It’s often viewed as a “necessary evil” of business, creating huge expense with, sometimes, seemingly negligible results. Companies spend outrageous amounts on tricky websites and high-gloss marketing materials, but unless they ultimately convert prospects to customers, they’re a waste of time and money.
As a business owner/manager, you must choose the marketing methods that provide the greatest return on investment. Why not augment your choices with additional marketing at little or no cost?
Below are three marketing ideas with action and implementation plans. These ideas will cost you virtually nothing to execute and provide ways to:
• Enhance your company’s position in your market
• Highlight positive elements of the products or services you provide
• Increase your revenues and profits
Idea #1 – Create a Marketing Plan
This marketing idea takes no investment dollars at all, and will provide guidance throughout the year, yet it’s an idea that is missing from most small-to-mid-sized companies. Why? Maybe it’s because many business owners are intimidated by the subject of marketing. Maybe it’s because so many companies market “by the seat of their pants,” initiating marketing campaigns as they come upon ideas that are intriguing, while never creating a written plan. That method can be very costly.
A good marketing plan serves as a written map – showing the goal and how to attain that goal. It should be brief (one page max), focused and actionable. Use these steps to create a simple, effective marketing plan:
1. State the purpose of your marketing (e.g., to build a larger base of clients with whom you have
a growing relationship).
2. Briefly state how your purpose will be achieved (e.g., by creating regular contact with new and existing clients that demonstrates your value).
3. Define your target audience.
4. Describe the marketing methods you have chosen to use. Make this list as complete as possible.
5. Identify your company’s niche in your market.
6. State your “USP” (Unique Selling Proposition) so it can be a focus throughout your marketing.
7. Express your marketing budget as a percent of your projected gross sales.
Without a written plan for marketing, you will either spend too much, experience disappointing results or both. Make an investment in your time, allocate your dollars with a planned purpose, and reap the results.
Idea #2 – Reputation
Warren Buffet once said, “It takes years to build your rep – and seconds to destroy it.” Smart guy. Reputations are a whole lot easier to destroy than to build.
One way to damage your reputation is by not recognizing that the customer is always right (even when you know they are dead wrong). Training your staff in handling customer complaints so that the matter is amicably settled goes a long way in enhancing your company’s reputation.
Poor service will assuredly damage your reputation. If you can’t consistently meet or exceed a customer’s expectations, you’re better off suggesting an alternative solution. Also, if your marketing materials in any way convey exaggeration or worse yet, dishonesty, your reputation will be hurt. Stated simply, you must be the company that your marketing claims you are.
Negative word-of-mouth spreads faster than wildfire. If a person has a bad experience with your company, an average of 22 others will hear about it! And web communication only increases
those numbers. Be careful; your reputation is a precious asset. It will drive customers to you or away from you.
To build a positive reputation:
1. Advertising consistently with the same media because it can inspire confidence in prospects and build your reputation.
2. Show respect for your customers’ time through the efficient handling of their requests and through the flexible solutions you offer to their challenges. Your professionalism enhances your reputation.
3. Write an insightful column for an industry publication, online platform (LinkedIn may be a good option) or chamber of commerce blog, demonstrating your expertise and strengthening your reputation.
4. Instill customer care and client satisfaction as the number one concern of your organization. From top to bottom and bottom to top, everyone in your company must believe the customer is #1.
5. Monitor your review sites. Visit platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Glassdoor to find out what customers are saying about you. Read all the reviews – even the ones that sting – to identify potential problems. Focus on identifying patterns or themes to the complaints disgruntled clients post.
6. Work on improving the issues you can. Take a look at the patterns you identified to see what you can fix. While it’s impossible to please every customer every time, implementing one or two small changes could make a big positive impact on future reviews – and your reputation.
7. Generate more positive reviews. Dedicated exclusively to online reputation management, BARQAR makes it effortless for your company to build more positive reviews, limit negative ones and protect your employment brand. Give us a call to find out how!
Idea #3 – Publicity and Public Relations
It’s not what you know but who you know – and how you become known – that makes this marketing idea so effective at virtually no cost.
To attract publicity, you need to have news that is of interest to readers or viewers of the media you approach. It’s important that you become personally acquainted with the media people in charge of selecting the stories that will be covered. The closer your contact, the more coverage you’ll likely receive. These people could include managing editors, feature editors or business editors interested in your industry and/or niche.
You will need to uncover the names of these people and arrange to meet them – perhaps through other business acquaintances, LinkedIn, professional organizations that they belong to, or even informal social activities. Your responsibility is to meet them and to get to know them on a first-name basis. Then provide news that will really interest their readers (e.g., offering free monthly seminars on the “do’s and don’ts” of overcoming a common challenge they face, or offering a new service of interest to local businesses or consumers that is not currently available in your area). Send out press releases to your contacts and follow up with a phone call to be certain your story gets the proper attention.
Public relations is publicity that can have wonderful and occasionally not so wonderful attributes. On the good side, PR gives you loads of credibility and it doesn’t cost a dime. On the bad side, you cannot repeat PR and you have no control over what is said.
To generate your own PR, we suggest the following:
1. Do or create something “newsy” for the media. They want news worth reporting as much as you want free exposure.
2. Provide your news, a press release, a fact sheet, and a web-compatible digital image to the appropriate people at the appropriate media offices.
Again, follow up with phone calls. Be persistent. If printed publicity appears, make reprints and mail or drop them off to your clients and prospects. Frame a copy for your reception area where the maximum number of people will see it. And if you see the good news digitally, leverage it by sharing on social media, posting a link on your website or even forwarding the news item in an email.
PR is a great marketing tool for building credibility, but keep in mind, in this world, if you’ve developed the contacts, only then will you get the coverage.
Now that we’ve reviewed these three ideas, let’s re-iterate a couple of implementation steps that pertain to all of them. They are, in fact, essential to every successful marketing initiative.
1. Take time to create a plan for every marketing idea. Express every plan in writing.
2. Get buy-in from your staff. Without their cooperation and enthusiasm, any marketing idea will falter and ultimately fail.
3. Create a schedule so that everyone responsible knows the action steps to take and the dates for implementation.
4. Recognize that marketing takes persistence. You must “touch” your customer multiple times to experience a return on your investment. Good relationships take time to build.
5. Strong relationships require constant nurturing. These no-cost marketing ideas should help you without increasing your expenses.
Put BARQAR’s digital and inbound marketing experts to work for you.
True, our services aren’t completely free, but the benefits we deliver – higher quality sales leads, a stronger reputation and a better bottom line – will pay for your investment many times over. Need more info, want a demo or ready to talk numbers? Give BARQAR a call today.