Well, you had your grand opening… now what?
That’s the biggest, most crucial part of the small business owner’s challenge: getting those customers! What kind of strategy you should use for marketing partly depends on what kind of business you’re running.
For a retail store, it’s usually signs, ads in the phone book and newspaper, and Internet. TV and radio commercials may work some, but are prohibitively expensive. It also spends more money than you need, unless the station you’re advertising with reaches a very local audience. It simply isn’t worth the money to spread word of your store 50 miles away, when most people won’t drive that far. the Internet reaches a far broader audience, but at web space going for a mere $5 to $10 dollars per month, it’s worth it even if you only reach 5 customers.
For a consultancy, you’ll want business cards, phone and newspaper or magazine, and definitely Internet. Since you’re reaching the professional market, you’ll want to focus heavily on trade magazines. It’s a waste of time to advertise in places where you won’t find any potential customers, so you’ll have to ask yourself who will see it.
But one of the main potential draws is the best marketing you can get: your own customers! A business that spreads through word of mouth is bound to be successful. To make yourself easy to be recommended, offer discounts to both the referral customer and the referred customer on their next visit. You can verify this with just telling each one to mention it when they come in.
A big part of marketing these days is the Internet. the Internet now supports over 3 billion people world-wide! And consider that you can reach all of those people for next to no money – or even free. You can start a free blog at a site like blogger.com and get an instant web presence. For a few dollars, you can get your own .com domain and a few hundred after that will get you a web design team through online freelancer sites. Never underestimate the value of a permanent web page address.
A word about hiring too many viral marketers, however, is that you should be careful not to overdo it. “Viral” marketing is the process of creating “buzz” on the Internet, by getting links and comments through social bookmarking sites. Too much of this can be considered spamming. A recent example is the disastrous Ron Paul campaign, who was trying to garner the 2008 nomination through the kind of illicit tactics they call “black hat” – or criminal – marketing. Because of the incessant spamming of the web by his supporters, they earned the name “Ron Paul zombies” and “Paulbots” and Ron Paul lives on to this day as “L. Ron Paul Hubbard” – a play on the supposed cult status of the Dianetics guru. It may look good to you to see 100 links coming in from a social news site, but the Internet is quick to discover deception.
Another tactic to avoid is telemarketing and direct email. This just doesn’t win customers at all, and it will turn 50 people off for every one you happen to get. However, you may call back a repeat customer or offer to add them to your ezine mailing list. That’s different, then it was a solicited option. For other kinds of direct marketing, there is the marginal and costly bulk mailing and door-to-door flyer handouts. These are less intrusive than other methods, but still only get a marginal gain in customers.