04 Mar Cost-effective marketing for small business
If you run your own company, you may or may not be involved in the marketing duties. In some instances, company owners can afford to reach out and hire a marketing specialist to work onsite with them, while others take the option of having an outside firm that specializes in marketing do the job for them. Whichever way you determine to be best for your business, there are a number of factors that you should focus on, allowing you the best possibility of succeeding with your marketing needs.
Don’t hit the panic button – First and foremost, you will find your business going through peaks and valleys during the course of the year, so never hit the panic button. You may get the urge to scale back your marketing budget when things are not going well, but that is likely the worst time to do that. While you’re toning down your marketing budget, your competition is likely going in the opposite direction. Reevaluate from time to time what’s working and what isn’t working, giving you the guidance necessary to move around money and efforts if need be. Remember, the day you stop marketing could be the prelude to the day you close your business.
According to research from AWeber Communications, close to 70 percent of small businesses said they would be adding to their marketing budgets this year, with some 97 percent planning on doing no less than maintaining their present level directed towards marketing expenses. That being said, some well-known companies noted in the last year that they were scaling back their marketing over the next 12 months, with one even noting in hindsight, such a decision ended up costing his business customers and revenue. Those making headlines included:
1. Campbell Soup Co.stated last summer that it would reduce its marketing budget over the next year, placing new emphasis on distribution, merchandising and product innovations. In fiscal 2012, Campbell’s marketing got a piece of $100 million of new investment the marketer put forth toward brand-building, research and development and innovation for its U.S. soup and simple meals business. That investment came as the business looked to distance itself from major discounting, which executives noted failed to lift sales volume as planned;
2. HTC (mobile phone maker) reported that less money and effort towards marketing has actually hurt its business in the last year. In comments to the Wall Street Journal, CEO Peter Chou stated that the company’s competitors proved to be both too strong and resourceful, placing lots of funding into marketing, while his company did not do as much.
While both Campbell Soup Co. and HTC continue to make money, reduced efforts on the marketing front are definitely reasons of concern for top executives.
* Cohesive message – Whether you and your team do the marketing or you outsource it, make sure the message is one in the same. Your message needs to be clear and concise, meaning no confusion and questions for consumers. Make sure the foundation behind your message is solid, therefore allowing you to get a better return on your efforts. This brings us back to the question of whether or not it is better to outsource your marketing needs? On the plus side, you can put it in the hands of professionals who know the ins and outs of marketing, alleviating some of the daily tasks that you need to do to run your business. On the down side, you better than anyone else know your company, what makes it tick, and what its goals are. If you outsource the marketing, those strengths need to be conveyed to the individual or company;
* Social media – You may be the brightest and hardest working business owner going, but how involved and educated are you when it comes to social media? If the answer is not really, then you are missing out on a great opportunity to promote your company. Starting with social media, this should be a no-brainer, yet there are many businesses out there that fail to grasp how easy and effective this tool can be. Not only does having a presence on Facebook, Twitter and the other major SM sites give you instant access to a larger swath of consumers, but you can be tuned-in to their needs 24/7. You also can focus in on what is being said about your brand, both positive and negative. Lastly, social media is a good tool for you to put out any potential fires in the cases of negative information about you and/or your company. As more and more consumers turn to social media sites and online forums to talk about companies and their experiences with them, you want to be along for the ride;
* Blogging – Do you ever troll different business sites in your free time, only to be amazed how many of them do not have blogs? This is yet another great tool to promote one’s company, still many business owners either don’t want to take the time or fail to realize the potential of blogs. Your company blog is a great marketing tool in telling consumers what you offer, how you can stand out as an authoritative figure in your respective industry, and how you are up to speed with what is going on in your field. If you have yet to actively engage in blogging, take note that it needs to be relevant, update on a regular basis, and promoted. If you aren’t willing to do it right, then you’re probably best served not doing it at all;
* Relationships do matter – Lastly, how often do you reach out to your current list of customers? They may seem silly, but contacting them with a quick email or other form of communication on their birthdays, offering them special deals, and asking them if you can do anything else for them are all important. In a day and age when consumers have so many different options to choose from, building your relationship with them is key. When your customers feel valuable, they are apt to want to continue doing business with you. If you take them for granted, they may very well take their business elsewhere;
About the Author: With 23 years’ writing experience, Dave Thomas covers a variety of business and consumer topics, including physician reputation.