There are countless tools available to help entrepreneurs market to their target audience. The truth is that you only need a few — three, to be exact — to get the job done and do it well.
Your company can market to a targeted audience successfully with just email, social media and design. As long as you know how to use these to suit your needs, your marketing efforts will go far.
Email marketing, social media, and design are three of the most common forms of marketing, however, they’re common because they’re the most effective. The added benefit is that they require a smaller investment than more traditional forms of advertising.
These three have the power to drive almost all of your marketing efforts. By designing a great blog on your website and creating content, you can comment on issues related to your industry and post exciting information and updates about your company’s growth. Once you’ve created a strong email list of active customers, you can drive traffic to your blog by sending email marketing messages.
You can also use this channel to send special offers or encourage people to upgrade. The valuable and insightful content produced for your blog and email marketing campaigns can also be used on social media outlets. Engage current and prospective customers with updates that showcase your expertise or entice them to buy.
Basically, your emails will attract customers, social media will influence them, and design will keep them coming back.
As simple as these three marketing tools are, you have to find unique ways to utilise them. Here are a few ideas:
Marketing your company and attracting new audiences doesn’t always require huge investment. Email, social and design are essential to the long-term success of your marketing and sales efforts. Make an investment in these three and build upon them for future marketing growth.
I’ve got to be honest, I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. You see the Horsley Network that three friends (Jonathan, Liz and Claire) and I set up was launched earlier this year and we had more than 30 guests on our first night.
Having been to plenty of more established groups that have struggled to break 15 guests, I think we can pat ourselves on the back for having marketed the event effectively.
So how did we do it?
We focused. I’m a huge believer in “niching” your offering, and this networking group was no different. We’ve set up the Horsley Business Network for business owners who live in Horsley, as well as people who run businesses in nearby villages in Surrey. By having that focus, there’s a stronger pull for people who actually engage with the group’s aims.
We created a plan. We thought carefully about the structure of the evenings and how much it would be fair to charge. And we were realistic about how much we needed to invest in marketing – which clearly paid off. Too many people try to start businesses up on pennies because they want to be earning money before they put anything in. Prudent perhaps, but I seriously believe we would not have received the response we did had I sent round some photocopied “Word Art” flyers.
We took design seriously. We got some great businesses at our first event. Why? Because our flyers and website didn’t look cobbled together, they looked like we meant business, like it was worth bothering to leave a warm house and set out on a cold night to share a beer or two with some interesting people. In fact, we took the design so seriously that a couple of people thought that this was a franchised operation (it’s not – it’s strictly not-for-profit).
We created some compelling copy that focused on the reader. We thought about what their aspirations might be and what objections we’d need to overcome. And we used testimonials to add conviction.
We promoted – hard! We arranged to distribute 5,000 flyers in the local area – a combination of asking local schools and shops and some serious pavement pounding. We also left flyers on notice boards and in village halls. And I set up an email distribution list that included some of my own contacts as well as asking others to forward it on so that it “went viral”.
We used online as well as offline media. We have a professional looking website and we Tweeted about it. Next time, we’ll probably use LinkedIn to also spread the word.
We thought about tipping points. It’s all about enticing the reader to get out of their armchair and into the pub. There’s one benefit right there. For others it was the beer, perhaps the promise of support from like-minded business owners or the fabulous speaker in the form of Karen Skidmore.
I had also set up an online survey in December to find out what people really wanted, which made it much easier to deliver what they wanted.
I can’t help thinking that if many small business owners marketed their own businesses as comprehensively as this, they would also find the outcome exceeded their expectations. But all too often it’s tempting to skimp on careful market research, professional design and effective copywriting in favour of saving money and channelling everything through social networking. What do you think?
Fiona Humberstone, Flourish design & marketing
It's every business–owner's nightmare: a furious customer on the end of a phone demanding to know why their purchase hasn't been delivered, why it's broken, or even to complain about a member of your staff. Even if the problem isn't actually your fault, it is crucial to have a proper complaints policy in place.
Recently I made a complaint for the first time and was gratified when I received a full and genuine–sounding letter of apology in return. I was less pleased a couple of weeks later when I received a call from the same company wanting feedback. Although I had been satisfied by the initial apology, being asked by a bored–sounding woman whether I was 'satisfied' or 'very satisfied' with the apology instantly grated. It was clear that the apology was merely part of a process; my answers were probably being tapped into a database as I spoke. For me, this meant that the sentiment of the original letter was lost.
Business Link advises business owners to deal with complaints 'courteously, sympathetically and – above all – swiftly'. Obviously it is important to find out whether your policy works – but is it a good idea to call up the recently–irate customer and take up more of their time only to fill out a brief questionnaire? How useful is a questionnaire anyway? I would suggest that the best feedback is whether the customer returns to you after having made a complaint.
Word–of–mouth recommendation is arguably the best PR for small businesses, but similarly a bad experience can damage your firm's reputation. It is vital to handle a customer's complaint sensitively and promptly, but at the same time ensure that you are motivated by the customer's needs, not just by the desire to prevent bad publicity.
It seems that many people I know have had bad experiences at the hands of larger companies, and this is an area where small businesses can excel. By its nature, a small business is much more likely to offer a personal touch when it comes to dealing with complaints. Rather than having to wait in endless queues, being passed from one customer service manager to another, your customers can connect with you directly to get the answers and, if necessary, the apologies they want.
What do you think? Have you ever had any complaints, and how did you handle them? Did you ask for feedback, and how did you implement it? Are you a customer whose complaints were handled well? If not, how could it have been improved?
Clare Bullock, BHP Information Solutions