How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

How Content Marketing can benefit your small business

The Content Marketing Institute, which is an online resource for information on everything marketing related, defines content marketing as…

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action”

Stuart Miles (7)The key word here is ‘valuable’ content; content that will speak to your customers, content that they want and need, maybe information that solves a problem they have. In order to do this, you need to know your existing customers and research and get to know your prospective customers, so you can deliver that all important content. It may take some time to get it right, but when you do, you will have the opportunity to expand your business, build your reputation and ultimately be known as an expert in your field.

Once you can provide the right kind of content, it brings much more to your ‘table’.

More traffic to your website

If you can solve a problem that your customers have and write about it on your website, when potential customers search online for a solution, they will visit your site. Stuart Miles (6)Depending on what you do, that could lead to a sale or a request for your services…and they are likely to return to your site in future.

If you can find a way to tailor your content to your target customer’s needs and wants, they will trust you and you will get repeat business.

More sales

When a person finds a site they like, that speaks to them personally, or they feel that it speaks to them personally, they will return again and again. And if they are returning, they are more likely to turn into customers. As everything is online these days, we all turn to the internet if we want to buy something; I like to read about what I want to buy first and find out as much as I can about that product before I buy it. I am more likely to buy from a business that knows what they’re talking about and one that seems to know my needs.

Enhances your brand

It sounds a bit rude to say this, but it is fundamentally true – people are generally interested in themselves, in their likes and needs. This isn’t about being selfish, it’s human nature. When someone first looks at your website or interacts with your David Castillo Dominicibusiness, they are not in the least bit interested in your brand, no matter how hard you’ve worked on it. They are more interested in what you can do for them. If you provide something that makes their life easier, less stressful, and cost-effective and generally entertain them, they will then become interested in your brand as they will see it as something they relate to.

If you are consistently publishing new, unique content on your blog or website and then promoting it on social media, more people will get to see your name and start to relate to the things you write about. If they like what they see, they’re more likely to tell their friends and so your audience starts to grow and they become more aware of your brand.

Content marketing is cheaper than other forms of marketing

The title of this last section basically says it all. If you can research and write your content yourself, it is more economical as you’re not spending money on getting someone else to do it for you. You’ll also learn so much from the research you do, that you’ll find more content as you go.

Stuart Miles (5)When you publish your content on your blog or website, make sure that you promote it on every social media site that you have…with maybe a jig around of the title or introduction. You can also contribute to larger sites to get your name out there.

Finally, with content marketing, you are attracting customers to you because they’re interested in what you have to say…and ultimately they will come back again and again.

If you want to influence your audience to your way of thinking and to look at your products or services, you must provide them with something they want or need, be their solution, show them that you provide valuable content and that you value their custom.

 

Images courtesy of 1-3 ) Stuart Miles, 4) David Castillo Dominici 4) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Find your niche and market, market, market

Find your niche and market, market, market

If you’re going to make a success of marketing your business, you need to hone in on what is the best niche for you to be in. What will sell well? What will make you the most money?

You might like everything you do, but in order to be a successful business, you need to be able to distinguish your brand from your competitors, find what you are really good at and establish yourself as a dominant leader in that area. Even the biggest names can’t be everything to everyone; there are always going to be those small groups of people who need a particular product or service not met by the bigger companies…which is where the small business can step in.

What are you good at? 

This first question is probably the most important. It’s not ‘what would you like to be good at?’ You need to be really honest with yourself – where do your talents really lie? VladoWhat skills do you have? What do you enjoy doing? Once you have decided what you are good at, make a list of your skills and talent in that area. For example, if you love knitting, crocheting and sewing, which one do you excel in?

Once you know which you are best at…let’s say knitting for example, then you need to look at what skills and talent you have. So, it might be knitting baby clothes, knitting adult clothes, knitting toys – put the things you enjoy making most at the top of the list and so on, down to the ones you least enjoy.

What do potential customers need from your list? 

This is where you need to do some research. Of the things you are best at making, what is popular? You can look on Etsy, eBay and Amazon – are the products you are good at making doing well? Make a list of the things people need from your list of what you do well…then look at these questions and do some research.

  • Do you solve a particular problem for customers?
  • Is your product(s) something that people will come back for time and time again? This is important for repeat business.
  • If there are other people selling the same as you, can you offer something unique that they don’t?
  • Who does your product appeal to? Can you expand that to include other groups? For example, if your product appeals to an older age group, can you make it more appealing to a younger audience. The bigger your product appeal, the more you will sell.

What will people pay for?

Now you know what is marketable, which do you think people will pay the most money for…put your products in order of price…from high to low. You now have your niche – your list of the products you like to make, that you’re good at making, that have a potential audience and that are sellable.

Market, market, market

Now you have your niche and know what is marketable, it’s time to actually market it. If Stuart Miles (3)you are a small business, marketing is all the more important as you won’t necessarily have a huge brand following, nor the money to spend on expensive and extensive advertising. So, what can you do to market your niche effectively and on a budget? I have written a couple of previous blogs about this; ‘How to promote your small business online’ and ‘Marketing your small business with little or no money’. Please take a look as you may pick up some great tips.

You should try to spend at least an hour a day promoting your business…and some things are much easier than others – here are some quick tips to help you market that all important product…

  • Always remember that YOU are your business. No matter what you do or where you are, everywhere is a business promotion opportunity. Your image largely reflects on your business. Although we all try not to, most of us do judge people on our first impression of them…so make sure that you always give a great first impression.
  • Always carry business cards as you never know who you might meet and if you don’t carry them, you could be missing an opportunity to get someone to contact you.
  • Can you leave flyers or business cards at places where your potential customers are likely to be…at the gym, hairdressers, beauty salon
  • Talk to people wherever you go – if you’re in the Doctor’s surgery waiting room, strike up a conversation with someone…too many of us sit in silence in these places…do you take your children to sport’s events? If you do, you’re likely to be hanging around with other parents…talk to them. There are always opportunities to strike up conversations and promote your business.
  • Attend networking events…again, this puts you in front of potential customers face to face…sell yourself and your business
  • Sponsor a local event or charity – or run a small event for charity in your own home or garden
  • Host a seminar or training event and share your skills – a great way to get your business name out there
  • Team up with someone who has a business that links to yours and promote each other’s business on social media sites and on your websites
  • Give your website/social media pages a facelift to keep it fresh

There are many other small ways you can promote your business and, as I said earlier, it doesn’t have to cost the earth – the most valuable thing you can invest in your business is your time.

How did you find your niche and how do you promote your business? I’d love to hear from you, so please get in touch.

Images courtesy of  1) (in title) – scottchan,  2) Vlado and 3) Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Build a positive brand identity

Build a positive brand identity (2)We all want our businesses to stand out from the crowd. Although it takes some time and effort, it’s worth it to have a unique identity that is instantly recognisable. Here are a few ideas that can help you along your way to having your own brand identity.

You may not think it important for a small business to have a brand, but having a brand is one of your greatest assets. Lots of big companies try to look like small businesses in order to appeal to customers who prefer to support smaller, independent brands. Your brand isn’t just about your logo, slogan and design scheme, but also about the experience your customers get at every touch point with you.

Stuart Miles (6)The first thing to do is to think about a mission statement for your business, which is a short sentence about what your purpose is. We all know Nike’s tagline, ‘Just Do It’ but did you know that their mission statement is ‘To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’. So their mission statement encapsulates everything that the company is about and wants to achieve in one short sentence. This is no mean feat, but achievable for your business with a bit of thought. You could always get a few friends round and have a ‘get my mission statement’ party…but make sure you work on the statement before you start drinking…or you could have some very interesting stuff!

It can be easier to think of your brand as a person – what does it like or do? How does it help people? What do you want customers to remember about your business? It’s important to be consistent across everything you do and give the same high quality service and friendly attitude to every customer, so they all have the same or similar experience. This is especially important if you’re dealing with a complaint – be consistent; apologise; find out what went wrong and why and then try and put it right, keeping the customer informed. By doing this you can often turn a complaint around into something positive and turn the complainant into a loyal future customer. I think that the main thing to remember is to always consider your branding with every interaction with a customer.

So, now that we’ve looked at the experience you want your branding to give you customer, it’s time to look at the more practical stuff – business name, logo, colours and design – these are important and help shape your brand, but you need to know what the mission statement of your business is first before you begin, as this helps everything else fall into place.

Choose a business name – what name you choose will depend on what you do. I chose to use my name, coupled with what I do ‘Cindy Mobey Freelance Writer’ – does what it says on the tin. But you might want something that is catchy and captures the nature of your business. Think long and hard as once it’s out there, that is how people will see your business.
Logo – Once you have your name, you could incorporate that into a logo – again to make your business recognisable. As well as an overall logo, you could also have smaller logos for individual product lines.
KeeratiBrand Colours – The colours you choose are more important than you might think – according to research by web design and marketing company, WebPageFX, people make a subconscious judgement about a product in less than 90 seconds of viewing, and a majority of these people base that assessment on colour alone. In fact almost 85% of consumers cite colour as the primary reason they buy a particular product and 80% believe that colour increases brand recognition. Wow! That’s quite powerful.
Tagline – The most important thing with producing a tagline is to be succinct. Your tagline captures what your business does and its values in one, very short sentence. For example, Nike use ‘Just do it’ – L’Oréal use ‘..because you’re worth it’ – both very powerful brands with very simple, catchy taglines that tell you what they want you to remember about them. In order to help you come up with your tagline, concentrate on the features of your business, how your products make people feel. Make a list of all the good things about your business …do your products enhance someone’s life?…make them feel more beautiful?…provide solutions to your customer’s problems? Then brainstorm words that describe those things – it might be worth getting a few friends together to help you brainstorm. Once you have a few words, you can come up with a tagline.
boulemonademoonFonts – When looking at your brand for the first time, people will notice the colours and also the font – the way the brand name is written. There are so many different fonts, so try and choose one or two that enhance your business name…for example if you sell vintage jewellery, look at a vintage font.
Tone of voice – Most big companies go for straight forward language or the ‘plain English’ approach. This helps customers easily understand what you’re saying without having to wrestle with big words, long sentences or jargon. Keep the language simple and friendly and you can’t go far wrong!

I hope this has helped you think about what you might like your brand identity to be – let me know if you have any other ideas, or if you need help to set the brand identity for your business.

Images courtesy of 1 & 2) Stuart Miles, 3) Keerati 4) boulemonademoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Grow your customer base

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ID-10086506Our customers are the lifeblood of our businesses, so it’s crucial to gain new customers and to retain the existing ones. At this time of year, I’m always thinking of ways that I can grow my customer base, so after a brainstorming session, here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with…

Collect email addresses

It’s a great idea to take your customers’ email addresses when they buy or contact you. You can use these addresses to let them know of special offers or to send them your newsletter. But, please note that the data protection act states that you need to have written permission from customers expressly saying that they agree to be contacted via email or to receive a newsletter, (they agree to opt-in), so please ensure you get their permission.

Newsletter

Research suggests that people don’t like to part with their email address unless they are going to get something in return. A monthly or bi-monthly newsletter is a great way to let your customers know about your business, what’s new and any offers you have running. A newsletter needs to be of value to your customers, so include…

  • Relevant information about your business and what you can do for them – people are interested in what value you or your products can add to their lives
  • Details of special offers or new products
  • Valuable, unique content that customers can’t get anywhere else. The more valuable your emails are, the more people will sign up

imagesNF5Z7BI7Develop a calendar for your newsletter, planning specific activities that run throughout the year, for example, something around special times of the year; Valentine’s day, Easter, Christmas, Halloween etc. It’s also important to promote your newsletter everywhere; on your website (via an opt-in link or ‘sign up to our newsletter’ page; put it on the bottom of your email signature or on invoices and receipts; include details in any order you send to customers and if you speak to a customer on the phone, ask if they’d like to receive regular updates from you about your products.

Events

If you go to an event, or have a stall at a market, there are ways to attract new customers…

  • Have slips of paper where people can give you their email address – include a statement saying they agree to opt-in to your newsletter and maybe have a fishbowl or something similar where they can ‘post’ their slips
  • Give away small samples in exchange for an email address so you can let them know about your products and future promotions
  • Include your business card and a flyer with every purchase, which gives details of your website and newsletter
  • If you’re at a tradeshow, you might want to run a short presentation on a laptop giving details of your business and what you can offer customers

Recommendations and referrals

Don’t be afraid to ask your existing customers for a recommendation. If they like your products and are happy with the service or services you provide, they will be happy to write a few words stating just that. Then you can publish this recommendation on your website and social media pages. Potential customers viewing your website will be able to read your recommendations and know that you are trustworthy and provide a fabulous service. It’s reassuring for new customers to read about how a previous customer has been satisfied.

You can also ask your customers to refer you to their friends and family. You could provide an incentive, so if they recommend you and that person becomes a customer, they get 10% off their next order.     

Survey

ID-100349134Ask for your customers’ opinions on your products or services. Is there something you could be doing better? Customers like to feel valued and it is good customer service practice to ask a customer what they think, listen to their answer and act upon it. It shows you listen. You could run a short survey and ask opinions – again, give an incentive to reply. You could put something like this at the beginning of the survey in the introduction… “We place a high value on our customers, so we would like to ask you to take five minutes of your time to answer a few questions about the products and services you receive from us. If you complete this survey, you will receive 10% off your next order as a thank you for giving us your opinion.” People like to be asked to help, like to give their opinion and most of all, like to get something in return so they feel that their opinion matters to you.

Provide great customer service

When asked why they go back to the same business over and over again, people often say it’s because of the friendly, helpful person they interact with. Customers remember if they are treated well and a positive customer experience will result in repeat business. Going the extra mile to meet your customers’ wants and needs is part and parcel of giving good customer service.

ID-100245378How do you ensure you provide good customer service? Well, firstly make sure that there is a clear and easy way for customers to communicate with you – in person, by phone or email and that when they do contact you, you reply in a timely fashion. Always have a positive and friendly outlook and attitude to your customers. Pay particular attention to any customer concerns or complaints. If a customer complaints, they are giving you the opportunity to resolve a problem – if you do this in a fast, effective and friendly manner, they will remember that and refer you to their friends and family. Always remember that the reputation of your business relies heavily on providing excellent customer service.

‘How to…’ leaflets on your website and/or video on YouTube

  • Produce ‘How to…’ leaflets or articles on your website. People love a freebie – promote on your social media sites
  • Produce short, instructional and informational videos on YouTube and a link to it from social network sites, website and blogs

These are just some ideas on how to grow your business and get more customers. If you have any other ideas, please let me know…I’d love to hear from you. Contact cindymobey@outlook.com

Which Social Media Platform?

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There are so many Social Media platforms to choose from – how do you know which one will be right for you?

The most popular, according to a report by eBizMBA Rank in September 2016, is Facebook, which is hardly surprising as it is very user friendly. The report gives the top 15 platforms, so let’s take a look…

facebook-iconFacebook – The top of the pile with an estimated 1.1 billion unique monthly visitors. Facebook is a social networking site that enables people to connect with friends and family, sharing photos, videos and status updates/messages. It can be used for fun or for business. It is estimated that over 1 million small businesses use Facebook and is very popular with small business owners in France.

youtube-iconYouTube – After Google, YouTube is the largest search engine with an estimated 1 billion unique monthly visitors. It’s where most people go to watch or share video content. It covers every single subject you can think of from popular music videos and films to Joe Bloggs down the street falling off his skateboard! Anyone can post personal videos or share content.

twitter-icon


Twitter
– With 310 million unique monthly visitors, Twitter is a real-time public network, where you often see breaking news first! Twitter limits its users to 140 characters per post, but businesses still use it to interact with clients and pass on information.

 

 

linkedin-iconLinkedIn – This is a social networking site for professionals. With 255 million unique monthly visitors, LinkedIn members post a profile of themselves, very much like an extended CV. Users can promote themselves and their businesses, connect with other businesses and even apply for jobs or ask for work.

 

linkedin-iconPinterest – This is a fairly new concept, but with 250 million unique monthly visitors, it is fast becoming popular. It’s an image-based visual platform that allows its visitors to create digital bulletin boards where businesses can pin their content. As more than half of its members are women, it’s a great place for businesses whose target audience is largely female should think about being a part of.

 

google-plus-iconGoogle Plus + – Google Plus or Google+ is an interest based social media platform with 120 million unique monthly visitors. You can post photos and status updates on your profile or you can post to specific communities or groups. Specific communities are set up for different subjects so you can post blogs to specific themes. There’s multi-person messaging, text and video chat called Hangouts and you can run events. It’s a very versatile platform.

 

tumblr-iconTumblr – Tumblr is reported to be one of the most difficult platforms to use, but also one of the most interesting. With 110 million unique monthly visitors, it must be doing something right! It is a cross between a social networking site and a blog – often known as a microblog site. You can post photos, audio, video, quote posts, chat posts and blog posts and you can re-post in the same way you can re-tweet.

 

instagram-icon
Instagram
– This is a visual platform, much the same as Pinterest, with an estimated 1 million unique visitors. Posts are mostly connected to travel, food, fashion and art and it has video and photo editing features.

 

 

reddit-iconReddit – This is a little different to the other sites – it is still popular, with an estimated 85 million unique monthly visitors, but the content is voted on by the visitors to the site. It is still a social media site, more of a community where posts are identified by topics, such as technology, music, etc. Users submit links and posts that are of value are ‘upvoted’ and those that aren’t are ‘downvoted’. The voting determines where the post sits on the site – however if your post/link hits the front page, it is seen by hundreds of thousands of people – sending a huge percentage of them to the linked website!

 

vk-iconVK – I have to admit to not having heard of this one! VK is short for VKontakte – a social media networking site where members can add friends, gain followers and post photos. However it is a largely aimed at Eastern European visitors, particularly Russian. In fact it is the most popular site in Russia.

flickr-icon
Flickr
– This is an imaging and video hosting platform. It is very popular for those wanting to share and embed photographs. With an estimated 65 million users, it is still up there with the best!

 

 

vine-iconVine – This is fairly new but with an estimated 42 million unique monthly users, it is worth a look. It’s a video sharing app, only compatible with iOS and Android devices. You film short instances in 1-2 second bursts. The app will talk you through your ‘vine’. The app will ask you to your finger down on the screen for 1-2 seconds. After that, it will ask you to film two more times. Vine then puts all three of those 2-second shots together to make your first vine. It’s a good way to show a fast timelapse video using lots of short film bursts. I don’t know this one either, but guess it needs to be seen to be understood – I am going to investigate!

 

meet-up-iconMeetup – The Meetup site says that it is the world’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 9,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities. With 40 million monthly unique users, it’s obviously working well.

 

ask-fm-iconAsk.fm – This is a question and answering service. You set up a profile and pose a question, either on text or on video. You can ask one particular person or you can ask the whole group. Typical questions are things like ‘What would you do if you won the lottery’, or ‘What kind of car would you buy if money were not an issue?’ It could be useful for the small business – there are always questions we’d like to know the answers to or to ask peoples’ opinions on things. There does seem to be an issue with the site in that people ask questions anonymously, so you don’t know who’s asking what and some of the content can be sexually orientated and abusive…and there is a worry about children using the site. However, with 37 million unique monthly users, it is in the top 15 social media sites.

 

classmates-iconClassmates – With an estimated 15 million unique monthly users, this is the last on our list of 15 top Social Media sites. Classmates sought to help users find classmates and colleagues from kindergarten, primary school, high school, college, workplaces and the US Military. You can sign up for free and send emails to those you want to get in touch with, but you are not able to get the reply unless you pay a joining fee. Once you join, Classmates automatically renew your membership annually and getting out of your ‘contract’ has been found to be difficult.

Well, that’s the full 15 top Social Media sites as at September 2016. As you can see, they are a varied bunch, but all are designed to help people interact with others and share information, photos, videos and messages. If you have a small business, they are a great way to get your brand name, products and services out there. I would probably choose to stick with the more popular sites, but of course it’s up to the individual which site you’d like to choose – just be aware that some may not be as good as others. I will be looking at Vine though as it sounds like it could be a lot of fun – not necessarily for business, but just for a giggle!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about and learning about the different sites and I’d love to know which is your favourite? Put a comment in the box below to let me know which one you like best and why…and if you’ve been inspired to try something new!

How to promote your small business online

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In this day and age, where technology is easier than ever to access and where most of the population use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+ or one of the many other social media platforms, you can’t afford not to have your business online. If you have a small business, it’s also worth considering setting up a website. These are the two online vehicles I’ll be talking about in this blog.

Why have a website?

id-100249653Having an online presence not only puts your business in front of a huge, global audience, it can help you get more sales and enable you to become more ‘real’ to your customers. The internet never takes a nap, gets distracted or falls asleep, so once you have your online presence, your business has the potential to be working for you 24/7. Customers can see your products and services in their own time, whenever they feel like it, so whether they work 9-5 and go online in the evening or whether they are night-shift workers and search for what they want during their break (at three in the morning), they can find you. More importantly, if you sell products and have an online store, a customer can order from you as soon as they feel the urge…they don’t have to wait for a shop to open at 9am, by which time they might have changed their mind. And they don’t have to travel to get what they want – whether you live in their neighbourhood or whether you lives hundreds of miles away, they can still buy from you.

A website gives potential customers the chance to check you out. What do you sell? What services do you offer? What is your business all about? What are you like? Your website builds your brand – online reviews from satisfied customers conveys the message that you are trustworthy; that your products or services are good; fills them with confidence in choosing you above your competitors. Your website can do all this…without you having to be there!

If you haven’t got a website yet, but would like to, click here for a very helpful site, which takes you through the process, step by step.

Social Media

id-100255669Using Social Media is the most common way to let people know your business exists and to build your brand. Social Media networks have millions of customers passing through them every single day – some of them will be your new customers. If you run a social media campaign for your business, or publish useful and high quality content on a regular basis, you can slowly, but surely build your online reputation. I don’t mean constantly bombarding people with images of your products with the hard sell, but taking the time to tell your audience what your product or service can do for them. Solve a problem, answer a question, show them that your products or services are worth buying or using and why.

However, Social Media is not a quick fix for your business – it’s an easy way to promote what you do, but it takes time and effort on your part to make it work and to build up your businesses reputation. Also, once you are on a particular social media platform, you need to monitor it to make sure you answer any questions or queries someone may have posted and to deal with any potential complaints or negativity.

Top 10 sites   

id-100282617Once you have decided to go the social media route, you just need to decide which one or two to go for. There are loads to choose from, but here are the top 15 sites, compiled in September 2016 by eBizMBA Rank – a US company. http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites

  • Facebook
  • You Tube
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • VK
  • Flickr
  • Vine
  • Meet-up
  • FM
  • Classmates

You don’t need to use them all – it’s better to pick a couple and be brilliant at knowing how that one works for you, than to be on several that you know little about.

Email Marketing 

Email marketing, simply put, is the method companies use to send a message to a group of people using email. Sometimes it is used to send out adverts or maybe to inform id-100426841customers about a new product. However it is effective for small businesses to use this method to send out a monthly or quarterly newsletter. This can be written in a friendly, chatty way and is a great way to stay connected to your customers. You just need to collect email addresses of new and existing customers and, most importantly, ask them if they would like to receive your newsletter. You MUST have their permission to do this, so good to have a form they can complete online on your website to ask to subscribe. You can then use it to let them know about any special offers or discounts, inform them about new products and generally tell them a bit about your business and how it works. It’s a great way to stay in touch with customers and build customer loyalty.

These are just three ways to promote your business online. Which method do you find the most effective for your business? Please comment in the box below.

Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net   

Marketing your small business with little or no money

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When you run a business, be it a large corporation or a small home-based business, we all know that at some point we have to dig into our pockets and spend some of our hard earned cash on marketing. But if you’re feeling the pinch, or are just starting out, here are a few tips on how to market your small business with little or no money.

ID-100110228Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google + are all social media sites that can help you market your business for free. Set up an account and get going. Not only can you share details of your products and services, but you can also personalise to show your human self…what you like, what your interests are. Share articles of interest and inspirational quotes, pictures…anything that you think people will like to see.

Email – in order to use email, which is free, you need to collect email addresses of current and potential customers. How do you get email addresses? Give away something for free – people love free stuff. It doesn’t have to be a physical thing; you could give away free information. For example if you are a crafter, you could give away a free information sheet on how to crochet, sew a simple item. The only proviso is that people sign up for your monthly/quarterly newsletter – then send them your newsletter, which is packed full of information about your business, special offers and details of your products or services.

Ask existing customers to refer you to friends and family – offer an incentive for them to do this. For example, you could say that for every five customers that they refer who buy something from you, they will receive a 10% discount.

True stories – Use a real example of a problem you’ve solved for a customer, with a quote from them about how great you are! Turn this into a blog post, an article on your website or add it to your newsletter.

ID-100349134Survey your customers – Send your existing customers a survey. Ask them about the products or services they have bought from you. Ask them what they like best about your products/services and use the information you gain to improve your offering or to promote your business. At the end of the survey, ask if it is ok for you to publish any of their comments….if they say ‘yes’ you have more recommendations and possible stories. And report your survey results in a blog or an article.

Write a blog – Keep in the forefront of your customers and potential customers’ minds by writing a regular blog. There are lots of free hosting sites out there – it just takes your time to get it up and running and to blog on a regular basis.

Have a website – It’s always good to have a website, where people can easily find you and see all your products and services in one place. Make sure it is easy to navigate and engaging.

Free directories –As well as all the directories that you can pay to be in, there are loads of free directories out there. Get your business listed in all the free ones you can find.

Attend networking events – Sometimes these events are free and sometimes you have to pay a small fee to join in. Attending these events is important as you’ll meet other people with small businesses. The purpose is usually to share information and experiences. If there are none near you, how about setting up one in a local community centre or pub?

ID-10035801Enter a business award competition – There’s nothing better than being able to say that you’ve won an award in a specific competition. Even if you don’t win, but are shortlisted in the top ten, it’s still something to shout about. If you do happen to win, you can advertise the fact on your social media pages, on your website, in your newsletter etc. You could also put it in your signature.

These are just some of the ways you can market your business. If you have other free or very cheap ideas on how to market a small business, please feel free to share…

Images courtesy of 1) Master isolated images 2) fantasista 3) nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

Do you speak the same language as your customers?

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To be successful in business, you need to really understand your customers, know their likes and dislikes. But in this age of increasing technology, are you losing the basics on how to speak the same language as your customers?

Why is it so hard?

  • Due to the internet, social media and ‘easy to navigate’ online stores, your customers and potential customers have a huge array of choices, as well as the cost comparison sites to help them. Customers have more power than ever before.
  • ID-100164372Customers tend to be less loyal and much less trusting these days. They will think nothing of flitting from one company to another, depending on who is the cheapest…and easy access to the media means that they read a lot more about customer experiences so are more suspicious than they used to be, the trust has waned.
  • Customers are constantly bombarded with data on their social media sites and through spam email, causing an overload, which makes it harder for them to make decisions about what they want.

When you weigh all this up, it’s not hard to understand why you don’t know what your customers want.

How to find out what your customers want

The quickest and easiest way to find out what they want is to simply talk to them…yeh, just talk to them – why is something so simple being forgotten?

When was the last time you picked up the phone to speak to your customers without a hidden agenda….just to say ‘hello’? So, why not arrange to meet some of your customers face to ID-100372771face – arrange a coffee morning. Show them that you care about their custom and that you’re genuinely interested in them and their businesses. Ask them how they approach problems in their business and ask them to describe how they deliver value to their customers. Listen carefully to their replies.

Ask them to describe your products and services? Are there any particular words and phrases they use? Ask them what they think of your competitors – listen to how they describe them, what words and phrases they use. Take note of their language and how they describe things and use the information to adapt the language of your marketing, use their way to describe your products….if you’re using their language, they will more easily identify with you.

If you talk to your customers on a regular basis, asking them questions about the products they’ve bought (not necessarily just from you) and listening to what they have to say; their ID-100291427worries, concerns and frustrations, you will learn what makes them tick. Listen to the questions they may have about your products and services, including any objections or criticisms, and ask them how you think you could solve any problems.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but for the small business, talking to customers can have a huge effect on how customers view you and your business. Everyone likes to feel valued and, by talking to your customers, you’re showing them you care about them and their opinions. If you also go ahead and put some of their suggestions into practice, they will feel even more valued…and are more likely to be loyal to you and your business. So, cut out the fancy, long  words and heavily descriptive text, just describe who you are, what you do and who your products and services are aimed at.

ID-10075421Nothing will increase the popularity of your brand than speaking plainly in language your customers can understand.

Good luck and get listening to your customers – they will teach you how to speak their language and give your business the ‘thumbs up’!

 

Images courtesy of 1) Feelart 2) kapongza 3) Stuart Miles 4) kookkai_nak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

Attracting new customers versus retaining existing customers

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When we think of marketing our businesses, most of us focus our attention on getting new customers. It always feels more constructive and is more financially appealing to gain new customers, but unless your business is a new one, it is worth looking at how to gain more value out of your existing customers too.

New customers

ID-10058851Who are they? You may want to attract new customers to build your customer base. In order to find those elusive ‘first time buyers’, you need to think about who you are trying to attract. What kind of customer does your business appeal to? Is it men, women, families, people who like sport? Think about who you need to target.

Where are they? Once you know who you are targeting, you can look at where they are and how you can contact them – are they online or offline? Are they in a particular area? If you are selling sports items for example, you know that you could find your potential customers at the gym or at health clubs.

How do you contact new customers? If your customers are online, you could target them through social media, blogs and forums. You can advertise online in business directories or online publications.

For offline customers, you could advertise in local free papers, put out flyers in places you know they will be, such as gyms, health clubs, hairdressers or beauty salons, for example. You could also attend networking meetings or conventions where you can meet new people face to face. Always carry your business cards, so you can give them out or leave a small stock wherever you go.

Solve a problem

ID-10018705You need to be seen as an expert in your field, so try and solve a problem for potential customers. Think of something that your products can do for them – this gives them a reason to try your products. It might be that you sell beauty products and you have the latest ‘big thing’ that makes wrinkles disappear! Sell your product as a solution to a problem and people will want to try it. This could be done face to face, or you could write a specific blog on a particular product or service you offer.

Collaboration

It might be that your products or services work well alongside another product or service. So, team up with another business and sell your products or services together. For ID-10086506example, if you sell beauty products and you know a hairdresser, you could team up as a full beauty package. Link to each other on your websites and mention each other in your blogs.

Obtaining new customers is all about building new relationships, so take every opportunity to do just that.

Retaining existing customers

We all want to grow our customer base, but if you focus on growing your existing customers, you are more likely to keep them. If you have lost customers, have you ever taken a step backwards to work out why? We all spend a lot of time and effort trying to get new customers, but we must never lose sight of keeping a relationship with our existing customers.

Repeat sales

Once the initial sale has been made, it’s important to build on that relationship….thank them for their custom and remind them why it was such a good decision to buy from you in the first place. Getting to know your customers and giving them what they want will create loyalty and they will return to you again and again. I once employed a general ID-100283685builder to lay a patio…whilst laying the patio, he mentioned that he was Corgi registered, so I promptly booked him to service my gas boiler. He always arrived on time, cleared up after himself and was chatty and friendly and made me feel that my custom really mattered to him. So, when the massive wall that surrounded my property partially came down in very high winds, he was the first person I called. My point is that from doing a small job, he ensured I knew what else he could do, left a card, and was so friendly, I remembered him. I knew he could solve the problem I had and trusted him to do the work well.

Bringing back old customers

Do you have customers that you haven’t heard from for a while? These customers know you and your products already, so it’s a matter of getting back in touch and reminding them that you’re still here. You could ask them why they’re no longer buying from you, ID-100148914endeavour to overcome any problems, and show them that you still value their business. Sometimes, all it takes is to reintroduce yourself – a customer may just have forgotten that they had bought from you in the first place and immediately be interested in other or new products you have to offer. If you sell gift items, contact them in plenty of time to buy gifts for Christmas…and of course, that can be your opening gambit!

Customer Service

ID-100245378I know that I bang on about customer service in most of my blogs, but it is so important to every aspect of your business. If your customers have an exceptional experience, they will come back for more. Helpful, friendly, go the extra mile – all these things, along with an excellent product that solves their problems, will keep your customers happy…. and happy customers are loyal customers.

 

Images courtesy of 1) renjith krishnan 2) Salvatore Vuono 3) David Castillo Domenici 4) hywards 5) Mister GC 6) stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net