Picture this scenario: you’re a small, bricks-and-mortar business owner operating in a highly competitive space with limited resources and you need to grow your business.
Because if you don’t, you know that your competitor sure will be.
So you think about hiring a marketing manager, but according to Pay Scale, you’re looking to pay anything up to $120,000, with the median more than $75,000. On top of that, CareerBliss has reported that a chief marketing officer is the happiest job, with CMOs paid on average $171,000 annually.
As a busy small business owner, you’re facing an uphill battle to find, and then afford, the best.
Perhaps you’ll turn to an agency. But it seems excessive to fork out agency fees to generate a few customer referrals. Plus, there’s no guarantee you’ll be getting good service.
That’s a huge risk for a hard-pressed business with a small budget.
Luckily, the tools and technologies are here for small businesses to take marketing in their own hands. It’s just about using them right.
The web is your first step: online marketing reaches a wider audience than print advertising. But don’t be fooled by the cheap lure of search engine optimisation, AdWords or display advertising. They’re old news for customer acquisition, particularly with Google and Apple allowing third party ad-blocking.
These methods aren’t worth your time: 84% of Millennials reportedly mute, or block, online ads while 74% lose faith if an ad looks fake.
As a small business owner, here are my top tips to help market your small businesses to new customers.
1. Leverage social media as much as possible
Only 31% of small businesses are on social media, yet it’s the cheapest way to connect with customers.
Look at the Sydney convenience store owner whose popularity on Instagram has turned his small business into a local institution. Meanwhile, more and more cases of businesses gaining huge followings on Instagram have surfaced and increased fans means more sales.
For all small and medium business that don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to social media, other alternatives include exchanging Facebook “check-ins” for free customer Wi-Fi. Once logged in, the customer’s friends can see where their friend has been, thereby promoting the business organically. On top of this, customers provide the business with their email address for future marketing campaigns.
With 82% of customers saying they refer to friends and family when considering a purchase, the power of social recommendations shouldn’t be underestimated. It also gives small businesses the chance to also boost marketing capacity.
2. Use a loyalty program to reward existing customers
Once you have a loyal group of customers, the next step is getting them back in the door and recommending your business to their friends and family. Remember how important those referrals from family and friends are.
Nielsen’s Harris Poll Online recently found 95% of customers aged 18 to 34 would share a product via social media or email if they had an incentive. For small businesses, this can be a game changer, particularly with the range of affordable loyalty programs available. For hospitality and retail businesses, companies such as Kounta have loyalty and reward programs that small businesses can add-on to point-of-sale systems.
3. Harness the power of customer reviews through technology
Reviews play a major role in deciding whether customers return or refer business. The worst thing a business can do is remove or doctor negative reviews, especially with customer scrutiny of businesses expected to increase this year.
The first step is always going to be maintaining a quality product or service and human connection with your customers. This will ensure the customer leaves a positive review in the first place.
But by using email automation, small businesses can also prompt customers for feedback. If the sentiment is positive, an automated follow-up email will request a review. This way, you maximise your positive review count and minimise the negatives. Software such as MailChimp can help with automated emails.
Michael Jankie is chief executive and co-founder of PoweredLocal, an end-to-end provider of WiFi to small businesses.