Cost Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies and Tips – Part Three

In this Part 3 article on Small Business Marketing, I am going to explore Marketing Research and Target Marketing. Both are very important in marketing your small business, and the quality of the market research process will define your targeted marketing. See my previous article for information on Marketing Methods and Strategies.

MARKETING RESEARCH

Questions to Ask:

– Is a combination of goods and services a better, more competitive bidding for the market than just a product or service?
– What is your advantage? Price? Superior Product or Service? Timing? Barriers to entry?
– What should you emphasize? Quality, Selection, Location, Service, Your Expert Status or the History of the business?
– Can you effectively compete?
– Define your Competition. What's their Edge?
– Who are your best customers? Why?
* What are their Demographics? Psychographics?
* Why do they buy?
* What media do they interact with?
* What is their spouse doing for a living?
* What is their purchasing outlook for the next year?
– What are the best aspects of your business in the customer's view?
* What improvements do customers want?
* Do they want more free interaction like a Newsletter, E-book, Articles, Forums, etc? Customers, whether current or prospective, offer the very best marketing info. Prepare a questionnaire for them! Put surveys on your website. These are excellent ways to fully define your "best" customer, and what makes them decide to buy.
– Gives invaluable information on your competition and how you stack up. Marketing Research Bonanza is the Wide World Web!
– Use multiple Search Engines.
– Use Chat Rooms and Forums. They can search as Focus Groups and provide invaluable Marketing Research. Determine your Marketing Appeals or your customers' hot buttons.

At the conclusion of your initial Marketing Research, ask yourself:

– What customer needs, wants and niches translate into "x" amount of profitability?
– What improvements are needed for your biz?
– How can your competitors hinder your growth?
– How can you lose current customers?
– What measures need to be taken to ensure your Products and Services do not become obsolete?
– What changing Trends affect your business?
– Who do you need to advise you about running your business? Spark new ideas?

Remember: The Quality and Source of your Marketing Information define the efficacy of your Research. You need High Quality and Reliable Information, and these two variables are the key to your future success.

TARGETED MARKETING

Targeted Marketing does not have to be expensive, rather, it is the focused and personalized nature of inexpensive Targeted Marketing which make it worth considering. Some examples include:

– Email: Opt In
– Online Boards and Groups
– Free Offline & Online Ads
– Increase response rates with Toll Free Numbers
– Newsletters
– 900 Numbers
– Inexpensive Regional Magazine Editions: great credibility builder!
– Newspapers offer low-cost targeted geographic zones and neighborhoods.
– TV Ads are much cheaper and targeted now.
– Home Shopping Networks can be highly targeted and great to advertise around.
– Cell phone text messaging: Opt In only!
– Video Brochure: the paper brochure is a harder sell now days. Bring your Business, Products and Services alive with Video and / or Audio.
– Look at targeted media like airplanes, airports, taxis, buses, checkout counters, restrooms, banks, etc.
– Marketing messages on a Telephone "Hold" Session.
– Use low cost special effects to appear to have a larger look on TV advertising.

Targeted Marketing Methods

Canvassing / Cold Calling: I am not a huge fan of Canvassing or Cold Calling but it can be effective / required in the early stages of your business, especially when money is tight. You can enhance your method by:

– Putting out flyers / mailings prior to initiating contact
– Go to Networking Events (ie Chamber of Commerce or a Professional Network Group) as a Guest of a member for free and make it count.
– Be direct; look people in the eye; and most importantly, offer value. Never hesitate to respectfully ask for the sale.
– Free Demonstration, a Sample or leaving a Product behind for free use can be very effective, if your product is highly effective and can sell itself.
– Try to quickly qualify the prospect and always ask for a Referral regardless if a sale was made.
– Look for ways to reference another mutual relationship to warm up a cold prospect
– Make the prospect customer feel important
– Educate your prospects; empower them and they will buy from you
– Identify your unique benefits and advantages, giving the prospect a great reason to buy
– Do your homework prior to contact and tailor your presentation for a particular prospect
– Mention your current customers, show testimonials and talk about your past successes.
– Show pride in your product / service offering
– Know the prospect will buy from you and always try to close at different points in your presentation
– If the sale is not consummated, ask why. Use the answers to tailor your presentation, rework your product / service offering or alter your pricing / credit structure
– The presentation should be brief and engage the prospect along the way.

If you follow the above pointers, Canvassing can be very effective and inexpensive. However, it demands a lot of time, discipline and consistency.

Biz Cards: Use both sides of your card, and it should sell something, offer something and point to your website for a special offer. It is a Sales Tool – use it as such!

Letters: Personalized letters are a thing of the past, but an art form which is worth using today. Why? Simple: no one else is and you will appear unique. The letter should solve a prospective customer's problem or point to a website presentation that does. Use online or offline questions to capture valuable information which you can use to sell the prospect – it sets up your sale. Some tips:

– Follow up the first letter with a second letter and then a phone call. All this should be done in 10 day's time. Follow up letters and calls should offer new information.
– Always ask for the sale! Often, the third time is the charm.
– Include personal references, people you know in common and testimonials in your letters.
– Combine a letter with a Questionnaire, which requests a prospect to provide an Opt In Email address. Send all further communications via email for cost effectiveness and immediate yet convenient to the prospect contact. Remember, an email can be a Newsletter, Audio or Video Recording, a Power Point Presentation – the sky is the limit!
– Remember: Confidence, Quality, Selection and Price. Address all four in your contact; a sale is eminent, provided the prospect is qualified.
– Letters are an easy, cost-effective way to stay in contact with customers whether you make a sale or not.
– Personalize it: Address to a particular person, hand sign it and write a personal PS by hand. You can even follow a sales letter with a handwritten note in a second mailing before or after a follow up phone call. This can be very effective!
– Your letters should not ask the prospect to respond. Rather, it will tell the prospect when you will call to set up an appointment and / or answer questions leading to a sale. Either way, on the phone call, Always ask for the sale.
– Stick with just a short letter. No other enclosures. You have a better chance to be read. You can always email (save postage) a brochure once you have retained the interest.
– If the prospect can not wait for your follow up phone call, have a website address with an exclusive offer that points to a well crafted Sales Web Page (see my marketing article for more details).
– Sign your name in Blue color, along with the PS The Reader will read the PS first so put some thought into it.
– State your offering's benefits to the specific prospect without really saying what it is. This will drive the prospect to check out your Sales web page.
– Include a short Customer Testimonial with the Customer's contact info. Let your current Customers do the selling for you!
– The numbers: Mass Mailings are deemed successful with a 1-2% Response Rate. If a personal letter is done right, a 10-20% sales rate (not Response Rate!) Can be achieved!
* If you do Mass Mailings, a Personal Letter as stage 2 to your responses can be very effective as well!
– On your Online Sales Page always give the prospect the opportunity to Opt In their email address so you can automatically send them Newsletters, Articles, Special Offers, Bonafides and the like.
– How to get a sale? Simple: Eliminate all risks of doing business with you and make sure the prospect understands the benefits and value of your offering. Pair that with passion and straight forward ethics and you will close again and again. You will have to ask for the sale at a minimum of three times on average; so ask!
– Partner up with other ethically sound business people to pair your offering and make a truly unique offering and / or tap the partner's customer base. An experienced partner can add a lot of credibility to your offering.
– Ask for References from the beginning, whether or not the prospect buys from you. If they do not, make sure you offer them an Opt In so you can continue to stay in front of them with Specials, Newsletter, Company News and Events, Articles and the such.
– If targeting businesses, ALWAYS send you a letter to the President and then follow up with a phone call after you sent a hand written note two days later. Two things will happen, you have his / her attention, and your initial call will be routed to the right decision maker in the company.
– Remember, letters are all about psychology so keep the emotional sale in mind when preparing the letter.

Note: A lot of these methods and strategies described under "Letters" can be applied to many different marketing tools – use them!

Telemarketing: I am not a huge fan of cold calls (and this coming from someone who built initial sales and companies on cold calling). Now, a professional telephone campaign linked to a mailing of some sort (letter, brochure, marketing piece) can be quite effective. In-bound telemarketing can be profitable if done properly. The bottom line: 51% listen to telemarketers when called, so it can be a worthwhile strategy. Here are some keys toward running a successful telemarketing campaign:

– Research the prospect: know the important things about your prospect and how they relate to your business.
– Link your telemarketing with a personalized letter so your call is a follow up from an expected source, versa a pure cold call.
– I hate scripts. Your telemarketing should come naturally and lead to pre-planned destinies and decisions (ie more info, website link, a free analysis, newsletter or article, or a sale).
– Know your hot-button words, such as, "profitability, increase profits, lower costs and expenses, increase cash flow, money and time savings, competitive advantage and edge, market share" and so forth.
– Remember, an Objection is a faster way to a yes. Address an Objectivity appropriately; you are one objection closer to the sale (typically 3 objection average per sale).
– Keep it simple: Contact, Warm Up, Present, Answer Questions / Address Objections and Close (try to close twice before your final close).
– Ask the prospect questions and clearly understand his or her issues / problems so you can provide a solution.
– When you close and ask for the sale, always state the benefits prior.
– A close does not have to be a sale. It could be you ask for the sale and the prospect is not convinced. Do not destroy your sales opportunity by trying over and over for a final close. Rather, set up an Appointment and send follow up information and a Sales Webpage link. Stay in front of the prospect (I am assuming this is a well qualified prospect).
– Keep a Special Offer in your back pocket and only use it if you think the prospect is more motivated by price than your value added benefits.
– The hard numbers:
* 100 calls to close a sale
* 5 minutes average per call = @ 8 hours for a sale
* 5 sales = @ 40 hours of time
* The average call transaction when one business telemarkets to another is @ $ 550, which means telemarketing can be quite profitable
– You can certainly increase the before mentioned odds / percentages to the better by developing and implementing a warm-up campaign that involves a personal letter, other type of mailing, email, etc. Warming up the prospect really pays off for the follow on Telemarketing.

Fliers / Circulars / Brochures: Fliers and Circulars are a short, concentrated, single message, specialy piece while a brochure is more detailed and longer. I am not a big fan of any of these business promotion mediums, unless they are used in a well thought out, targeted system. Here are some tips to draw clarity on what I mean:

Fliers & Circulars:

– If you need to distribute a large volume, in conjunction (as a follow on) with a Mass Mailing, use Circulars.
– Gets Instant action if implemented correctly.
– Clear Offer
– Urgency
– Straight to the Point
– Instruct Prospect what to do Next
– Clearly Ties in to a Previously Established Identity
– Content is very important, as well as, Process.
* Factual / Explain
* Inform
* Sell
– Help a Prospect visualize your content with a Picture
– Use Headlines & Bullet Points
* List the greatest benefits for the particular audience
– Test out your Brochure with a Circular / Flier for cost effective Test Marketing
– Use Action Words
– Learn Desktop publishing and produce your own materials at a fraction of the price. Get a Graphic Design Student intern to create your Artwork for a small fee.
– Color and Gloss are expensive. If you are not selling a luxury, premium product, consider colored ink and colored stock to bring your piece to life. However, if you self produce, I prefer Gloss and Colored Pictures – it is worth the added cost but mitigated when self produced.
– ROI: One Sale / one job should handily pay for your entire creation and distribution costs, otherwise, reconsider your campaign.

Brochures: More expensive, more detailed, larger pieces which instill confidence and credibility. Moreover, it provides a more finesse, elaborate sales process. As a mailing, I prefer a Circular. For customer location placement, I like a Flier. Brochures are great for in-house advertising; give to existing clients with a referral section; perfect to use online in combination with Website Marketing. I like all my referral sources to have a replenishable stack of brochures that contain a referral section. Also if you do not make a sale, send a few brochures and ask the prospect to give out for a referral fee (and to stay in front of the prospect).

– The best use of brochures in my opinion is online and as a PDF product, as well as, a Video and / or Power Point product.
– Color is good. It increases your retention rate by over 50% and affects the buying attitude by 40%.
– A brochure that costs a $ 1 to produce can have 8 pages, so use them wisely. Tell a story, build credibility, make it personal and keep a professional, clean look.
– If you have products that change quickly, consider using a pocket brochure for product update inserts. Great for price lists too!
– Customer testimonials are a must.
– Have the brochure point to specific web sales pages for more information.
– Call for Action in your brochure. Direct the prospect.
– A low cost way of producing a brochure is having a magazine, which you advertise in or publish in, produce the ads / story as a brochure for you.
– A great combination if money is a premium (it always is with a small business, is not it?) Is to run small print ads in many publications which point to a FREE Brochure, which could be an Online Brochure. Give people a reason to request the FREE Brochure.
– You can personalize a Brochure Request by including a handwritten sticky note on it (this can be done digitally as well).
– Be sure to follow up with the Brochure Requester within five days.
– Brochures should only go to interested prospects. Circulars can be more mass market. Brochures should bring you a closing rate of about 30%.
– An Online Brochure can have links to video, Power Point and Audio Presentations. These really increase your chances to make a sale.

Classified Ads: These types of ads can be low cost, cover a specific region or even neighborhood or take you national and international. For a targeted audience, concentrate on Magazines. An important stat: 60% of Americans read a magazine exclusively but from back to front. So, your ad has a good chance of being read.

– Consider Classified Network for targeted, multimedia ads at a great price.
– Use a short Headline in all CAPS. Only use abbreviations people will understand.
– Personalize it
– Direct the reader to a Web Sales Page
– Consider putting your phone number
– Read the other ads in your advertising section and write an ad that contrasts
– A great way to sell a book, offer a FREE E-book or Article
– Use Facts in the AD
– Create momentum and call the reader to Act
– Accentuate benefits
– Classified Ads are short and sweet but you need quality of message. Start with a larger AD and cut it down to the lines you need for the small Ad. You need very tight copy. Study competitors Ads to spark ideas and angles.
– I am not a fan of online classifieds. I think they get lost on the websites which they are displayed. For this reason, I recommend Print. If you find a Classified Online Forum or Service or Directory you like, the downside is you have to resubmit the Ad daily to keep visibility.
– Offer something FREE!

Gift Certificates: This can be an overlooked area for many businesses. Promote your Gift Certificates on the Home Page of your website. Do not have an expiration date. Specialize for Holidays. Put a link in your email address highlighting your certificate offerings. It is a great way to Brand your name.

Signs: Signage can be quite expensive so pick a business location which requires minimum outdoor signage exposure. Indoor or Sidewalk Signage is much less expensive and can be quite effective. Be sure to keep your signs consistent with your logo, meme, advertising message and branding. Consistence in identity and image across the board in all the media types you are employing is paramount to converting a Prospect to a Customer.

– Keep the sign short, concise and use persuasive, action words. Have a visible, identifiable logo.
– Sidewalk signs should have been designed to stop the pedestrian, for that person to pause. Then a sign and / or merchandise in the window has a chance of pulling that prospect in to your business. Better yet, put your best priced merchandise outside your door. It can cause an impulse buy and / or create an invitation to visit your business.
– Promote Cross Selling Opportunities

Use Brochures, Biz Cards, Gift Certificate and Coupon Displays with your signage. At the very least, a non-buying prospect can leave with something, if not a Gift Certificate. This creates great viral based, inexpensive advertising.

– Remember, Ads can become a sign – just blow it up!
– Use point of purchase signs to get the instant gratification sale.
– Check out your competition and see what they successfully use.

Free Bulletin Boards: Depends on your type of business. For instance, if you deliver pizza to a college, then Bulletin Boards can be your best advertising. Bulletin Boards are very time consuming as you need to check the board and refresh your offering at least twice per week. Hire a part time student to manage your Bulletin Boards so you can spend your time more wisely.

– Everywhere has a Bulletin Board. Try to choose those that are well maintained (so you remain visible) and have the right prospect traffic.
– You can use your Circulars to post on the Bulletin Boards. Always have precut strips or peel offs for prospects to take your information with them.

Yellow Pages: One question: Why? Print Yellow Pages are expensive, and in the Internet world, hold much less influence and utility. If you feel that you must advertise in the Yellow Pages, put tracking devices on the Ad so you can measure its effectiveness. Moreover, one Ad may not do it as people may search in more than one category to find you.

– Is the answer online Yellow Pages? No! Consider Google Local with Google Maps versa using the online Yellow Pages.
– The largest Ad wins in Print Advertising. So, instead of paying the extra bucks for one large Ad on a page put two smaller ones to prevent being overshadowed by a large ad
– Color pays. Spend the extra bucks for it.
– Offer something for FREE
– Make your AD personal – address that person looking at your Ad

Use the Power of Desktop Publishing: Learn to use graphic design software and design your own logo, brochures, circulars, ads, business cards for a fraction of the cost. Take a class on the software you will be using so you can create professional looking materials. Then you can always hire a pro to clean up your designs. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on your designs using a graphic designer – you can use a pro when you are successful and the cash flow is there.

In my next blog post I will discuss the Power of Mass Media. Stay tuned!

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