Handy tips on how to successfully market your business

An effective marketing strategy can create new growth channels, maximise the value of your customer base and above all, publicise your business without sapping your income. But, with the ASA reporting that small businesses wasted a whopping £2.5 billion on ineffective marketing last year, it’s clear that companies need to avoid fruitlessly spending their precious (and limited) cash on uncertain strategies that don’t deliver any real return on investment.

Fortunately as an SME, chances are you’re quick on your feet in a way that the lumbering giants of the high street are not; and it doesn’t need to be a long, drawn out process. Here are a few things to consider that could significantly boost your bottom line by turning your most valuable asset, your customers, into an army of advocates.

1. Encourage customers to recommend you

Customers are no longer just statistics or faceless consumers. So winning customers’ hearts and minds is more important than ever. Your message needs to be clearer and needs to inspire not only purchase, but also referral. In other words, your product and message needs to be strong enough to inspire your customer to recommend you to a friend.

This could mean offering initiative in the form of discounts for those that recommend you, making your content exceptionally sharable or offering privileges for your most loyal fans. In a sense we’re going back to a simpler time, where success relied on quality, personal recommendation and good old fashioned word of mouth.

Using this technique, Tesco realised that a customer who might once have represented an £80 drop in their £72 billion-a-year ocean, consigned to the ‘dead pool’ of customers sent the odd direct mail shot, is now considered a prime target for the brand. The reason? Tesco discovered that tapping into him and his network turned that £80 into hundreds, even thousands of pounds. While this is a large-scale example, it can be applied to businesses of any size.

2. Make customers part of your development team

Social media is an extremely useful tool and has opened up a variety of channels where customers can praise or complain about your company. The most important thing for small businesses is to learn to see social media as a land of opportunity rather than a threat – or worse, ignoring it altogether. For example, rather than wait until after customers have purchased your product, why not gather input from fans involved at the beginning of the product development process? Ask customers what they want, make it, and chances are they will go on to buy it. It seems obvious but this level of engagement is surprisingly uncommon.

We’re always on the lookout for small businesses that are doing this, and one example that recently caught our eye was Brewdog and their #mashtag campaign. This unique brewer created a whole line of beer designed by the very people that they should be listening to – their consumers. This is what we love, companies that are bold and take things further than expected. Relying on your appreciators is certainly a risk but it can pay off, as with Brewdog who gave control over to their consumers for direction choosing ingredients and packaging.

And what’s great is that anyone can implement this tactic. Social media has created an era of the little guys; any business can use the same social online tools as the biggest conglomerate.

3. Discount smartly

Discounting can be a great way of attracting new customers and it’s a good method of marketing your company, allowing you to offer great value to your customer base. But indiscriminate discounting can be hugely damaging. Large discount sales may be great for the high street department store who can afford the odd flash sale and 50 per cent price cuts, but when margins are tighter, this simply isn’t an option. More often than not, it’s a blanket approach that damages your bottom line and fails to appreciate the unique nature of both your product and your customer. You want loyal customers that will come back and value your organisation, not deal hunters.

This doesn’t mean that discounting is completely out of the question. Make people earn your discounts, either via the traditional lottery system (your products are free for the 500th customer), or via a gamification system where customers win discounts for referring a certain number of friends to your products. Everyone loves a competition and a sense of chance, and it’s more cost-effective to execute.

What’s key is ensuring that you’re protecting the value of your brand and making money, NOT simply pushing price slashes or big red sale signs.

Customers like to feel like they matter, and they really do. Putting them at the heart of your business strategy, without cannibalising the value of your product is key to creating a truly effective marketing strategy. We’ve gone beyond the era of marketing being the broadcasting of your company messages. We’re through the looking glass. Marketing now needs to be focused on creating an army of engaged customers who will recommend you to their nearest and dearest.

Source: Small Business


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