Tag Archives: small business marketing

10 Ways To Get Word Of Mouth Marketing

It’s not uncommon for us to get new bookkeeping clients who are relatively “new” in their business endeavors.  When we discuss their business and needs, we will often ask “What are you doing from a marketing perspective?”  When “word of mouth marketing” is their response, we often feel compelled to have a teaching moment with them.

Word of mouth marketing is not a marketing vehicle in and of itself.  It is the direct result of doing other tasks well within your business, one of which is other marketing.  This post highlights 50 ways that you can market your small business.  Shown here are the things that will help you generate that word of mouth buzz that so many businesses crave:

Provide an excellent product or service. If what you have to offer is just average, or even worse undesirable, don’t expect customers to extol your virtues.  What you sell and how you sell it, should live up to or exceed what your customers expect.  This is based on your ads, sales pitch and industry standards. If they’re happy with what they’ve bought, they will sing your praises to the heavens. Yet remember, word of mouth works two ways.  If customers are unhappy with your company, they will complain loudly and publicly about their bad experience. Don’t believe us?  Just look at this post about a poor customer service experience we had.  Which leads us to our next point…

Excel in your customer service. This post will give you several ways to be better than your competition, so we urge you to read it.  Yet a few basics to know: Be polite. Answer your customers questions as accurately and quickly as possible. Don’t keep them waiting unnecessarily. If you can do something for a customer, then do it.  If you can’t, tell them so and send them to someone who can (even a competitor).  By helping your customer solve their needs, they will remember you and send your their friends and family when they have a similar problem.

Give your customers something for FREE. People have needs that require solutions.  When they look for those solutions, they will go to the internet, call their friends or even visit your establishment.  However, there’s so much noise in the world  that it’s hard for prospects to know exactly what’s worth buying. Most people buy stuff that they have a personal connection with or that is recommended by a trusted friend.  By giving away your work (or a sample of it) you allow future customers (or readers or fans or whatever) the opportunity to hear about it, see the value in it, and then reward you for it.

Thank your customers for their business. Everyone likes to be appreciated and customers are no exception. When a customers pays you for services or a new customer signs their paperwork, why not send them a handwritten thank you card?  Doing something your competitors don’t will set you apart as a business who cares about their customers and is worth recommending.

Make you and your employees “likable” in their interactions. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, customers do business with those who they know, like and trust.  As such, make sure that when you interact with your customers, that they like dealing with you.  Be friendly; no matter how rude or angry a customer may be. Never raise your voice, be sarcastic, or speak in a demeaning way to customers.  Smile when you speak to them.  Take a genuine interest in their needs, concerns and wants.  When a customer likes dealing with you, they will like sending others to you.

Be personally visible to your market. The goal here is to not be viewed as a salesperson, but as a friend or problem-solver.  If you take the information regarding providing “free” stuff and combine it with this point, you will be seen as just that.  As such, join networking groups and industry groups that your customers join and be a regular attendee at meetings and events. Talk to people at meetings to find out what they do and what’s important to them and what challenges they face. When you can, give them tips or point them to resources they need, even if it isn’t a service that you offer.

Be Active in Social Media. A social media “share” spreads the word about your company to all the people who follow and like your information.  While you don’t need to set up an account on each, Facebook, Twitter, Linked, Pinterest, Instagram and SlideShare are all good places to start. Choose the social media channels that are most likely to reach your target customers.  Also, the easier you make it for customers and prospects to share your information and promotions, the more likely it is they will do so.  As such, consider adding the corresponding social media buttons to your website.

When people praise you, ask to use their testimonial. You can post it on your website and/or in promotional material. Their comments can help prospects “hear” good things about your company.  This is exactly why we have a testimonials page!

Make your business easy to find. Start by having a website, even if it is just a simple landing page.  Make sure that it is listed on Google, Bing and Yahoo’s business promotion sites.  If you have a location, make sure that you have singe indicating what you do, hours of operation and phone number.   If you have vehicles, make sure your name is painted/wrapped in big letters on them so anyone who sees it knows how to reach you. Leave “extra” business cards with customers so they can hand them out when a neighbor asks if they were happy with the job you did… and how to get in touch with you.

Refer business to noncompeting businesses. When you refer customers, patients or clients to others, those businesses are more likely to refer business to you.  Remember, those who give freely of themselves will receive the same in return.

Reward those who refer business to you. How you thank them will depend on the nature and what is considered ethical in your line of your business. It may be in the form of a hand-written thank you card, a coupon, a cash reward, or whatever else is practical or expected for your line of work. But the point is this; rewarding those who help you will make them feel their efforts are appreciated, which will make them be glad to recommend you to more people.

Top Small Business Marketing Mistakes

Recently we were having lunch at Columbus’ Curry, a new quick dining establishment specializing in Indian cuisine.  During this visit, we had the fortunate opportunity to meet the owner.  Turns out that they had only been open for four weeks, but they indicated that things were going well thus far.  At some point, our conversation turned to what the “most important” thing to focus on should be.  Our response?  Generating sales!

As we’ve said in previous posts, nothing happens in an organization until a sale is made and sales don’t happen without marketing.  Unfortunately, many new/fledgling small businesses often underestimate their marketing needs.  With that said, we figured we’d discuss the top marketing mistakes new business often make and how you can avoid them.

No marketing plan.  Failure to plan is like planning to fail – we’ve all heard that statement correct?  Well, if you don’t have a marketing plan, then you can rest assured that your marketing will not be is effective as it needs to be.  People often think that a marketing plan needs to be this overly complicated document that takes months to develop.  That is not the case.  A simple marketing plan can be made in short order.  Take a look at this article to see just how to put one together and what it should contain.

No marketing budget.  Equally egregious as not having a marketing plan, is not having a marketing budget.  When you start a business you may be consumed in pouring all of your dollars into research and development, product engineering, hiring staff or outfitting your headquarters.  However, if you don’t have the budget to tell your target market about your product or services, how will they find you?  “Oh, if we build it they will come” is your response?  Read the next bullet dear friend.

Having a “build it and they will come” mentality.  We’ve written about this before in our Small Business Marketing 101 post.  The key takeaway from it is that even with a highly visible location it’s EXTREMELY hard for potential customers to “see” you.  The only way to ensure that the do, is to market to them.  Furthermore, even if they know you are there, what is going to make them choose you over your competitors?  For that, we recommend that you emphasize your Unique Selling Proposition or USP in all of your marketing collateral.

Failing to “test” your marketing.  Marketing should never be viewed as a “one and done” type of activity.  The one thing that is constant in the world is change.  Thus, you must frequently look at your marketing activities, vehicles, collateral, etc. and make sure that it is working.  If it isn’t, then you need to make adjustments to it.  If you do a mailing and you get a 2% response rate, test doing a similar mailing but tweek the headline, body, mailing list, etc to see if the results change.  Keep “testing” various elements of the campaign until you get the desired result.  All of this leads us to the next point.

Not holding your marketing accountable.  If you are involved in various marketing activities, you should always hold your marketing ruthlessly accountable for revenue.  One of the first things we ask customers is how they heard of us.  Why?  We want to know which vehicle brought them to us.  We then track various metrics associated with this such as number of leads, leads converted to customers, revenue spent per customer, cost of client acquisition, etc.  If we don’t see the return on investment for a particular vehicle we either 1) test it, 2) change it or 3) abandon it.  If we get to the third, that allows us to shift those dollars to something that IS producing desired results.  The worst thing you can do is continue to pour money into something that is not generating sales.

Trying to reinvent the “Marketing” wheel.  Marketing is not hard stuff (in simplistic terms of course).  Yes, there is the need to reinvent and refresh your marketing so that it remains relevant and in sync with the times, but you don’t have to go back to the drawing board to make it yours.  In this post, we talk about 50 ways that you can market your small business.  The point?  You don’t have to start from scratch; look at the items, choose what works for you and then make it fit your business.

Continuous planning without execution.  The fear of failure is a very powerful thing.  In this post, our CEO Jared Rogers talks about getting over his fears when he struck out to head the Beverly office.  In the end he got over them and started doing things. The point is that you can be so busy preparing, organizing, and researching your marketing to prevent failure that you never get around to the actual marketing.  To combat this remember:

  1. Activity is not productivity.
  2. In order to sell a million of something, you have to sell the first ONE.

At some point you have to start your marketing and just see what happens.  Remember, mistakes are the price of entry into the world of success. A failed promotion means you have SUCCESSFULLY determined what does NOT work; and that is a invaluable tool in getting you closer to discovering what DOES work.

50 Ways To Market Your Small Business

The age old saying goes, nothing in business happens until you make a sale. But any marketer will tell you that sales don’t happen until we market the goods and services to the customer. With that said, here are 50 things that you can do on the marketing front to ensure that the sales start to flow through your front door, into your business and ultimately into your bank account!

  1. Craft an Elevator Pitch. You should be marketing all the time — wherever you are. Therefore, you need a compelling elevator pitch. Research shows the average attention span of an adult is about 6 to 8 seconds. That’s all the time you have to grab someone’s attention so practice and make it count.
  2. Collaborate. Put together a group of synergistic, non-competitive businesses in your area and agree to cross-promote. You can use coupons, fliers, reciprocal website links, bundled promotions or social media platforms.
  3. Ask for referrals. Don’t be shy about asking for customer referrals. The majority of people say they are willing to provide a referral if asked, but very few take the initiative to do it on their own. Referrals make it easier to get in the door with new customers. If you aren’t asking for them, you are missing opportunities.
  4. Ask For Work or Leads. Contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.
  5. Partner. Partner with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let them know you are available to handle their work overloads if the opportunity arises.
  6. Demonstrate. If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested.
  7. Talk To The Government. Find out what federal, state, and local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business. Most offer free counseling and some can put you in touch with government agencies and large corporations that buy from small and woman-owned businesses
  8. Become Certified. If you are a woman-owned or minority-owned business look into getting certified by private, state or federal organizations. Many purchasing agents have quotas for the amount of goods and services they need to buy from minority- and woman-owned businesses.
  9. Direct Mail – Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out. Follow up periodically with postcard mailings.
  10. Wrap That Vehicle. If you use a car or truck in your business, at a minimum, have your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of it. If your budget allows for it, consider vehicle wrapping. If you don’t want the business name permanently on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs.
  11. Network. There is no better way to build a business than to get out there, shake some hands, and get to know people. Networking requires a time commitment and it doesn’t provide instant gratification, but a strong network is one of the greatest assets any business person can have.
  12. Speak Up. A lot of people hate public speaking. However, there are many organizations looking for qualified, subject-matter experts who can present to their groups. Take a deep breath and volunteer. You don’t have to be a pro as long as the information you share is helpful to the audience.
  13. Turn To Your Community. You don’t have to think big when it comes to your marketing efforts. Think locally. Get to know your ideal customer and think about how and where they spend their time. Then search for opportunities to get in front of them with your marketing message (e.g. by sponsoring a little league team).
  14. Work With The Media. Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Services like Help a Reporter Out will allow you to respond to reporters’ queries that are looking for story ideas and resources. Some are small media opportunities, but others are major media outlets that use this service too.
  15. Forge Deep Customer Relationships. It is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. That’s why establishing strong relationships with your customer base is crucial. One of the ways you can do that is by keeping in contact with them on a regular basis. This can be as simple as a weekly email tip, a monthly print newsletter or a holiday card.
  16. Offer coupons. Coupons are a good way for many businesses to attract new customers. Research shows that people will go out of their way to use a coupon, proving that this method is successful in expanding your customer base. If you’re interested in using a coupon service, consider ValPak.
  17. Give it Away. If someone has the opportunity to experience your product or service, chances are they will want to purchase more. Don’t be afraid to give someone a free trial or a sample. Remember, you can pay for marketing in dollars or free product/services. Either way, you are spending money to make people aware that you exist.
  18. Get A Website That Captures Leads. An attractive website can make your business look professional. But the real benefits come when you can capture a lead who you can nurture into a prospect and ultimately a customer. If your website can’t currently capture leads (e.g. a sign up or subscription form), consider a redesign.
  19. Blog About It. Blogging is an excellent marketing tool for businesses. Studies show that businesses that blog regularly are more than two times as likely to generate leads via their website as businesses that don’t. It also builds trust in your business.
  20. Build Your Email List. Most businesses are aware of the benefits of email marketing. However, many small businesses fail to leverage their website or blog to build their email list. A simple email sign-up form on your website can produce great results. Giving users an incentive to sign-up to your list is also very important. This can be anything from a newsletter to a freebie such as an eBook or Whitepaper that is relevant to your audience.
  21. Distribute A Monthly Press Release. Press releases are easy to create and can be promotional in nature. The editorial guidelines are straightforward and it is easy to get your releases accepted on major press release distribution sites. It is an easy way to market your business and boost your online visibility. For best results, contact local media including newspapers and magazines to see if they will publish your press release. You may be surprised with the result.
  22. Take Steps to Boost Conversions. There are many small businesses that get a lot of traffic on their website but fail to convert them into leads. Your website traffic is of little use if you cannot convert them into customers for your business. There are many ways to do this. Here are some examples:
    1. Use a good call to action on your website
    2. Make sure your “offer” is compelling
    3. Give them instant access to whatever the “offer” is and automate this process if possible
  23. Run Competitions. Running a competition is another very effective way to market your business. Use a good prize or reward to entice customers. It also gets people talking about your brand.
  24. Use Videos To Market Your Business. YouTube is one of the most widely used channels by consumers with regards to searching for information. Building your company’s presence on the site can get extra coverage for your business and help to attract new customers.
  25. List Your Business. Business directories such as Google Plus Local, Bing Local and Yahoo Local will ensure that you are found when customers are looking for what you have to offer.
  26. Register On Location Based Apps. Location based services such as Yelp and Foursquare are very popular among consumers. Listing your business is a great way to market your business and attract new customers.
  27. Be Social. A majority of small business already have a profile on the main social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. To maximize the benefits of social media:
    1. Post few times per week
    2. Add value for users by sharing content that is of value to them
    3. Engage actively with users – follow, share, retweet, and respond promptly to customer complaints or concerns
  28. Try Google Adwords. Google Adwords, Google’s pid advertising program, is a very effective way to get your website listed on search engines for your desired search terms. It can be very effective particularly in the short term while you work on improving your organic rank in the free listings.
  29. Social Media Advertising. If you are new and do not yet have a large enough following on social media, you can consider paid advertising on social media. Social networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube offer cost-effective advertising options for businesses.
  30. Design Your Calling Card. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a business card and business stationery, have them made up — immediately. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously.
  31. Pass It Out. Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
  32. Talk To Your Vendors. Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can
  33. Attend Meetings of Professional Groups. Consider attending the meetings of your Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, or civic associations. Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Don’t forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They’ll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you because of it.
  34. Become a Card Carrying Member. Pay for membership in those groups that attract your target customers. If the group has a website and publishes a members list on the site, make sure your name and website link get added.
  35. Get Involved. Become actively involved in 2 or 3 of the above groups. That will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects.
  36. Dial and Smile. Get on the telephone and make “cold calls.” These are calls to people who you would like to do business with. Briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.
  37. Pass Out Samples. Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
  38. Free Consultation. Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people you think could use your services. During such consultations offer some practical suggestions or ideas – and before you leave ask for an “order” to implement the ideas.
  39. Create A Marketing Department. Use other people to sell your product or service. Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for affiliates, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in return for a commission on sales.
  40. Develop A Marketing Kit. Have sales letters, flyers and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: “Would you like me to send information?” Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that says, “Here is the information you asked me to send
  41. Billboards. If your budget can afford it, billboards are a great way to announce your product or service to the public. There are also a good way to promote “top of mind” awareness in those who aren’t ready to purchase now, but may do so in the future.
  42. Bus Benches. Same concept as above, but on a smaller physical and monetary scale. The key to their success is location, location, location. Ensure that the bench is at an intersection where drivers are forced to stop. This will afford them a few seconds to notice and then read the information presented.
  43. Yard Signs. Talk to local residents or businesses about placing a small sign in their yard. Just make sure that you check with your city to see if there are any permits or prohibitions.
  44. Conventions. Trade and other expos are a great way to get your product in front of a group of likeminded people. Ensure that prospects have a way to leave you their information so that you can follow up with them later, send them samples, etc.
  45. Charitable Giving/ Sponsorship. Giving for monetary gain is never a good thing. But if you can find a cause or charity that aligns with your mission, the exposure of your gift or voluntarism could lead to sales down the line.
  46. Promotional Items. Everyone loves free stuff. Pens, key chains, stress balls, business card refrigerator magnets, etc. This stuff often costs pennies and will stay in people’s possession for many months.
  47. Use Mailing Lists. The use of targeted mailing lists (combined with direct mail campaigns) can lead to identifying and engaging customers who are interested in buying from you. The key is to make sure that you are specific in your list criteria so that there is a good market (person) to message (mailing piece) match.
  48. Client Appreciation Events. Your current customers and clients are your best source of finding new business. Having a client BBQ, holiday party or children’s day can go a long way to reinforcing your relationship and demonstrating that you genuinely care about them.
  49. Launch Parties. Most people like a party and new stuff. Combine the two and there you go! If you are releasing a new product or service, or just refreshing an existing one, getting people together to see and experience it are always a good thing.
  50. Targeted Internet, Radio, TV Advertising. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get your message out there, especially if you limit the distribution to a specific market, location or demographic. Consider using targeted advertising in the same manner as the mailing list discussed above.


Small Business Marketing 101

While we are a financial services firm, we often times run across business topics that we feel are noteworthy.  So while we are not marketing experts, we’ve seen many companies make similar mistakes when it comes to their marketing.  Now we’re not talking about logo design, twitter handles or even ill timed marketing campaigns.  We’re talking about the fundamentals – the basics that often get overlooked or simply reprioritized to the bottom of the list.  Well, this post will look at a few things that every new or would-be business owner should contemplate before they take that leap.

Nothing happens without sales.  If this is the first rule of business then the second is this – if you want to go out of business, stop marketing.    For those who’ve worked in Corporate America, it may now resonate with you why the Sales and Marketing functions typically have the biggest budgets.   We know that it’s not the aim of a new business owner to shutter its doors, but unintentionally this is the result of the marketing approach new owners take.  You see, marketing is an essential and integral part of business success.  Unfortunately, most owners don’t adequately fund or plan their marketing and as a result, it is done as an afterthought.  Therefore, set your enterprise up for success and make marketing a priority.

Quality, Honesty and Integrity.  These three items are the cornerstones of all marketing.  Firstly, you must sell a quality product or service that will inspire customers to not only purchase it again, but spread the word to their friends.  Concurrently, the business must ensure that its marketing is built on honesty and integrity.  Companies built to last have a strong ethical foundation and honest marketing practices.  Thus, if you market in this manner and sell a quality product, you’ve laid the ground work to capture the Holy Grail – an impeccable reputation!

Marketing is a philosophy.  Unfortunately, too many individuals view marketing as slick campaigns, buzzwords, advertising and the like.  The reality is marketing is a philosophy and the above items are only components to execute that philosophy.  Marketing is everything a company is and does.  A company’s ethics, culture, work environment, hiring practices, attention to quality and customer service all affect and are affected by marketing.  Some companies spend tons of money on and attention to logos and advertising, ignoring the damage done by unethical behavior.  The point?  It’s important to realize just how integrated marketing really is or you’ll find yourself wasting marketing dollars while other things derail your efforts.

Build it and they will come. The simple step of moving out of your home will not solely result in increased sales.  The only thing you’ve done is made it easier for those selling their products and services to find you!  In order to generate “street traffic” you have to initiate some form of marketing so customers know why they should stop and visit YOU vs. your competition.  “But my signage tells what I offer so I’ll be fine.”  Really?  Try this exercise the next time you’re out.  Pick an obscure product (bike tubes, hammer, flyer printing, bug spray) and then visit an area you think will have a store that will offer it.  Don’t look up the store on the internet, we want you to drive/bike/walk around looking at signage and see how easy it is to find.  The point is this; even with a highly visible location it’s EXTREMELY hard for potential customers to “see” you.  The only way to ensure that the do, is to market to them.

Relationships matter.  Most people don’t think of this when they do their marketing.  However, the reality is this; marketing intersects in many different ways with relationships.  People do business with those that they know, like and trust.  Do you go back to the store with the clerk with the nasty demeanor?  Or how about that restaurant with the hostess who was indifferent when you arrived?  Your ability to strengthen human relationships through marketing will determine the success of your business.  However, befriending every person within 10 miles of your business is not the answer.  What you have to do is figure a way to infuse paying attention to your customers and what matters to them with the marketing tactics your organization employs.  If you can do that, you’ll create a following of customers who’ll want to do business with you time and time again.  And that my friend is what we all want!