Marketing your business on a tight budget
We’re often approached by smaller businesses who are simply overwhelmed by the vast choice of marketing channels available. It certainly has got a noisy (and tougher) world out there when it comes to getting your marketing noticed. For many of the companies who come to us, there’s unsureity how best to allocate their modest marketing budgets. Which activities would be affordable and also bring the greatest audience engagement and leads?
You certainly don’t have to break the bank to market your business but you do need to make sure you keep on customers’ radars to keep it afloat. In this article, we’ve shared an affordable ‘pick and mix’ of marketing ideas to build into your planning.
Before you begin
To avoid disappointing results, it really pays to be clear about the customers you want to attract.
Divide target customers into groups according to relevant profiles for your business (eg customer type, buying behaviour, interests, geography, seasonality). This enables you to focus on one group at a time well, rather than spreading your efforts too thinly and for little effect.
It also helps if you’ve got insight from any marketing you’ve done and measured. For example, what marketing activities have prooved better than others for lead/customer generation? Cut back on areas that didn’t work so well to finance others that did.
Affordable marketing ideas
1. Use the season to your advantage
Create a seasonal offer, news or event that puts you back on people’s radars. What need does your offering particularly serve in the Autumn? Even if your products or services have all year round appeal, can an aspect of the Autumn shine a spotlight on a particular use for them? For example, a security company we support offers a wide range of products but they often make a big noise about their security lighting range at this time of year. It ties in with the nights getting darker for longer. What aspect of your business offering that ties in with the season could you showcase on your website, in your social media, in your online advertising etc?
2. Get personal
If your customers and potential customers have signed up to your marketing, make the most of personalised or tailored communications. People will engage more with relevant messages than generic ones. Play this to your advantage and focus on smaller groups with personalised offers and communications – especially as most free email software enables you to personalise. Just make sure the calls to action are visibly clear and quick and easy to undertake.
Also, with most inboxes overloaded, why not stand out more by reverting to a printed direct-mail piece from time to time? Again, it pays to give it a personal touch for maximum attention.
3. Keep your social media profiles fresh and engaging
Build a good following by keeping your social media profile fresh and full of interesting content. Try and select content that stimulates people to interact with you – for example, run simple competitions, canvass feedback or share content which is fun and interesting. On that last point, consider giving out helpful tips, ideas, suggestions or offers.
Also feature your product or services’ successes, customer case studies and employee stories. Include pictures and short videos wherever possible for maximum engagement. And don’t forget to respond quickly to any comments your audience poses to you. If you struggle fitting in time to feed your social media, try free software such as Buffer to preset a number of posts at a time.
One final thing to check here is whether you’re still on the right social network for your target audience. Respect that different networks have different demographics, moods and tones of voice. Be sure to be on the right one for your business and offering.
4. Our survey says…
If you need fuel for your content marketing, consider a quick poll on an issue affecting your customers – use free software like Survey Monkey and turn the findings into a small easy to read report or news story.
Be seen to be the spokesperson on this insight and share your findings with your customers, target customers and relevant press. Ideally, you want to be able to offer some insight to the research results and relate this back in some way to your business strengths and offering. Don’t attempt to produce a thesis; it’s better to run a simple survey that’s quick for people to complete. This will help you to get a good volume of respondents and generate some cost-effective publicity from the findings.
5. Get out
Depending on who your target market is, try to get out and mingle amongst them. The more your team’s faces and the business name is visible to them, the more likely they’ll remember you when they have a need. So consider networking, attending their events such as trade shows, exhibitions and the like. If you’re selling to consumers, consider the markets, festivals or events they visit.
Also, see what events your suppliers or customers are running and go along and support them. They’re usually free and will give you the chance to talk to potential target customers and valuable contacts. In fact, your customer or supplier hosting the event may be happy to introduce you to particularly useful ones.
6. Collect ideas from your website and online advertising analytics
Look beyond the traffic volumes at the words and phrases people are putting into search engines to get to you. Sign up to Google Console or other webmaster tools. What are the popular phrases and what’s not there that should be? Which pages in your site are bringing in the more traffic and which aren’t. Use this information to fine-tune your content and search engine optimisation (SEO).
Ditch keyword phrases and campaigns that aren’t working and focus on the ones that are. Also be mindful that phrases and descriptions people type in to a search engine can change over time. Find out how customers currently describe your offering and the problems you fix. Be sure to echo their vocabulary in your SEO and marketing content. Also, if you know your target audience are online at specific times, days of the week or particular devices, opt for those in your ad campaigns and don’t waste money on others. You can specify the time of day, days of the week and devices you want to target in your online ad settings.
Another point, when it comes to online ad campaigns, is to be sure to review these regularly so you are getting the best return for your ad spend.
7. Create an event to bring customers in
Create an opportunity to bring customers and target customers together. Consider creating a tasting, preview, workshop, webinar, round table or surgery to showcase a particular product/service line or discuss a topical issue? Add extra appeal to the event by getting a speaker (for example, another customer or complementary supplier/adviser) to give tasters of their products or share helpful insight too? A panel of speakers can be more attractive to people’s time and interest than one. Don’t forget to follow up everyone who attends to build on interest and move them along the sales funnel – perhaps by sending them a special offer.
8. Make more of your email signature
If your business sends out a lot of emails then consider changing your email signature to showcase a specific product, service or news item, guide or white paper each month. It will help your customers and potential customers to grasp the broader offering you have. It may also act as a prompt for a specific need they have. In the same way, keep your website fresh with information – especially if a lot of your new business is recommended by existing customers and contacts. Many of those new customers are likely to look at your website before getting in touch. Do be sure to regularly test the user experience of your site so it attracts and retains visitor attention.
9. Do a good deed
It’s not easy getting your business in the press with a PR story about your products or services. Local journalists, community boards and sector-focused publications will be more amenable to stories of businesses ‘doing good’.
Also, customers are increasingly more interested in a supplier’s ethics and corporate responsibility and may select you over another which doesn’t come across as so reputable.
So see if there’s a charity you can support and think of activities you can do together. Be sure to support one which has a relevance to your business and your customers. For example, can your people provide specific help or lend a hand with a particular challenge etc? The more innovative and ‘active’ the activity, the more people will be interested.
Do be sensitive with how you manage the publicity for this. If you’re using the opportunity to blatantly sell your business then people are going to switch off. Talk with the charity about how you can best support them. Good charities will want to help you too to secure your loyalty. Many have formed networking clubs of their benefactors to help donors gain commercial opportunities from their involvement in the charity. See if this is possible with yours.
10. Capitalise on a news story
If you can harness a speedy response, make the most of a relevant news story to share a view, offer help, insight or even (if it’s appropriate) make a witty comment. With the latter, over the years businesses like Specsavers (‘Should have gone to Specsavers’) have done very well from this strategy and have gained quick, cheaper but sizeable attention in their social media. Of course, news takes all forms – good, bad, bizarre and more recently, fake. Be careful that you select a news item wisely and consider the tone and impression you are adopting in your response. Make sure it works favourably for you and not adversely.
The best marketing is built on a strong knowledge of the target audience. In reality, you probably know more about your customers than you think but that shouldn’t stop you trying to find out more. Customer behaviour is never static. Their needs, preferences and interests are constantly changing – so are the marketing channels they use.
The good news is that the more you know, the more cost-effective your marketing can be. You can strip out the various activities that will be ignored and focus on the ones that will certainly put you on people’s radars. Finally, try and build a bit of agility and spontaneity into your marketing and play to the moment. In our very busy and noisy world, it’s more likely to get you noticed.
For more advice on marketing your business contact us or tel. 01483 429111.