Most small business owners have a limited marketing budget and think they do not have the resources to develop an effective marketing strategy. The truth is, there are a myriad of simple marketing strategies small business owners can use to promote their business, attract new customers, increase sales, and get customers to keep coming back. By remaining diligent and staying focused on their specific marketing goals, small business owners can run (and keep up) with the big dogs and watch their businesses grow. Here are some marketing tips for businesses that are just starting out or those who need a marketing makeover.

What are your marketing goals?

Before setting up any marketing strategy, you first have to define your specific marketing goals. Do you want to introduce new products, enter new territories, update a product, acquire contracts with desirable clients, revamp your customer service, or boost sales in a specific product or market? Each goal will require a different strategy. Be clear about what you want to achieve, so that you and your team have well-defined goals and can successfully create solutions.

Increase your sales in as little as 60 minutes a day!

Committing to your marketing goals is much like being on a weight loss program – you have to stick with it in order to see results. Hold yourself accountable to spend at least an hour a day on promoting your business, attracting new customers, or planning a new marketing strategy. If you commit to contacting ten former or potential customers a day, for example, you will begin to see immediate results in your sales.

Create Visibility

Every outing and contact is an opportunity to promote your business. Wear clothes that bear your company’s name and logo; hand out business cards everywhere you go; place your company’s logo and contact information on your vehicle; sponsor local events; print your best ad on a postcard and mail it to prospective customers in your targeted market; or find ways to get free publicity by getting into local publications or mentioned on local radio stations.

Getting Free Publicity

Believe it or not, there are a few ways to get free publicity for your business – and none of them involve alleging that your small child has been swept away in a weather balloon. First, find out who writes for the business section of your local newspaper. Hire a professional writer to write a press release about your business and send it to the newspaper along with a photo of yourself and your business. Most newspapers will need to see how you are doing something that is a benefit to the community in order to write an article about you. A pizza shop in South Florida, for example, set themselves apart from their competition by committing to being eco-conscious. So, they purchased hybrid vehicles to use as delivery cars and use recycled cardboard. This unique approach to pizza delivery garnered them much press. If the reporter or editor agree to write an article about your business, make sure you get a copy and make copies to distribute and display.

You can also get on the radio by agreeing to sell tickets for a local event or concert. When the promoters create an on-air campaign, your business will be mentioned as a place to go to buy tickets.

If you are a good writer, consider writing articles that offer expert advice in your field and submit the articles to trade publications and business-to-business magazines. For example, if you have an exterminator business, you could write an article on how to control insects and other garden pests organically for a regional gardening publication. When the article gets published, your name – and possibly photo – will appear with the article along with your title as owner of your company.

Elevator Speech

Imagine if you were standing in an elevator with a prospective client or someone who had the key to an amazing business opportunity for you. If you only had the time that the two of you were in the elevator together to make a good first impression while clearly stating what you do and the benefits of your products or services, what would you say? The point is to prepare a short introduction for when you do meet new people and prospective customers that will give you an opportunity to pique their interest, offer your business card, and get them to visit your Web site or store.

Partner With Other Small Business Owners

Approach non-competing small business owners who also serve customers in your market and ask if they would be interested in cross promoting. The idea is that you publicize their products or services to your customers, and they do the same for you. This is a great way to reach your targeted market at a low cost. You can agree to send each others brochures and leaflets out to customers together, for example. You can also offer your customers a chance to win a free product or service from the other company in exchange for that business owner promoting your business – possibly by displaying your ad or poster in their shop – and referring customers to you. This presents a win-win for both companies.

Retain Your Customers

Always offer service that is far better than what your customers expect, and you will see more and more returning customers. Have a rule with your associates that there are no limits to achieving customer satisfaction. The goal is to make sure that customers are not just pleased with the service they received; they are impressed. One online company that sells shoes, for example, has a policy that allows representatives to talk on the phone with customers for as long as they need to. By not having a phone time limit, the representatives are able to have more natural-sounding, real conversations with customers who call to place an order – increasing their customers’ level of satisfaction during the purchasing process and ensuring repeat business.

Once your customers trust that they can expect a high level of service from you, you can in turn rely on them to help you bring in more business. Present existing customers with special deals, new products, and new services before they are announced publicly. This will help you develop loyalty and trust with your customers, who will most likely refer your business to friends and family. To ensure that existing customers draw in more customers, offer incentive programs that reward customers who make referrals.

The bottom line is that customers are the lifeblood of any business. Make sure you are taking the time to set clear and creative goals on how you can not only reach more customers in your targeted market, but also retain existing ones. It does not take a huge budget. Instead, all you need is a clear focus, commitment to specific marketing goals, and creativity.

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