I wrote an article for web distribution, I have had a word with Caroline and I am posting it all for you to read. I hope as small businesses yourselves you will find it useful. Please do not copy any of the article for your own use unless you make reference to me (Emma Ewers) and QVA as your source.
Marketing for Small Businesses in Tough Times[/u]
As a small business owner in the current economic crisis we face, thinking of spending your hard earned cash on marketing may be the last thing on your mind. But how are you going to keep your business going?
There are many ways of keeping your business in the limelight and out in the public domain. Although we are all feeling the pinch there are still customers with money to spend looking for your services, its just targeting them, from different angles and for the lowest possible spend.
Our top tips to get your business seen and ticking over:
Get on the web
Website - You may have a website, which may or may not bring in the business depending on your investment. Many small companies do not think that having a website is beneficial to them. Any business can benefit from having a website –it’s how you market it that counts and what you use it for.
A brochure site can be great for any business – you are not necessarily looking for customers to find you via your website but what a great way of putting all the information about you, your business, your goals and achievements, testimonials and even a portfolio of work in the public domain. No need to spend huge amounts on printing when you don’t need to and you can update the site regularly with any news and prices. Great when advertising in local publications, presenting a professional image to your customers.
Internet Directories – Whether you own a website or not this is a must for any business. Get registered on as many reputable internet directories as possible! Most are free and only require a small amount of information to be inputted. If you have a website these will help drive targeted and local traffic geared towards customers that are actually looking for your services.
Go social – Social Media Marketing is not a new craze but the value of sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace are becoming clear. Get your company registered and a profile up and running, if you already have a profile on these sites – use it to its full potential. Link your profile in with your business profile, invite your friends to become fans and go viral. Friends of friends will see your pages and services and you may even get referrals for it.
Get Blogging – A blog isn’t right for every business but keeping your customers and friends up to date with what is going on in your industry and ways your business can help can be hugely beneficial to you in the long run. Build a name for yourself in your industry and who knows what big leads it could bring in.
Use your e-mail contacts
How often have you had an enquiry from someone who has provided all of their details to you and in the end they have gone somewhere else? What did you do with their contact information, did you bin it? Or file it away for future use? FILE IT AND USE IT! As long as you make clear to your customers their details will be stored to receive future e-mails and special offers, this is not a problem, but make sure you are up to date with the data protection act to make sure you are within the law.
The customer that went elsewhere may have had a bad experience and will be looking again in the future, there is every chance they have not kept your details or even remember the name of your company. A gentle e-mail nudge with a “can we help you, don’t forget we are here” can bring in new prospects and even win competitors customers over.
Check out local advertising
Take the plunge – put an ad in your local free paper or circular, even parish magazines look for paying advertisers. It helps them keep ticking over and you are helping to support your local community. Some can be expensive so make sure you negotiate special rates if you plan to make advertising a regular thing with that particular publication. Only take out a small ad and measure the response, don’t waste money advertising with one publication that doesn’t bring in the customers. Benefits of local advertising often means subscribers or potential customers keep the publication back for when they may need a service you offer. Make sure your ad stands out from the rest; include a special offer or a discount for Senior Citizens.
Get recognised in the local press
Done something for charity? Raised money for the local school? Won or been nominated for an award? Send a press release to your local paper or contact your local correspondent. Coverage for small charities is great for raising awareness and much needed funds. You are showing your support to the community and may even be recognised for your gallant efforts at your next big client deal.
Do something unusual
If you really want your business to stand out from the crowd find unusual ways to market your business cheaply. Contact your local council and ask if you can sponsor a roundabout with flowers in return for a sign about your business, strategically placed, not behind a conifer!
Contact local theatres and community centres and ask if there are any productions you can sponsor and contribute to in return for a mention in their programme.
Love sport? Contact local football, hockey, netball, swimming and cricket teams and ask if you can help with any sponsorship for their next big game.
You can make 2009 and the credit crunch work for you if you strive to make a difference to your marketing campaign this year. It doesn’t have to cost you the earth and all the extra effort you put in should be well worth it in the end.