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Is your marketing budget tighter than a boil-washed sweater?

Tips and strategies that don’t cost the earth…

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to come up with a good business marketing strategy, and it needn’t cost that much either.

At its most effective, a marketing strategy is all about improving your chances of making sales – usually by making more potential purchasers aware of your products or services, or by making them aware of its desirable qualities (which may well include its price).

In any case it makes sense to optimise your budget. Given the choice between big-bang and little-but-often, good business marketing is less about getting big bangs and more about producing smaller amounts very regularly.

The impact of your marketing will also be improved greatly if you can use multiple channels. Prospects in particular are more likely to become buyers if they read about your business in their newspaper, see your ads, find your website, enter your competition, take home a brochure, hear you speak at a seminar, and learn what a great company you are from a third party.

So you should spread your activity. You should also maintain the momentum: Business marketing is a long-term activity.

You don’t need to spend big; most of the ideas in your marketing strategy are likely to involve moderate costs. But it will require time and effort from you on a regular basis. Here are a few ideas to get you going…

Ten Top Tips to Boost Success

  1. Build a mailing list. Collecting the names is the hard part, so give your prospects a reason for them to provide you with their name and address – competitions, an emailed newsletter, the promise of advance information and discounts, maybe even a loyalty card. Work at keeping your list accurate and up to date. Email is cheaper, more versatile and more easily integrated with your website than snail-mail. Once you have your list – use it! Remember birthdays, drop an email to customers to say thank you – be personal as well as sending out generic letters. Look at their past purchase history if possible, and tailor special promotions to them.
  2. Make sure promotional emails are well-written, catchy and solve a problem for the reader. End with a call to action and your contact details – and don’t forget the compulsory ‘unsubscribe’ option.
  3. Create and maintain a business Facebook page and use Twitter-power. It’s a great way of keeping a conversation going with your customers, promoting your brand, making offers and answering their questions. But be warned – when the customer is part of the conversation, you can’t control what they choose to say about you! So be prepared to respond fast to comments, whether positive or negative.
  4. Money-off coupons can be a good way to bump up sales volume, but they can also send a message about your business. It could be customer care (distribute them to favoured clients only), but coupons work best as a value-for-money flag. Distribute coupons in print advertising, by direct mail, by hand, and via your email newsletters and website.
  5. Postcards are relatively cheap and easy to produce. They can be handed out at exhibitions or networking events, left with customers, mailed to prospects and stacked in help-yourself dispensers. You can use them for a variety of marketing messages – try our new product, gasp at our new prices or our seasonal promotion, enter the competition or the free prize draw… make sure they stand out visually so people want to keep them. It is worth enlisting design assistance, even if you have PhotoShop in the office…
  6. Run competitions. People love them, even if someone else is the winner. They are an excellent way to garner mailing list names while sending branding messages: the kind of contest your run implies the kind of company you are.
  7. Give them something for free. People like to get gifts, even if they have to pay a premium price for a more expensive item to qualify for the freebie. The aim here is both to boost sales and to tell the world that you’re a generous, value-conscious supplier. It also improves your competitive sell, since it becomes more difficult to compare like with like.
  8. Start a loyalty programme. The customer gets a good deal; you get a keen customer (and their contact details). A simple approach is the coffee-shop one: give customers a card to be marked after each purchase and results in a free or reduced-price offering after a specified number of regular-priced purchases.
  9. Do public relations. The editorial content in newspapers and magazines carries a lot more weight with readers than the advertising. Send out press releases, try to identify individual journalists to cultivate, offer your services to publications as an expert commentator, propose that you’ll write a free series of useful (and short) articles, sponsor newsworthy local events, and respond to local events with letters to the editor.
  10. Work on your website. Search engine marketing has become a specialisation that commands fairly high prices and cannot guarantee success. However, most websites (especially B2B) get a minority of visitors from search engines and directories. Rather than spending time and money on SEO, you might be better to concentrate on your own mailing list and making sure that any other marketing materials reference your website and send people to it. If you have set up your own website, you should still be able to insert your own meta-tags and keywords to aid the search engine process. Make sure, above all, that your website is cleanly designed, full of useful information, easy to navigate and is often refreshed – DIY is not best, and in this age it is worth investing in some design input.And one for luck, to bear in mind wherever you happen to be….
  11. Work on your 20 second elevator pitch so that you can recite it in your sleep but not seem as though you’re delivering a canned presentation. When people say “So, what do you do?” the question they’re really asking is “How do you make money” – they just don’t want to seem rude! So, your pitch should answer the unspoken question, but in such a way that (a) identifies the problems you solve or the benefits you can offer: and (b) implies that your business is successful because it’s so good at those problems and benefits.

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