Small businesses often complain that a lack of budget restricts the opportunities to successfully market their businesses. Too often they confuse advertising with marketing and believe that placing an ad in the local newspaper will keep the customers coming in.
Below are five simple strategies that small businesses can implement TODAY. The cost to implement them is minimal if not free and they will do more to drive customers to your business than the majority of your current marketing activities. The list is by no means exhaustive, there are thousands of ideas out there but here are five to get you on your way.
1. Offer a guarantee
Guarantees often come in the form of money back guarantee. But by thinking laterally small businesses can provide guarantees that communicate their brand promise clearly and effectively. Guarantees also help to build trust, differentiate you from competitors and create a perception of a reduction in financial risk from the customer. Some examples include:
– Guarantee of product quality. “If your not completely satisfied with your haircut we will give you a full refund”
– Guarantee of service. “We will deliver your new bed tomorrow, guaranteed!”
– Guarantee of price. “We will beat any competitors advertised price by 10%”
– Guarantee of product range. “The largest range of lawnmowers in Sydney, guaranteed”
These are just some examples, the sky is really the limit but make sure your guarantee is strong and is consistent with your brand promise.
2. Create a simple special offer.
The best special offers are often the simplest. They can be as simple a offering a free item with every purchase or even a small gift for entering a store during a specific time. You can also cross promote with other retailers to drive customer traffic. Some ideas are:
If your targeting mothers aged 25-40 with your clothing store you could offer a free balloon (with your logo on it) to every child that comes into your store. It provides a positive experience for the mother and a useful point of distraction for the children so the mother can spend more time looking at (and buying) clothes. Offer a free coffee at a nearby coffee shop for every purchase over a certain value and provide products to the coffee shop for a reciprocal offer. Special offers don’t have to be expensive to, just try to make them valuable to your target audience and time sensitive to try and create a sense of urgency.
3. Start a loyalty program
When we think of loyalty programs we think of the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program or Woolworths Everyday Rewards amongst many others. The concept is the same in terms of generating customer loyalty but for small business they can be really simple. As an example, any coffee shop that does not have a “Buy 10 coffee’s and get one free” loyalty card available are losing revenue as we speak.
I’ve seen a coffee shop take this one step further and have a card file on the front counter where frequent coffee drinkers can leave their card. What a great idea! The card file ensures that their customers don’t forget to bring the card and that the card owner always returns to purchase the coffees. This idea can be applied across most small businesses including hairdressers, corner stores amongst many others. The key is to give your customers a reason to keep coming back to you and not your competitor.
4. Capture an email list of your best customers
Many local small businesses such as clothing stores, restaurants and hairdressers have a list of loyal customers that keep coming back time and time again. In many cases, the only contact small businesses have with these customers is when they return to the shop or salon. All small businesses should aim to capture a list of their best customers on the basis that they will be offered exclusive discounts and offers as part of being on the list. Wineries are particularly good at this where they offer exclusive vintages to their best customers. The winery is often able to sell through the vintage directly to the mailing list and the customer gets an exclusive wine that isn’t available at the local bottle shop. A win-win for both.
5. Host an exclusive event for loyal customers & friends
Loyal customers like your business already and by being loyal they are often the customers that generate positive conversations about your business. You need to make them feel special and give them an opportunity to introduce their friends to your business. Now that you’ve captured their email address, you can invite them and a friend to an exclusive event. Some thoughts are:
– An exclusive preview after trading hours of your stores new summer range of clothing with champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a 20% discount on all clothing. Exclusive only to those on your email list.
– You’ve just introduced a new type of manicure to the services you offer at your beauty salon. Invite your customers to an evening of free manicures and champagne to showcase the new service and say thanks for their continued loyalty.
Exclusive events are a great way to show your customers how much you value them and provide a great way to promote new offers within your business.
6. Under promise and over deliver
Yes it’s an oldy but still a goody. And to illustrate my point I only offered you five marketing ideas in the beginning but given you six. Over delivering does not have to cost you anything. It can really be anything that exceeds the expectations of your customers and creates a positive impression about your business. Some examples are:
– Tradesman that provide additional service over and above what was quoted.
– A discount given to loyal customers outside of sale periods.
The opportunities are endless. The benefits of over delivering are that it gives your loyal customers a reason to talk about your business. It also gives them a reason to recommend you to others and can stimulate referrals that lead to new customer relationships.
These six simple strategies are easy to implement and hopefully they have stimulated your creative juices to come up with ideas for your business. Let me know what you’ve come up with by leaving a comment.