Although marketing is an extremely wise investment when trying to build your company’s unique brand image and grow your bottom line, client base and reputation in the marketplace, not all forms of marketing call for large sums of cash to help get your story out there. As a marketing agency with more than 25 years, dozens of awards and a diverse roster of clients to its credit, Woodall Creative Group has not only guided its clients into using cost-effective – and sometimes cost-free – marketing tools, but has also applied all of the following tips to grow their own business. So let’s count down the 10 Marketing Tips That Don’t Cost a Dime:
- Be Proactive in the Marketing of Your Business: The first – and most important – bit of advice regarding marketing is to DO IT! All too often, companies allow the marketing of their brand to take a backseat to more pressing matters – only to learn later that they should have never taken their foot off the gas. Plan a marketing calendar – keeping it active and fairly steady year-round with spikes in activity leading into your most lucrative months or seasons. Never fly by the seat of your pants – your company’s success is far too important for that.
- Identify and Leverage your Competitive Advantage: Really focus on what makes your company special. What sets it apart from the competition? Next, ask yourself “What do prospective clients have to gain from this advantage?” Are you the least expensive or most experienced? Do you provide top-notch customer service or a proprietary product? Do you offer extended hours or specialized services? While gaining insights to your own business, become a student of your competitors in order to discover what you can do or provide that they cannot and then weave it into all of your messaging – from copy on your website to prospect communications to talking points at network events. Make your competitive advantage an integral part of your overall brand and remain consistent in your use of that advantage in all digital and traditional marketing.
- Make Sure Prospective Customers Can Find You: Did you know that nearly half of U.S. adults said they have Googled someone before doing business with them? With so much research being conducted online before a prospect ever picks up a phone or sets foot inside your brick-and-mortar location, you need to make sure your company is listed anywhere and everywhere possible. There are a wide variety of free options, such as social media sites, city business directories and websites like Google Local, YellowPages.com, BizHwy.com and more. If you’re a member of a Chamber of Commerce or industry-specific organization, make sure your company is listed in their online directory. Take care to research keywords that will help get your company noticed and weave them into your business description in every directory and take full advantage of each listing – filling out as much information as you can in hopes of driving traffic to your website and through your front door.
- They Like You, They Really Like You: You know when you’ve had a great customer interaction, or when they’ve had a positive experience. Don’t be shy! Ask for a positive review. If your company is set up for reviews on Facebook, ask your customers to share their experience with others. If you are on a site like Yelp, TripAdvisor or an industry-specific review site, ask them to review you there. Did you know that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation and 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more? It’s worth it to ask, and it might make that customer feel special to know they’re doing something to help a local small business. Even better, the best reviews can be repurposed as client testimonies for use on your website, in social media posts, in newsletters, as references to potential clients and more!
- Word of Mouth Still Reigns Supreme: In addition to reviews, you can also ask your best customers to serve as ambassadors and directly refer your company to friends, family, business associates, neighbors, church members, anyone and everyone who will listen. You can also take it one step further and look to your affiliates to do the same in a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” spirit of doing business. Related companies within the same or similar industries make great referrals, such as a dentist referring a patient to an orthodontist, an architect referring a client to an engineer or builder, etc… Make relationship building a major part of your marketing strategy. If you don’t have a referral rewards program in place, considering adding one to cultivate and reward referrals. Fostering a solid referral stream is one of the most effective ways to grow a business.
- Set Your Sights on Being an Industry Expert: It’s not enough to be the best at what you do – you have to let others know that you’re the best at what you do. Start positioning your company and members of its leadership team as experts in your industry. Create a personal brand for each expert in your company. Network, write blogs, create webinars, book speaking engagements, submit your work for awards, offer yourself as a source for local journalists and more in order to share your knowledge and grow your brand.
- Narrow Down Your Target Audience: While casting a wider net CAN work in catching customers, it’s far from ideal. Instead, really drill down to define your target audience – for instance, companies that might benefit from a relationship with your company. Identify the “Top 20” with which you’d like to get a foot in the door to start. Become familiar with each of their businesses and all of the key players you’d like to reach. When you do market to them, do so in a personal, authentic and approachable way while conveying your all-important brand image and communicating CLEARLY why they should do business with you.
- The Show Must Go On: Once you’ve narrowed down your target audience and begun making contact, meetings with prospects should soon follow. But don’t just hand over a proposal, thank them for their time and be on your merry way at the end of the meeting. Use this opportunity to set a date for the NEXT meeting. Before the next meeting takes place, keep the dialogue going in order to stay top of mind for that prospect and continue to build on that initial relationship. Chances are, you’re not the ONLY one in your industry with whom they’ve set a meeting. Stay in the game by sending a follow-up email and/or making a follow-up call, sharing relevant blogs, adding them to your e-newsletter database and more. All of these can be pre-designed and set to a schedule so it doesn’t require a lot of extra thought on your part. Just make sure these follow-ups feel fresh and personalized, rather than canned.
- Place an Emphasis on Long-Term Client Retention: In the pursuit of new customers, the existing customer is sometimes lost in the mix. A large part of your marketing calendar should include marketing to CURRENT customers with a goal of building long-term relationships. Let them know you appreciate them. BUILD on that existing relationship by offering additional services that could benefit them. After all, a happy customer is one of the best marketing tools you can have!
- Market, Rinse, Repeat: Once your marketing calendar is starting to wind down, it’s time to start building another one. Don’t take your eye off the ball. Track what elements worked and what didn’t. For those that didn’t work as well as you’d hoped, ask yourself WHY and consider tweaking those elements in hopes of achieving better results the next go-around. Build your new marketing calendar to be even stronger and more robust that the last.
When you ARE ready to invest part of your annual budget into marketing – from cutting edge digital means to tried-and-true traditional methods and everything in between – Woodall Creative Group welcomes the opportunity to add your company to our growing list of satisfied customers!