Don’t ignore marketing because you think it’s time-consuming and expensive – you actually can’t afford not to market your business, product or service. Here a few ways to kick-start your marketing plan with a little time and a relatively small investment.
1) Local Media and Industry Publications.
Industry publications and local media are often looking for informative content to share with their readers, viewers and listeners. Offer to provide the local media with articles or radio interviews each month that demonstrate your expertise. You can even request topics and questions to be answered from the local audience. Industry-specific publications are another good place to share your knowledge on a monthly or quarterly basis. Industry pubs may have more of a national audience, so you should spend your time appropriately depending on your target audience. In either case, make sure that you’ll receive an appropriate byline and/or credit for all content you provide.
2) E-mail marketing.
E-mail costs virtually nothing, unless you secure a high number of contacts. In that case, you’ll need to pay for a service such as Mail Chimp or Constant Contact. When you ask for e-mails from your customers and prospects, let them know that you’ll only send them informative material on your company, and that you won’t share their information with others. You don’t have to get too fancy with your messaging, just make sure that you provide ideas and tips that actually help your readers. For example, if you’re a HVAC company, you may want to communicate the importance of heater and A/C check-ups and what types of maintenance programs you provide.
3) Ask for Referrals.
Happy customers are always eager to share their experiences with others. And, when you consider that the average Facebook user has 400 friends, your referral network can grow in a hurry! Include approved testimonials on your advertising materials, web site and social media pages. You may also want to consider a “Refer a Friend” program where your customer receives a Starbucks (or other small reward) for every new customer they refer. On a side note, make sure that your customers approve any pictures or testimonials that are being used in your advertising or social media.
4) Leverage Your Chamber of Commerce.
The local Chamber will provide plenty of networking opportunities and events to attend. You can probably even persuade them to let you host an event, if you have an appropriate office or building. Further, there are always committees and other opportunities for you to be involved with like-minded professionals and business owners. At the very least, you’ll get your name in their directory and at their web site. You may also want to offer your expertise by providing content for their publications, or invest in paid advertising if it fits your budget. You’ll have to decide if a Chamber membership is worth the investment, but most times the answer is “yes.”
5) Put on a free class, seminar or demo.
This is another opportunity to share your knowledge and help customers see you as an expert in your industry. Pick a topic that is more general in nature to attract the most people possible. Then, send a press release to the local media informing them of your event. You can also put the event date and time on your web site, Facebook page and Twitter account, in addition to handing out printed fliers to your customers and prospects. Be sure to share something of value, and then give your attendees reasons why the information is important as well as logical next-steps.
A couple more: Press releases to local media, social network pages, lunch-and-learns, and reactivation programs. More about those later.