Marketing need not be a mystery or expensive. For many business owners who are tightening their belts and reducing expenses, marketing expenditures are often the first to get trimmed.
The truth is, marketing should always be a constant, no matter the economic conditions. Whether you have a limited budget or you are looking for new and low-cost ways to promote your business, we asked experts from The Alternative Board for some out of the box ways that you can still market, even when money to do so is sparse.
1. Amplify customer recommendations
Word of mouth is still the most potent form of advertising. The truth is, prospects will trust and believe what other people have to say about your company more than what you promote. Plus, most buying decisions these days are accompanied by an internet search.
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No online reviews, older reviews, or an anemic number of reviews could be hurting your brand. So leverage your loyal customer base to generate online reviews. Send an email and ask your customers to write a review on Yelp, Google, or Facebook. For Business-to-Business services and products, ask for a LinkedIn Recommendation. Great reviews can also be used on your website and social channels for further amplification.
Jodie Shaw, CMO at The Alternative Board
2. Use Video Blogging
Another way to market your business and services for next to nothing is through video-blogging.
The process is simple. If you have a Zoom account, it's even simpler! Create a 1-3 minute discussion on a topic related to the services you provide. Tell them how to get more information or contact you at the end of the video.
Then upload it to your YouTube channel. It costs nothing to create and can be promoted for your personal brand or in your company name.
Once you have the short video uploaded, tell everyone about it through a series of posts on LinkedIn (giving them the link to the video); Facebook, Google business, etc.
Then repeat every week. It is always good to map out about 13 weeks of topics that naturally follow and support each other, describing the aspects of your service and how it benefits your customer base.
Try it, it will significantly up your marketing and branding game.
Mike Kozlik, President at The Alternative Board, Alabama
3. Make Your Case
Create a series of Case Studies to highlight how your product or services provided results and value for your best clients/customers. Video or written case studies allow you to tell your story by telling your customer's experience with your company or brand.
Keep it simple and consistent in look, feel, and format. Once created, they can be promoted on your website, social media, blog, newsletter or emailed to prospects to help land an appointment or as a follow-up.
It's also a great exercise to gather your leadership team and create your own "greatest hits" list to help identify the stories you want to tell. This process builds excitement and confidence by focusing on your "wins". Once you have the list, reach out to those clients and get their permission, feedback, and quotes. Most are excited to be "featured" and will help spread the word for you.
Lee Freeman, TAB Business Owner Florence-Myrtle Beach
4. Join a Chamber Committee
If you are already a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, consider joining one of the working committees. One that relates to your line of business would be optimal. Other than your time, there is no additional cost to you.
By giving your time and experience to your local business community, you are not only helping them, but you are gaining both credibility and a deeper relationship with your network within the Chamber of Commerce. While it is not a quick strategy, it is a reliable one.
People want to do business with what they know, like, and trust. Joining your local Chamber committee can help you with all three.
Doug Kerr, Owner at the Alternative Board Etobicoke/Mississauga
5. Leverage LinkedIn
If you're a B2B business and you are not leveraging LinkedIn to build awareness of your offering and attract customers, you are missing a tremendous opportunity to market your business for next to nothing.
There may not be a more affordable or efficient way of reaching thousands of your prospects - but you've got to approach this in a precise way. A common rookie mistake is to write posts all about you and your product or service. You will be disappointed in the results this approach will generate, and it will accomplish little towards building either your brand or your sales. By contrast, an expert tip is to re-frame your message from your target audience's point of view and how you and your product or service solves a significant problem they need to address. This makes your message all about them and may get them to stop long enough on your message to generate a response.
Another rookie mistake is to write content that is too wordy. Most people have too much to do and too little time to do it. Instead, follow this expert tip: brief posts work far better than long ones. If your message addresses a key problem or opportunity for your prospect and it looks brief to pause and read - it will multiply readers - and more readers increases the likelihood of a positive response for your product or service. A powerful way to keep your message brief is to limit the words by also using a brief video. In our multimedia world of sound bites, a quick video is an effective way to attract your prospects attention. Plus, as they say, "that picture paints a thousand words", so your post will need fewer words to convey your message, garnering more readers.
Expert Tip #3: if your audience is local (versus national or global), personalize your message to your area. For example: "Top 3 tips for generating sales" can become "Top 3 tips for generating sales in the Boston area". If your market is local, you become a stronger topic matter expert to be listened to (or followed) by customizing your message in this way.
Expert Tip #4: Your prospect does not know your sales process, so tell them the next step to take in your process. This is sometimes referred to as a "call to action". Whether the next step is an event, submitting contact information so you can send a valued resource in reply, or simply sharing a call - make the next step in the process clear.
Your LinkedIn posts will elevate your visibility as a topic matter expert - capable of solving an issue that is important and urgent for your prospects. By using the expert tips above (and by avoiding the rookie mistakes), you will be amazed by your ability to market your business for next to nothing.
Wm. David Levesque, Owner at The Alternative Board - Rochester
6. Email as a promotional tool
It all starts with the basics. First, make sure your email matches your domain. I can't tell you how many businesses I come across that are using a Gmail as their primary company email vs. having an email address that matches their company website domain. For example, John Smith owns XYZ LLC, and his company URL is www.xyzllc.com. His email should be firstname.lastname@example.org, not email@example.com. Your company email must reinforce your business, and with most domain hosting packages, you get free email addresses, so take advantage of them to market your business.
And second, all business owners should have a Google My Business page and make sure it's filled out completely, including adding FAQ questions and posting updates at least weekly. It's free and having an engaging Google My Business page helps a lot with organic search.
John Mousseau, Owner at The Alternative Board - Jersey Shore North
7. Narrow your focus
We are all familiar with the 80/20 rule, and it's likely that 80% of your sales volume comes from 20% of your customers, or some formula close to that. If you find yourself with a limited marketing budget, it makes sense to target those dollars towards the prospects who match the profile of your top customers or clients.
These clients generally fit well with your strengths or areas of expertise. Ideally, they pay well, and the margins are higher. I am often surprised by how many companies have not identified this group and made them a priority. It's hard because often focusing on this group means saying NO to some segment of your business, and that can be a scary thing to do. Build a "persona" not just by type of business but traits of your contacts. The more common things you can find, the easier it is to target your efforts. More times than not, this may reduce your marketing budget because you realize you are spending money marketing to clients you don't want, and your methods for reaching the ones you do maybe less.