Most small businesses have limited marketing communication, aka advertising, budgets making it even more crucial to research thoroughly; select the best medium(s) and target prospects carefully.
The following list contains seven suggestions for achieving “champagne" results on a “beer" budget!
1. Develop one or several, robust customer referral programs
Although most business owners acknowledge that customer referrals generate a great deal of their new business, very few have implemented a “formal" referral incentive program, even though this is one of the most effective, least risky way to acquire valuable customers… particularly if you’re a service professional!
Example: Offer current customers who refer a friend a free month/hour of service; instant “bottom of the bill" credit; or free merchandise AND a “spiff" for the “referee"! The details are up to you… I go into much greater detail of types of referral programs in my book, “Marketing, The Art and Science of Getting and Keeping Profitable Customers" if you’d like to learn more.
2. Dance with the Guy Who Brought You
There is absolutely no reason to ditch old marketing collateral (marketing lingo for brochures; direct mail letters; signs; point-of-sale displays; ad copy; promotions, etc. ) if they still work! It’s okay to use the very same creative, send it to the very same prospects and/or run it in the very same publications over and over again, as long as it generates the desired results. However, it’s always a great idea to continually conduct small, statically valid tests of new looks, offers and messages.
3. Don’t overdo the quality and quantity of your advertising pieces or media mix
Smart marketers know when to “put on the dog" and when it’s a waste of money. Falling in love with fancy four-colored brochures; glitzy magazine ads; primetime TV spots; or silver-embossed letterhead is a huge mistake.
The sales vehicles, look and feel, and quality of all of your marketing communications must be appropriate for your product or service and most importantly, have a measurable impact on its effectiveness.
For example, variables like paper quality and graphics on a direct mail letter are far less important than the offer, so you could potentially save thousands of dollars by cutting back on the frills. The opposite is true when you’re developing a professional brochure meant to represent your company to the outside world.
Bottom line: Don’t do fancy for fancy’s sake… it’s a waste of money; unproductive and may even be totally inappropriate for your target audience.
4. Use studies, reports and articles to assist in educating potential customers about your products or services
This is a wonderful, low-cost way to add clout! Can you imagine including a New York Times article on obesity with your nutritional services direct mail piece? What an impact! Or perhaps the same nutritionist would enclose a reprint of a medical report that linked certain childhood diseases with poor eating habits?
5. Use Boiler-Plated Literature Templates
What a simple, but powerful, tip! A very perplexing, and often expensive problem is how to develop market-appropriate material for diverse audiences without going broke.
The solution is simple. For instance, you can develop various sales letters using a “boiler plated" template; identical layout and content that are suitable for any audience. However, several predetermined sections are left blank for personalization. This is often called “modular literature"
6. Don’t change your own car oil
How do you think I know this? You’ve probably had similar experiences… You know the ones… trying to save a few bucks by doing it yourself? So off you go… drive to the store; wait in line; ask questions; look at the merchandise; select the oil, pan, funnel; wait in line to check-out; pay the cashier $24.97; drive back home; try to jack up the car so you can get underneath it to put the pan in place; undo the screw; get some oil in the pan; get most of the oil on you; get the funnel and fill it with the new oil; close everything down; throw your oil-laden shirt in the trash; and take a shower.
Cost? $24.97 in stuff; $1.32 in gas; $25.00 ruined shirt; 3.25 hours of your time; $1,000,000 in frustration… All this, when you could have had it done for you for $32.00!!
Lesson learned: Know what’s best left in the hands of professionals. Low cost is not always best cost!
However, there are times when doing it yourself is smart! If you’ve got better than average computer skills or design talents it’s easy to create things like business cards, letterhead and bill stuffers… but please, unless you’re an ad buyer by trade, do not try to buy, book or design ANY media (especially TV and radio) by yourself! Trust me, you’ll waste more money than you’ll save!
7. Pay suppliers on time
Not only will you endear yourself to vendors, but you can take advantage of your suppliers’ standard early pay discounts or create your own! This also saves money on late fees and will surely make vendors more likely to extend even better prices and offer you ongoing top notch service.
Mary Eule specializes in helping small and medium-sized businesses get and keep profitable customers. Formerly a Fortune 500 marketing executive; founder of two successful small businesses and award-winning speaker, Ms. Eule is President of Strategic Marketing Advisors, LLC. and co-author of a new book, “Marketing: What it Really Means and How to Make it Work for Your Business". She holds a master degree in marketing from Johns Hopkins University. Log onto http://www.StrategicMarketingAdvisors.com for free articles, newsletter and helpful tools, tips and templates .