“There are no magic wands, no hidden tricks, and no secret handshakes that can bring you immediate success, but with time, energy, and determination you can get there.” – Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger
Everyone knows that building a business takes time and persistence, but it also takes effective marketing. However, most of us don’t have the luxury of starting a business with a six figure budget. So how do you throw yourself into a solid marketing plan with a teeny marketing budget? Here are some strategies we’ve found work for our clients. Just remember that when you’re spending less money on marketing, you’re likely looking at spending more time to achieve great results.
1) Leverage Relationships: You certainly have people in your life who will benefit from the success of your business, like your banker, your CPA, your suppliers, your vendors, etc. Determine who would make good informal sales agents for your business by considering who will benefit most from your growth. Once you have that figured out, go to your contacts and ask those people to support your growth efforts through leads, referrals, testimonials, etc.
2) Work with Current Customers: Your current customers know that you have a great product or service to offer to the community – and they know people who can benefit from what you’re offering. Ask them for introductions and referrals to other potential buyers or ask them to provide endorsements or testimonials, or see if they’d serve as references. Also, every time you work with customers, ask if there are any needs you haven’t met. There is always more you can do (and charge for.)
3) Build your Referral Sources: Take a look at your best referral sources in the last year. Where has most of your business come from? First of all, make sure you thank those people or service providers for helping to build your businesses and then create a strategy to stay in touch with these sources as often as possible. Now consider how you can copy these results. If you’re an estate sale company and your best referrals have come from realtors, how can you meet more realtors?
4) Make Working with You Easy: If you’re asking someone to do business with you, consider offering a money-back guarantee. A credible and specific guarantee will bring in much more business than it costs you. If you’re uncomfortable providing a guarantee, consider why. Is there something you need to improve in your system to make your business less risky for customers?
5) Reach More at Once: There are only so many hours in the day, so situations where you can influence multiple people at once will serve you well. Consider hosting special events or seminars for customers, referral sources, and prospects. If you can combine your event with people who would make strong strategic partners, you can tap into their networks as well.
6) Spread the Word: Even in the internet age, having a public relations strategy is important. Get to know your local media outlets and reporters and be sure to share stories about changes in your business, especially expansions in staff or services. Developing a relationship with your local reporters is a give and take relationship, so next time there is a fire in your community or a car crash down the street, take a quick photo with your smart phone and send it to the reporter to use. That will help you build rapport.
7) Use Social Media: Building social media pages is a slow process, but it’s important to be able to connect with any potential customers on any platform. If you don’t have a Facebook page and a potential customer searches for you on Facebook, how will that look? If you have loyal customers, ask them to write reviews for your Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn pages. Those are powerful messages to potential customers! You can also use LinkedIn to build your personal referral network by leveraging groups. There’s plenty of free training out there for exactly how to make that work.
8) Leverage Indirect Competitors: Are there competitors in your market you wouldn’t necessarily go head-to-head against when looking for customers? Maybe you are in slightly different markets or you serve different populations with a similar service? If you’re a residential painter, can you build a relationship with a commercial painter to let leads flow both ways?