Too often, SMEs focus too much on product and sales, and forget to promote the real business driver – the nut behind the wheel.
Use Easter to build your own success story
Easter in the northern hemisphere is associated with spring cleaning and preparing for sending the kids to summer camp. Why not take advantage of our shorter autumn break to take a leaf out of the word-of-mouth marketing books to give your business a boost.
Small-business owners tend to be very focused on their product offering, how to get more sales and where to advertise their services. At the end of the month that is what generates cash flow and keeps the bank manager at bay, but in the end it is the personality and performance of the owner that is the essence of the business.
It pays real dividends to take a little time out to review the keys to your success and to write up the stories that enable your friends and customers to become effective team members. People are always interested in what you have done to get where you are and look for the personal side of your path to achievement.
This is the essence of effective promotion: getting people to pass on and share interesting and entertaining aspects of your business story. This is often seen as a cheap form of promotion, but in fact you are central to the ongoing level of awareness and acceptance of your company’s marketing drive.
Every time you can engage your customers and members of your community in word-of-mouth promotion of your business, or in giving you testimonials to add to your website, you are able to harness the network effect to reach out to new market spaces that have the potential to build your brand reputation.
The first step is to take the time to jot down the central elements of your business story, and in particular the reason that you are in business; in other words, to create an increasing number of satisfied customers who want to tell others that you have the answers.
The main strength of local area promotion is its ability to obtain a large number of interested people at a low cost. This form of promotion is popular because of the ease of executing the marketing campaign, relative low-cost (compared to direct mail), good targeting, and the high and rapid response rate.
Here are 10 avenues to consider that will help build your success story:
- Identify your high-volume customers and send them a small gift and a thankyou note just before the end of the financial year. Let them know that you appreciate their support and wish them well for the coming year.
- Produce a small newsletter that you circulate with your products and services that includes a bit about yourself and your experiences with particular customer problems that have been tackled successfully. Encourage the customers to pass the newsletter on to their friends.
- Encourage word-of-mouth referrals and ask for testimonials that you can place on your website or include in your emails to customers and friends. Get people to include your website in their contact list by asking them to cc you when they have passed your name on to their friends so that you can be ready to respond.
- Write a little about the way that you are developing new products and services and invite readers to send in tips and comments that will lead to better offers and make sure that you are aware of competitors’ developments.
- Enable your suppliers to know how you are using their products and services and invite them to suggest ways that you could promote each other’s business to mutual advantage. They can help by including your email or web details in their contact lists and encourage more people to see you as part of their own distribution chain.
- As your business expands into new marketplaces, make a habit of dropping in to the local newsagent, post office, coffee shops and local customers to leave your contact card or brochure.
- Give away samples or give prizes to local sporting and community organisations for their fund-raising efforts so that you become personally known as a friend of the local community and consider also small “gifts with purchase” as people enjoy the freebies you deliver.
- Contact the editor of the local newspaper in every area in which you know that you already have established customers and encourage them to write about the way that your service is helping the local community. It of course helps if you start by discussing small spot ads that promote your message and give your email and website details.
- More established small and medium-sized enterprises with a few staff can rapidly expand their promotion effort by assigning local area promotion activities to each team member and giving them a bonus for each customer that comes on to the newsletter list or refers another prospect. Internal market promotion of this type has major value in retaining and attracting good staff.
- All of the above elements can be incorporated into a consistent viral marketing strategy that builds upon your personal relationships and your reputation for timely and quality service. A good website for more on effective viral marketing for growing enterprises is Dr Ralph Wilson’s Six Principles of Viral Marketing.
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