When most people think of marketing, the top things that come to mind are television commercials, radio ads, billboards, and newspaper advertisements. However, unless you are running a big business with a BIG budget, these may not be the right options for your small business. There is a good chance that your budget doesn't allow for thousands of dollars for these particular marketing mediums.
Whether your business is small or large and no matter if you budget is tiny or practically infinite, there are some basic principles to follow when marketing your business that can make a big difference. Below are just a few basic principles that are important to periodically review to make sure your business is putting its best foot forward by keeping its branding consistent across all mediums. First impressions are critical in the business world.
- Company Logo - First of all, make sure that you have a logo. While that may seem like a silly statement, we deal with small businesses on a daily basis that have no logo. By having no logo, this negatively impacts the way others see your business. Second, you should reevaluate your logo design every few years to make sure the logo still portrays your company accurately. Maybe your business has added other services or possibly services have been discontinued. If so, your logo might need a bit of a face-lift. Third, make sure that your logo doesn't look too dated. If your logo was designed back in the 1970's, chances are it looks like a 1970's logo and none of us want to revisit the styles from the '70's. A modern look can often make a huge difference with first impressions from potential clients.
- Business Cards - These are your biggest sales tools. You give them to everyone you meet. They should be sleek and unique. They should stand out among the other dozen business cards that those of us in the business world receive everyday. Your business card design might just need an update to the color or layout, or it might need to be trashed and completely redesigned. Whichever it is, it should be awesome. It should make a statement. It should give those who receive it the feeling that your business is the best option for the service or product they need. Make sure pertinent contact info is listed on your cards, such as an email address, website url, and direct phone number. If you are one of those that scratches out an old phone number on your cards with a pen and writes the new phone number, shame on you. Spend the few bucks to get an updated and correctly printed set of business cards.
- Website - Your website is a salesperson that never sleeps and continually sells to potential new clients and existing customers. Or at least it should be! If it is not, you are missing a lot of marketing potential. Your website should be updated frequently and should be a source of information to take care of the frequently asked questions that customers call asking on a daily basis. You will save yourself loads of time if you answer them once and for all online. It is important to understand that just because you don't sell products online, doesn't mean that a website isn't important. That is one of the biggest misnomers in the web world. Shoppers research companies online before making in-store purchases or before calling for service now. They want to get a feeling for your company's reputation. Do you look legit? Do you look capable? Or does your company look like a fly-by-night company who used some free website service for a DIY project? This is very common with small businesses, particularly 1-2 man/woman businesses. You can afford good web design and you should make it a priority.
- Promotional Items - These marketing items don't have to be expensive to work, just useful. Research has proven that these items are lower cost than any other type of advertising and more effective. If you utilize this marketing medium properly, your business will grow because your customers and potential customers will remember you over your competitors who keep their promos locked up in a closet for their "top clients." Research has also shown that giving away promotional products to people cause a warmer feeling toward your company, which will push them to do business with your company over another. That sounds like good logic to me. Everyone loves free stuff, especially when it's useful stuff. There are many options around the $1 price range that work great to promote your business.
- Company Apparel - All businesses who have face to face dealing with people should wear company apparel. These don't have to be Dickies uniforms. These can be stylish and hip shirts that are embroidered with your company logo. Think about this. Would you feel better writing out a check to a worker who has a stained up t-shirt with a Beavis and Butthead graphic on it or a worker with a collar shirt showing off the company logo? The answer is obvious. Custom apparel gives your business a professional look and it sets you apart from many competitors who are too cheap to invest in this area of their business.
- Social Media - Whether you like it or not, social media is around to stay and it is an extremely important factor in search engine rankings as well as consumer decision making. That's why we are big proponents of making sure your branding is consistent throughout all of your social media accounts. Your company logo and color scheme should be uniform across all platforms. And, yes, you do need to frequently post. Your posts could consist of sale announcements, company news, promoted products or services, and just fun trivia and random facts to promote your followers to get involved.
- Email Newsletters - Email is very effective if done properly. You should not send too many emails, but you have to send enough to keep your business at the top of your customers minds. Your branding should remain consistent for your email newsletters. Additionally, you want to make sure your newsletters are informative and valuable to the readers. Offering educational articles and news can be useful. Money-saving coupons are always useful. You can also throw in some sale items that you want to promote. If you don't want to do general newsletters, you can segment your email lists and send out emails that are specifically tailored to each of your segments. This method is much more effective, but more time consuming.
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