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Sales Strategies for Small Businesses: 6 Major Promotional Strategies
Increasing Sales for Small Business
Improving the sales in your business is often a big challenge. So in this series we are breaking down the whole sales process into its components and analyzing each. So far we have looked at the first two phases of the sales cycle: product development and pricing, and positioning and branding.
Next we look at promotion to get more sales.
The 8 Step Sales Cycle
Promotion is the part of the process where you tell people you exist, and describe your products and services. This is what most small businesspeople think of when they think of increasing sales. However, promotion cannot be a standalone activity. It must be incorporated into the larger sales system to be effective.
Promotion is determined in part by your positioning and branding strategy. The purpose of promotion is to generate leads. If your promotion is not generating enough quality leads, it is not effective and must be changed.
A huge variety of mediums are available for getting the word out about your business:
- Print media (magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, newsletters and others)
- Traditional broadcast media (TV and radio)
- Online (search pages, websites, blogs, mobile content)
- Billboards, pamphlets, fliers, posters and other "real world" options
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and others)
- Word of mouth and the reputation of your happy customers
Six Major Promotional Strategies
Here are six major strategies available to promote yourself and generate more sales.
1. Paid Advertising
The most straightforward and well-understood type of promotion, where you simply pay to have your advertisement displayed. This is offered in countless magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, social media sites and others.
Even if a website does not specifically offer advertisement options, don't be afraid to approach them and make an offer. If your product/ service is a really good match with their audience, and the ads are not too intrusive, they may be interested. They will get some extra money, while providing valuable information to their readers/ viewers. Many sites also offer the option to sponsor content or even feature your product if they think it is of great value to their audience.
Google AdWords is a popular and affordable option for online paid advertising. AdWords enables you to take advantage of the Google ad network in targeted search and web advertising.
2. Mailing List and Newsletter
Companies that use these tools understand that promoting to your existing network is often more important than generating new subscribers or followers. People who have gone out of their way to get in touch with you or to subscribe to your updates are potential customers. They are more likely to purchase than a random person. Regular emails to subscribers are also an excellent way of keeping open lines of communication with your market and receiving feedback. Make sure visitors to your website can join the mailing list or at least contact you directly.
3. Press coverage
Invite media organizations to cover your company, its products, people, or events. The key is to make sure the publication has a vested interest in what you are offering. That will make them much more likely to cover you. A magazine like Better Homes and Gardens is more likely to write about the opening of a new furniture store than a more general publication like the New York Times.
Coverage in a publication is more effective than buying advertisements in that publication. Press coverage makes you the main content people are reading about, rather than a distraction which is often what an ad turns out to be. Of course, good press coverage is also much harder to come by than simply paying for an ad.
4. Online Self-Promotion
This is done through video sites (Youtube, Vimeo), social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In), content sites (Hub Pages, Squidoo, Ezine Articles), and others. Online promotion of any kind can take a lot of time and effort to pay off. Content has to be high-quality, generated on a regular basis, search engine optimized, and maintained and updated over time.
Online self-promotion is very labor intensive. In many ways it is a full-time job in itself. Because these options are free for everyone, it is hard to stand out from the huge amounts of content generated daily. Patience and dedication over time are essential. But the ultimate payoff can be significant.
Offering free webinars through a service like Go To Meeting can promote your business to a wide audience in a convenient format.
If possible, try to send out regular updates, messages and news items on your business and your activities to your whole network--social media, mailing list, etc. In reality, for most small businesses, generating and maintaining content on social networks is probably too time-consuming to do effectively. Many outsource the job to social media marketing professionals.
5. Team Up With Other Businesses
Other businesses want to promote themselves too. You may be able to pool your resources. For example, you may have a large mailing list with a well-developed and popular weekly newsletter, and the other company has a store with a great location. You can include them in your email promotions, and they can distribute your literature from their store. Teaming up is especially beneficial if you have complimentary products with a very similar market.
6. Networking in Person and Other Affordable Options
Good old-fashioned handshakes and business cards are still effective. Nothing beats the quality of personal interaction. This is great if you have strong social skills and conversation skills. Attend trade events, networking events, promotional events hosted by companies in your industry, etc. Bring a stack of business cards. Also, print and hand out fliers in areas of your city with high foot traffic. Put posters on local bulletin boards. And take advantage of any local chambers of commerce or other free or low-cost resources that exist to promote businesses in your location or niche.
Target Promotion for Maximum Effectiveness
The key with promotional strategies is targeting. Most problems with small business promotion can be traced to poor targeting. Improving it is the most important factor in promotional effectiveness.
Before you invest time or money in a particular medium, research to make sure it attracts the right kind of people. Learn everything you can about subscriber demographics, the subject-matter of the content, the number of subscribers or followers, the amount of foot traffic in the area, etc.
A small amount of money spent on a very well-targeted and well-defined audience will always deliver better results than a large amount of money spent on a poorly-targeted audience. Take the time to properly target your promotion because it pays off big time.
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