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Marketing Ideas For Small Business
I've been working with marketers for many years and have collected what I think are the best marketing ideas for small business. Here's what I have:
Most organizations are pretty good at basic marketing -- what you might call “Marketing 1.0“. This includes running a few ads, making a few cold calls, checking in with some old customers, attending a tradeshow and perhaps building a website.
Businesses that do Marketing 1.0 are surviving. But they could be doing better.
This article is about how to do better.
I believe the Pareto principle can be applied to marketers: 80% are 1.0 Marketers doing just the basics. And 20% are 2.0 Marketers, eating the lunch of the 1.0 Marketers.
There are lots of ways to do better, and lots of stages beyond 1.0. But since this is a mere article and not a book, we'll just focus on how to get to from stage 1 to stage 2.
First, make sure you’re doing all your Marketing 1.0 items really well:
- Re-visit your marketing plan -- or if you can’t find that file -- write a new one. Those that skip this step usually find themselves back at Marketing 1.0 . (There are plenty of good web articles about writing an effective marketing plan.)
- Contact as many old customers as you can find. Find out all you can about each of them. Are there opportunities for you to do more together, or with others in their organization? Ask them for their guidance. What would they like to see from your firm? Who else are they using and why?
- Look at your core business, determine what makes your business special, and what your customers are looking for. Start crafting a marketing message that reflects that.
- Make sure that your marketing message is stated clearly and consistently, and becomes known to all throughout your organization -- from the president to the receptionist. Make sure your message is reflected at all your organization's touchpoints: your website, your brochures, your business cards, your invoices -- even on your boxes.
After you’re satisfied that all this is accomplished, you can begin the second step: synergy.
Synergy and the Multiplier Effect
This stage is all about leveraging your current systems and resources -- “what you have” -- so each of your resources helps maximize each of the other resources. This is “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” thinking.
On a wide sheet of paper write down all your organization's touchpoints: website, tradeshows, brochures, business cards, sales reps, current customers, etc. Scatter all these loose touch points as you write them down. Where you see an obvious connection, like between a sales rep and business card, connect the two by a line. In a few minutes, you’ll have created created a very useful tool for yourself: your small business marketing as a Concept Map .
Now take your map and look at two touch points that are not connected to each other. How many useful ways might these two be connected? Say you’re considering these two touch points: a website and a shipping box. Ask yourself if there might be a benefit in printing the website address on the box? If so, connect the two with a different colored line, and make a notation like ‘print web address’. Ask if it would be good to let customers track their orders from your website. If so, draw another line with a new notation: “ track packages.”
Depending on how many touch points you have, this will probably prove to be a significant project, and well worth your time. Not only will you have maximized the value of each of your business's resources, you will have unleashed a ‘multiplier effect’.
The multiplier effect is basically the idea behind 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.' The box printed with your web address is now working for you as more than a container for your product.
The multiplier effect is used by small business marketers for competitive advantage: to look bigger, or more professional, or more unique than their competitors. Using the multiplier effect is a signature tactic of Marketing 2.0 firms.
By increasing the ways that a marketer communicates to prospects, from websites, to business cards, to packaging boxes, the marketer raises the chances of having the message break-through, reach its target and make an impact.
Third, let’s look at some boots-on-the-ground marketing actions to help lock in your hard won 2.0 standing:
Suggested Reading: Books Every Marketer Should Own
Working the Channels
Most marketers, even some good 2.0 marketers, find themselves delivering their message through a single channel. The channel could be, for instance, trade shows, television, or the Internet. Not only does this limit the chances that the message will be heard, but it limits how the message can be expressed.
No matter your product or service, there's a good chance your prospective customers come in all shapes and sizes (am I a mind reader or what?) It’s very likely that the same message delivered in the same format will affect one prospect differently than another. For example, one person is more auditory and likes to hear the message; another is more tactile and prefers to touch a sample.
So presenting your message in one channel may achieve good results among some of your prospects. But other prospects might not 'tune in' at all. Focusing on a single channel usually limits your results.
The other problem with narrow channel marketing is that even the best channels get crowded. When a channel becomes busy, people have a way of tuning out most everything. In some channels, not only are you competing with your competitors, you'll find you're competing with the media itself!
The answer is Channel Balancing -- use multiple channels to state your message. If you’re already strong on the Internet, consider some phone contact or a personal visit, and send something tangible in the mail.
Old-fashioned Mail: Secret Weapon for Marketer 2.0
I've seen this simple process work first hand, so I share it with you:
Collect the names and addresses of your customers and prospects in a spreadsheet. Instead of emailing your newsletter, scale it down to fit a professionally printed, full-color jumbo postcard, attach a business card-shaped magnet with your color photo, phone# and web address, and have a direct mail service send it bulk mail.
Before you scoff at this 'old-fashioned' technique, consider this: ’snail mail’ is far less cluttered than it used to be. Its now one of the best channels to ensure your message is seen. People actually appreciate getting mail again.
And there's more good news: printing and mailing technologies have made this easy (and cheaper) to do. In fact, a single machine can now print and mail the card all at once. [Full disclosure: my own company, magnetbyMail, is one of several specialized printers that can print and mail postcard magnets.]
Something tangible in your prospects' hands, like a postcard and magnet, will help ensure your message makes an impact. And the magnet will work like a small billboard and help maximize the life of your message.
Suggested Reading: Valuable Insights for Marketers
The Best Time to Begin Marketing 2.0
So when is the optimal time to begin your journey from 1.0 to 2.0?
I would suggest right now.
The reason that 1.0 marketers stay there is that they get stuck in the minutiae of day-to-day business. There is no 'optimal' time. There is just 'now' and a matter of taking one small step to start the process.
As you might suspect, there’s plenty more for me to tell an aspiring Marketing 2.0 type. But the above steps should keep you busy for the interim, and provide me enough time to write the next chapter.
In the meantime, I invite you to get started.
Start a Small Business Marketing Ideas notebook and start recording your thoughts and plans. There’s plenty of useful advice available from my article writing brethren:
How To Create a Marketing Plan by howtostart
Consumer Sales Promotion by andromida
How to Advertise on the Internet by Paul Edmondson