An effective marketing plan is critical in the development of any small business. The bottom line is important in any business, but small business owners have to watch their costs even more closely than most large organizations. The key is to figure out how to get the most bang for their marketing buck, while not being intimidated if they are unfamiliar with the process. Here are 5 points to keep in mind when creating your marketing strategy for your small business.
· Do things that you do well and can do consistently. The first step in creating your marketing strategy is to choose things you are comfortable doing. If you are not a sales person, don’t include outside sales in your marketing plan. Devote your resources to things like weekly emails, direct mailings, or internet campaigns.
· Use promotions to make customers feel special and reward loyalty. Your best customer is the one you already have. There are never any reasons to slow down on satisfying your audience. Customer satisfaction is the key that will separate your business from your competition. For example, encourage your customers and business contacts to follow your twitter or Facebook accounts, then offer time sensitive specials or giveaways for all those who like or retweet. You could also include a free gift for a first-time customer or develop a referral program when buyers tell their friends.
· Be a leader in your community. A great way to acquire new customers and business contacts is to become active in the community. Join local networking organizations, like the chamber of commerce or a local merchants association. Becoming active in charitable organizations or collaborating with a non-profit is also a good option. Whatever you decide to do, sitting in the four walls of your office and waiting for customers to find you is not an effective marketing plan.
· Always listen and say thank you. Soliciting feedback and listening to what they have to say is the best way to retain good customers. Be prepared to genuinely listen to what your customers are telling you and to act on their comments. Happy customers who get their issues resolved tell 4-6 people about their experience. However, unhappy customers who do not get their issues resolved tell 11 people about their experience. Feedback is truly valuable and acting on it can generate positive word of mouth. Thank your customers for taking the time to give you feedback and make sure they feel rewarded for doing so.
· Change what doesn’t work. Besides focusing on what you do best, don’t be afraid to alter your plan to change something that is not working. While some events or programs you try will help you meet some great people, it may not lead to any actual sales. Instead of spending money on something that does not show a return on your investment, try to repurpose your funds to another campaign.
The most important thing to remember is that any marketing plan you decide to implement should revolve around making your business more visible to your customers. It should focus on not only keeping your current customers, but on attracting those that don’t already know you. Marketing that really makes an impression and advertises service after the sale is what will keep customers coming back and will help your business grow.