At the high end, the U.S. Small Business Administration has noted that a reasonable marketing budget for a growing business in a competitive space could be up to 20% of annual projected revenue. That’s no small amount of money.
Hopefully, you’re carefully planning where the funds will be allocated. But whatever your specific strategies and tactics, there are a few tips that you should keep in mind and consider implementing along the way.
They won’t all make sense for your company, but it never hurts to review some new possibilities or ways of looking at your marketing efforts.
Give Something Away
Yes, give something away. Counter-intuitive? Revolutionary? Not at all.
Your tactics for attracting prospects and turning them into customers should include presenting them with something – something of real value, not trade show-type stuff with your name on it – that can genuinely help them. If possible, give early on, preferably at your first meeting with the prospect, or as part of an immediate follow-up.
What you give away depends completely on what products or services your company provides.
Product samples are always appropriate, as is a free, detailed consultation or situation analysis illustrating that you understand the prospect’s needs and have the resources to help him. In this case, follow up with a written report.
Two things to remember:
- Remember to provide value. Whatever you give should help your prospect immediately.
- Don’t sell. That comes later.
Your goal should be to provide so much value with what you initially give to the prospect that he or she will think, “wow, what if I actually bought from this person?”
In many business-to-business purchase decisions, price isn’t the dominant factor; it’s value. That’s where you should focus your marketing efforts.
Of course, what actually constitutes value varies by industry and sometimes even by customer. Your job is to find out what’s most important to the people you’re selling to – that is, where do they see value?
Maybe one customer defines value as fast delivery (example: we can deliver widgets in two business days) while another defines it in terms of durability (example: our widgets average 10,000 hours of service on the shop floor).
Where possible, quantify, or put a number on, the value your products or services can bring. For example:
- Our customers save an average of 15% on their annual commercial cleaning expenses.
- Our machines average less than 1% down-time each year.
Your customers are smart. Treat them that way and trust that they can understand the value you can bring them.
Think “presence of mind.” What are your customers worried about right now?
Of course to do this, you’d better know what’s going on in your industry – and your customers’ – and have a plan pertaining to how you’ll deal with it.
Are there regulatory changes coming that will impact your customers? Are technological advancements presenting new opportunities or challenges? Is the state of the economy disproportionately helping or hurting your customer base?
This is a chance to be proactive. Make sure your marketing plans – both short and long-term – address what’s on your prospects’ and clients’ minds. Post relevant information to your website. Hold a webinar. Conduct an email or direct mail campaign.
Just make sure that whatever you do and present is solution-oriented.
Tip: Obviously not everything that’s topical relates directly to your business, but you can often still leverage certain events to your advantage. The principal of a small accounting firm, a hard core Beatles fan, is offering $50 off tax return services in 2014 in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Fab Five’s first trip to America in 1964. Silly? Maybe. He’s promised to let us know how it works out.
Use CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Software
Don’t tune out. Even if you’re not the techie type, an off the shelf CRM program can help you understand your customers and prospects in ways you probably hadn’t even envisioned.
A fairly simple CRM program can help you stay in touch with clients, respond quickly to their questions and concerns, and segment them by service or product needs, buying histories, or any other way that makes sense for your company.
But here’s the really interesting part: Properly applied, CRM can even help you predict which customers are most likely to buy, and what they will purchase. (Actually, it’s not quite as magical as it sounds. Much of the analysis involves using past information to forecast what’s coming next.)
CRM can be as easy or as complicated as you need it to be, but nearly every company can use it to better serve its customers and improve its bottom line.
Tip: If you really want to fullyleverage the power of CRM check out Strategic Database Marketing, by Arthur Hughes (McGraw-Hill, 2011). The author, who’s generally recognized as the premier authority on customer database marketing strategies, does a masterful job of making the information accessible to the non-tech professional.
Improve Your Website
More tech-talk, but that’s the reality of the world we’re competing in.
If you haven’t updated your website, at least a little bit, in six months, you’re letting it under-perform. If you haven’t completely overhauled your site in the last three years, you might as well be living in 1986.
Today’s customers visit websites expecting to find value (see above), topical information (ditto), quality content, and a specific answer to the question, “why should I do business with your company?”
The good news is,there’s plenty of help out there. So a quality, cost-effective overhaul can be put together fairly quickly and at a reasonable cost. Make it a priority for 2014.
Tip: To jump-start the process, appoint a website champion inside your company. It needn’t be a technical person. (In fact, you could make a pretty good argument that it shouldn’t be.) This person will solicit input from staff regarding what needs to go in the site, and coordinate with your site content creator and designer to get it implemented.
What small business marketing tips can you share? Please leave a comment below.
Image courtesy David A. Tyro
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