sales on marketing programs. After the first year, a marketing budget can reach as much as 30 percent–sometimes more–of the annual sales. A marketing program that gives your company the best chance is a healthy mix of different forms of marketing, such as website development, public relations, print and broadcast advertising, design and printing for all print materials, trade shows and other special events.

Source: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-marketing-success-business-589.html

Posted in Marketing Strategy | Tagged , , , ,

How Your Online Reputation Affects Your Startup’s Bottom Line (Infographic)

By: Kristin Piombino | From: PR Daily

Your reputation is just as important today as it was in high school.

Except a hit to your brand’s reputation today will do more than hurt your social standing–it will hurt your bottom line.

During the next five years, 83 percent of companies will face a crisis that will negatively affect their share price, an infographic from Digital Firefly says.

You don’t want to be part of the 83 percent.

But a crisis isn’t the only time you should monitor your brand’s online reputation. Potential customers may sidestep your products based on other things they see online, like product reviews or ads.

Take a look:
•Almost 100 percent (97 percent) of consumers who bought a product based on an online review found the review to be accurate.
•Seventy percent of consumers look to online reviews before they buy.
•Seventy-five percent of people don’t believe companies tell the truth in advertisements.
•Nearly 90 percent (87 percent) of people believe the CEO’s reputation is an important part of the company’s reputation.

If you don’t monitor your brand’s digital reputation, you should. Check out the graphic for more:

Posted in Online Marketing | Tagged , , , , ,