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12 Small Business Marketing Tips That AREN’T Social Media

12 Small Business Marketing Tips That AREN’T Social Media

1. Printed Postcards.

Print out a fun, funny, or otherwise engaging postcard that doubles as an advertisement and use it as a mail out to prospective clients. Something of this nature is far more likely to reach customers then a standard advertising mail out. It is also more likely to be passed around and hung on to.

EXAMPLE: I spoke with one client who used this to great success in her market area. The postcards were so successful in engagement, that during one cold call, she noticed one of them hanging from the company fridge.

The Why: The success of a post card can be traced to its content. It consists primarily of an image and only the necessary text. Our society is increasingly image driven, with brief attention spans. The image compounds on our natural tendency to be drawn to imagery and the brief text is enough to present a quick brand statement, without losing them.

The postcard mail-out is not meant to make the sale, it is meant to generate the lead by drawing traffic to you and your website.

BONUS: Postcard’s are extremely budget friendly and dollar for dollar have one of the highest advertising impacts.

Marketing success is directly related to content. Keep it fresh (image source marketingassasin.wordpress.com)

2. Variety Works! So Don’t Be A One Trick Pony.

While relying on the same tried and tested techniques is not a bad thing, variety substantially increases advertising & marketing impact. Try varying your approach and rotate your tactics. Consider these points:

  • Customers, have a short attention span. Changing your approach will ensure that they don’t become numb to your efforts.
  • Customers want to matter. When they see that they are worth an effort, and not just a “programmed mass mail-out” they feel important, and that in turn means they are engaged.
  • Repeating the same thing over and over, breaks several key marketing rules (and besides, it is lame). You get bored and so do your customers.
  • Marketing & Advertising are all about showcasing your business and ingenuity. Clever advertising creates business / brand visibility and positions you as a stand-out to your customers.

The Why: Utilizing different tactics is one way to ensure that you are memorable and that is what leads to sales. Give your customers a reason to remember you, keep the content and the approach fresh.

There are literally thousands of different ways to reach your clients, however not every technique will be suitable for your customer base. Explore, try new things and have fun, but remember to do your homework and use the methods that make the most sense.

Partnering with other businesses on promotions increases impact, audience and exposure.

3. Partner Up.

Let’s face it, when it comes to small businesses, we are all in this together. We ourselves have had great success in establishing promotional partnerships with other small businesses spanning all manner of industries.

EXAMPLE: A great example occurred recently. We ran a summer promotion offering to build a “custom website” for the winner.

The winner of the promotion approached us to ask if we would like to team up to offer the website prize to a local auction. This customer had access to this auction, where we did not and all they asked in return was that they get secondary billing as a contributor.

What began as a individual promotion on the part of our business, became a partnered promotion to over 500 bit ticket clients! Our business and theirs got some great visibility as a result and everyone came out a winner.

Opportunities to partner on promotions abound and are only limited by your creativity.

The Why: Partnerships can greatly reduce costs, increase impacted audiences and breed goodwill. It increases your exposure and the likelihood of word of mouth referrals by your partners. Each time you can build better relationships between your business and others you are providing the best kind of marketing there is.

4. Improve Their Day Over The Phone.

It sounds too simple, but first impressions are indeed everything. When you pick up the phone, remember that your tone and your words are going to be what your are immediately measured by. If it is a new or potential client, this is especially important.

Don’t be syrupy, but be happy. If you answer the phone sounding stressed or grumpy, people will take it personally. They do not want to feel like they are inconveniencing you with their call, and they should never have to. Remember this: Every phone conversation is a direct representation of your brand.

No one wants to deal with grouchy people, we all have enough of that in a day. Give them a reason to perk up, even if it simply your tone of voice.

EXAMPLE: Our rule of thumb at Transition Marketing Services is “Make ’em feel like a million bucks”. It doesn’t matter how your day is going, enter each telephone conversation with the single intent of improving the day of the individual on the other end.

The Why: People need to feel valued. It is wired into us all. This is all too true with customers. We all want to feel that our business is important to a brand – and no matter how small that business may be, it should ALWAYS be treated as such. If you give them a good moment, experience and memory, that will stick with them – especially if they have already had a bad day. Making your business accessible and friendly will always generate leads.

5. Change-up Your Go-To Greeting.

When answering the phone, do not be afraid to change up your standard greeting. The opening statement on the phone can easily be used to quickly promo a special offer, or to announce a quick piece of news.

EXAMPLES:

  • “Good morning this is Ben, ask me about 2 for 1 print designs”
  • “Good Afternoon, TMS, your recent Okanagan Life Magazine winner!”

Try it out. Many businesses have an auto-attendant that plays pre-programmed promotional propaganda to customers on hold, very few have a live one!

The Why: A quick statement like this is a good way to generate further dialogue and to engage your customers. It can provide a segway into discussing your services, products or achievements – without forcing it into the conversation.

Stickers can be a great (budget friendly) way to generate brand exposure on just about anything.

6. Stickers Are Our Friends.

I LOVE STICKERS! 30 years old and my laptop still looks like a skateboard deck. Stickers are a great, inexpensive means of semi-permanently branding things. Of course stickers take many different forms.

EXAMPLES:

  • Brand Stickers: There are always uses for groovy stickers. Create a fun or slick looking sticker that your customers may actually WANT to put on something.
  • Stamps / Envelope Stickers: Mailing something out? Turn the envelope into a promo as well. Every piece of direct or business mail, provides an opportunity to promote your brand and business. If you cannot afford custom printed envelopes, stickers and stamps can be a great alternative.

As with most other advertising efforts, keep the stickers clean, sharp and to the point. They are stickers, not encyclopedias. Rule of thumb: If the sticker takes more than 5 seconds to read – too much!

The Why: Quite simply stickers are inexpensive and convert just about anything to a billboard for your business. The more your logo, brand name and/or image is displayed, the more brand awareness is generated.

7. Custom Stationary – Inexpensive Branding

In the same family of thought as stickers. Printing your logo and brand philosophy on all of your stationary ensures repeat brand exposure to anyone receiving written communications from you.

8. Newsletters.

Repeat sales are over 75% cheaper to drive home then sales to new customers. Newsletters (printed or emailed) are a great way to focus specific marketing on your existing customer base. Build a list of customers and their contact info, by offering a service, deal or insider info to those willing to subscribe.

Newsletters do not need to be a weekly thing. You can keep costs down by making it monthly or even quarterly – depending on your industry and market targets etc. E-newsletters (emailed newsletters) are often be less expensive, although they are less likely to be opened.

EXAMPLE: One of our staff operated a weekly newsletter for five years for an industrial manufacturer. The newsletter garnered quite the following, and was used as a direct line to the existing customer base. It was used to highlight new products, company achievements and other information used to drive engagement and generate leads. By the time is came to a close, customers were contributing information to the newsletter – a sure sign of engagement.

The Why: Newsletters are a direct line to your customers. This provides a door for direct communications on offers, promotions and other information relevant to driving sales. Keep in mind that a newsletters success is only as good as its content. If you want it to be opened and followed up on, you need to provide a reason and establish a reputation with the recipients.

9. Seminars, Events & Open Houses.

Anytime you can draw customers to you and gain that one on one face time, you are generating brand awareness for your company. Time spent in face to face communications is worth 100 x the time spent in emailing, telephone or online. There are a number of ways to generate this exposure, that do not involve the cold call.

Host an event, a seminar or an open house. Give your customer base a good reason to come to you. Done properly events can garner strong turnouts and generate great media coverage. Remember that the event must appeal to your targets. Do not make the event about preaching your brand, but rather about giving to your customers. Create the event around your brand, but make it a goal to add value to the attendees.

If you are offering a seminar never make it free. People see “free” attached to a seminar and they are immediately suspicious. “Free”, whether true or not, indicates that there is no value to be had or that there will be a string attached. Add a price tag for admission, make it reasonable, but make sure your seminar carries value.

EXAMPLE: We will offer a seminar on “Generating Sales Leads for Small Business Through Online Content”. This is a highly specific topic, but extremely valuable to many of our clients and targets. By offering this seminar, we are giving our targets something of value to them (equipping them for success), while also positioning our brand as a leader in the industry and generating face time with potential leads.

The Why: Events draw customers out to you. They provide an opportunity to directly engage them on grounds of your choosing, as opposed to the dreaded “cold call” which places you on THEIR territory. When hosting an event you are seen as in charge and it creates a less intimidating field to engage on. When you provide something of value to your customers, they will come to you and that is a good place to be.

10. Exchanging Services.

First off. NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE WORTH OF YOUR GOODS & SERVICES. Having said that, working out deals to exchange product for advertising space, or for necessary items is not a terrible idea.

The caution here is not to underestimate the value of your products or your potential partners. You do not want to low-ball a potential partner and risk insulting them, however you also do not want to come out of the deal with less than you put in.

The Why: Exchanges of this nature can be useful for cutting costs and staying on budget, however approach with care.

11. Quick, Follow Up Offers To Recent Customers.

One of my personal favorites. Taking the time to send a quick note, email etc. to a recent customer, with a special offer available only to them, is a great way to increase your B2C relationships and drive repeat sales.

EXAMPLE: A customer has recently purchased one of your products. Follow up with them, thank them for their recent business and offer them an additional discount off of their next purchase. You can provide them with a code, or coupon which they can redeem – Remember that to drive the sales urgency, you should always include an expiry date.

The Why: People love deals. They also love being appreciated. By offering a follow up coupon JUST TO THEM as a reward for their business, you are giving them both – A deal and direct appreciation. The key here is that it is DIRECT in contrast to say a “Customer Appreciation Sale” which does not shine the spotlight on the individual customer. By adding an expiry date, you are creating that sense of urgency and driving the sale home. It lessens the chance that they will forget or lose the coupon and it protects your business from having to honor it at an inconvenient time.

12. Tag-Along Marketing For Direct Mail.

Sending out mail? You are already paying the postage, so put that money to work. Include a flyer, advertisement, business card or promotion with your mail-outs. As with stickers and stationary, repeat brand exposure is always a good thing.

There are a number of ways to promote a business or brand. Many are surprisingly cost effective and can be customized to suit any size and budget.

For a any business or brand to succeed, marketing is required. Which marketing makes the most sense for you?

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing & Branding Specialists.

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How You Benefit From Customer Comments You Were Pretty Sure You Didn’t Want

Recently came across a brilliant article that reiterates everything we have been saying about PR and Customer Service effecting your brand.

How you benefit from customer comments you were pretty sure you didn’t want. – By Bruce2B

Due to a misunderstanding, at the last minute before takeoff an airline refused to allow a pair of special-needs passengers to fly. This upset the passengers deeply and stranded them at an unfamiliar airport.

No one should have been surprised that intense criticism of the airline spread rapidly via social media, portraying them as bad-guys even though the incident was (arguably) a one-time mistake by an isolated group of employees.

This wound up being a good thing, because:

The airline discovered this issue, apologized to the would-be passengers and their families, refunded their money, offered them additional free flights, and came up with a new process to keep the problem from recurring. All-in-all, the airline—our hometown favorite here in Seattle, Alaska Airlines—took a regrettable mistake, and did everything possible (considering it was after the fact) to make it right with those affected. In this way Alaska Airlines also earned positive PR by showing they’re the kind of company that owns up to their mistakes and jumps on an opportunity to do the right thing when they can.

> Read more about the “special needs passengers stranded by Alaska Airlines” incident

> Another great PR turnaround story:  FedEx responds after delivery guy caught on video throwing computer equipment over a fence

MORE HERE:

Small Business: Partnering For Success

Partnering For Success.

One key concept we attempt to convey, both to our clients, and to the public: “Small Business Relationships are Key to Success”. Relationships with your consumer base and relationships with the local small business community. Both are intrinsic to business growth and brand development.

Developing Business to Business partnerships can make the difference in overcoming obstacles.

Business to Business (B2B) Partnerships

Developing partnerships with local suppliers, retailers and even competitors can be profitable for the small business owner. Relationships help us to overcome hiccups. They create goodwill and understanding. By taking the time to create these relationships, one positions their business and brand more positively in the eyes of the surrounding market.

By developing mutually beneficial relationships with surrounding local businesses, the small business owner creates a community in which he or she can thrive.

Relationships help foster partnerships. Partnerships take your business and brand to the next level. For example, partnering with suppliers can help a business to develop programs for more accurate inventory management (FIFO, reduced inventory, faster turn-around). These programs can reduce costs for both parties, thereby increasing profitability.

Partnerships can take on a myriad of different forms based on your business and your partners. As an example, we recently teamed up with a local web-host to offer a special promotion to our local small business community: A contest with a free customized website awarded as top prize.The contest is based solely on meeting the local business owners and it offers an ideal segway into further conversations, a relational stepping stone.

The website is in itself, a great prize, however we took it one step further. By partnering with this web-host, we were able to also offer free registration, and a year of free hosting. This partnership wins on three levels:

  • For any small business on a budget, this is high value prize. A little good will spread into the community.
  • This creates a deeper partnership with our web-host. Providing them with the opportunity to grow and promote their business at minimal risk.
  • Most importantly (to us) a dialogue is developed with the local business community.

The areas for partnership are there for any small business, they just need to be explored.

Business to Consumer (or Customer). Developing relationships gains repeat business. Image source: designzzz.com

Business To Customer (B2C) Relationships.

In many aspects the marketplace is changing. In order to communicate the social necessities for brand success, terms like B2C are making a come back . B2C is all about business to customer communications – relationships essentially. It is the means by which a business supplies goods, services and brand information directly to its consumers.

This term became far more frequent with the advent of online business – during the height of the .com period. It fell into obsolescence when that bubble burst, but has been making a comeback recently – more specifically since the initiation of what we now know as Web 2.0 – which encompasses such phenomena as Social Media. Some have even said that the B2C policy of the .com period is what helped usher in the new era of Web 2.0.

It could be said that business to customer relationships, is the primary purpose of Social Media Marketing. B2C is all about engaging your customers directly, supplying them directly and building your brand association and business with them directly.

Developing relationships with your consumer base is invaluable. Engage a customer, provide them with a memorable experience, create an association between a brand and a quality, and you will have them for life. Apple understands this – in fact their credo states “we are at our best when we deliver enriching experiences”.

Big Brands will spend tens of thousands of dollars attempting to “humanize” their brands – to make them accessible, to provide their consumers with a relational experience. The attempt to humanize a brand, is to do away with “cold corporate” image and create a brand that comes across as understanding to the individual customer. What is ironic is that many of these brands will spend money on advertising and marketing – when the money would be better spent on hiring and training support and after sales staff.

Small businesses however, are already perfectly positioned to take advantage of this brand aspect, to develop relationships one on one and create a brand image that cares about its products, services, people and end users.

Brand Power is built not directly on sales – but on quality products, services and relationships. Relationships create a powerful consumer bases, they create an atmosphere that is conducive to sales, thereby achieving the sale WITHOUT souring the consumers mind. Put another way, by giving the customer a positive experience, they will COME TO YOU to make the sale and they will return for subsequent sales.

To paraphrase “Build relationships and they will come”.

Build it and they will come so get active and build your business relationships.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.

Small Business: Why You Need To Be On Twitter

You Belong On Twitter.

Every small business does. It is a tool of engagement and brand development. It is the means to find and learn from your market targets and it is quickly becoming a linchpin to modern marketing.

Consider the following points in regards to Twitter:

1. Twitter shrinks the world. Your brand instantly becomes apparent to both, the customer down the street and across the globe. “Twitter is a place where one person can help another person anywhere in the world” – Dave Larson, @TweetSmarter

2. It is budget friendly, easy to learn and easier to use. Here are a couple of quick Twitter references you should know:

  • Tweet: A message of 140 characters or less.
  • Retweet (RT): A reposting or sharing of someones else’s tweet.
  • @johndoe: The means by which you directly address another Twitter user within your tweet.
  • #Hashtag: Placing the hashtag (#) in front of any word or sentence turns it into a search reference for the Twitter search engine. It can also be used to accentuate the point behind your tweet.
  • “Via”: Source or author of the content being shared.
  • OH: Overheard. The means by which you share a rumour or story.
  • #FF: The Hashtag (search reference) for Follow Friday. The means by which you share people you follow with your followers, “paying it forward” if you will.

Bu utilizing simple tags like this, you literally have the world at your fingertips (whether they listen to you is another story).

3. It is here, it is now, it is real time. Ask a question, expect an answer. The power behind this as a market research tool is enormous. Not only do you have the tool to find your targets, you have the means to speak with them. If you doubt the power Twitter possesses to consolidate an effort – then consider the recent political uprisings that have begun to change the middle east.

4. There is no limit to what you can do with Twitter. Advertise, research, dialogue. build goodwill or address issues.

5.Twitter is a research tool – monitor competitors and other industry relevant parties to see what the latest buzz is from your consumers. This is a great way to see where your brand may be succeeding or failing, but it also works the same way for monitoring your competition.

5. You can spot trends and hop on board. You can spot fails and move out of the way. Twitter hosts communications on everything that is going in the world. You can monitor issues, big and small, relevant or not, and speak to them as you need to.

Twitter can act as a megaphone for your brand successes

6. It is flexible.The speed at which it moves, the nature of limited 140 character posts, and the speed on replies make Twitter the perfect medium to test the waters. Change message types and communications as needed based on real time feedback from sources that matter.

7. Twitter is a great way to spread goodwill. Position your brand on Twitter as an expert and proprietor of helpful industry tips and info. Be helpful and enrich others – the efforts are appreciated and can quickly build brand reputation.

8. Customer Service. Twitter efforts can play a huge role in partnering with your Customer Service and After Sales Service efforts. The speed with which you can address concerns, comments or questions is incredible. Use Twitter to address customer comments and build your brand at the same time (or use it to move them to a less “public” avenue such as email, in order to address more volatile concerns).

9. Immediate information spread. Why does this matter? If you have a sudden issue, crisis or concern – Twitter possesses the speed and wide range communication capabilities to get your message out asap.

10. Connecting. I have been thrilled time and again, with how useful Twitter is for searching out new and relevant contacts. By city, by industry, by name – no matter the parameters, I can seek out those I need to network with.

11. It builds your small business future. Your tweets are entirely public, they are being seen by not just your current customers, but potential ones as well. This positioning of your brand within the eyes of the consumer base, can translate into future sales.

12. Use Twitter as a megaphone for your successes. Don’t brag, but if you get a compliment, favorite, Re-tweet it, and/or reply to it. Doing so spreads the word that, “hey! someone thought you were pretty great!”

Going Viral: Twitter spreads information widely and quickly.

13. Build your brand. We have already addresses this briefly, but Twitter is an ideal medium for establish your brands philosophies, morals and standards within your consumer base. Use Twitter to reinforce your brand message, stay consistent and you will see positive brand growth.

14. Twitter provides a tool to humanize your brand. It is B2B and more. It is B2C (business to customer). You can dialogue directly with the people purchasing your products and services. You can avoid the cold corporate image and show your small business is human just like them.

All that being said, there are pros and cons to all things. Likewise their are correct ways to go about it. Some businesses and Social Media Specialists would purchase follows, but the best and most appropriate use of Twitter is to develop your audience through organic relationships – communicate, speak to them, ask questions and monitor results. Go to your customers and build your brand B2B and B2C.

If you do find yourself on Twitter – drop by and tweet “Hi” – @MarketingTMS

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.