5 Low-Cost Ways to Market Yourself During a Recession
June 25, 2009
Small business owners often view marketing like a trip to the dentist — something that costs you an arm and a leg and that you just got to do every six months or so.
But when marketing is continuous and targeted rather than occasional and shotgun, business gets much easier. The rationale is simple: if prospects have a positive view of your products before they start shopping, you’re much closer to nailing a sale.
But sometimes even if small business owners are aware of this, economic slowdowns force them to do everything possible to reduce costs. They easily get intimidated by the numbers on the price tag for ongoing marketing. Marketing then comes to be seen as luxury only affordable to the Fortune 500 and uber-entrepreneur.
The truth is you don’t have to break the bank to market your business. Marketing can be free or at very little cost. Check out these ideas:
1. Internet, Internet, Internet. E-marketing is one of the most cost effective marketing strategies. If you don’t have a webpage yet, create one NOW. Millions of people search for local businesses on the Internet. Just remember to provide information that’s useful to the visitor in his decision-making. Also, use active social media, including online bulletin boards, social networking sites and popular blogs that are relevant to your business.
2. Let Your Story Be Heard. Editorial features are more credible to prospects than paid ads. To get coverage from the local media, such as the local newspaper, TV or radio stations, however, you need a fresh and newsworthy story. You need to target those messages to the appropriate media professional.
3. Encourage Referrals. Your customers are your best sales force and getting them to speak for you is extremely effective. Encourage satisfied customers to recommend you. This is an excellent way to increase your customer base. Consider a referral program that offers rewards like a discount, or give-aways to anyone who refers a successful sale. And don’t forget testimonials on webpages.
4. Stop Servicing Unprofitable Customers.[/b] It almost sounds too obvious to mention. But too often, the temptation of getting more business leads people to the mistake of increasing sales instead of boosting profits. But the fact is, 20% of your customer base is contributing 80% of total profit; 70% is breaking even; and 10% is costing you profit. If you stop marketing to unprofitable customers, you have more time and resources for customers who actually grow your business. So take a detailed look at your customers’ profile and then direct premium services and marketing to customers who count.
5. Make Efforts to Maintain Good Customer Relations[/b]. It costs a lot less to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. Use personalized e-mails to inform prospects/customers about your latest products/services and promotions, appreciate their business, send holiday greetings, and gather feedbacks. For a customer who suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone, apologize and ask if there’s anything you can do. Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do.[b]