1. Prioritize Marketing – There is a wise Buddhist saying ‘What has long been neglected cannot be restored immediately’, and it is so true. Consistency keeps your pipeline full. Of all the business functions you’re responsible for, Marketing is the most important. Marketing and all of its components is the only revenue-producing business function there is. Be proactive so you’re not backed into a corner and your phone stops ringing. For most, this begins with your website. It is home base and the place where you own and can control your image, brand and content. From there any number of traditional as well as digital Marketing strategic elements will be combined. Which ones? Study up and learn the best practices for your industry. Watch what your successful competitors are doing and find a way to STAND APART from them with benefits they can’t offer. Don’t think you have to discount to do this. For example, there was a dry cleaner in my old neighborhood that was open on Sundays. This was a tremendous competitive advantage for the owner who once told me that she was there on Sundays doing the books anyway, so she started opening the store and found it became very popular. I know it was with me!
2. Make time to work ON your business, not just IN it – It is recommended that 20% of a business owner’s time be spent on Marketing. Remember, that Marketing is an investment, not an expense. Understand the rhythms of your industry and the needs of your customers so that you can plan for success. Is your customer list up to date? Is your email signature set up correctly? If you’re doing social media, is it regularly scheduled? Are you thinking of new products or services you can offer? Is your website’s copyright footer the current year? In other words, when prospects see your materials will it be clear that you’re on top of your business?
3. Create and use a Marketing Calendar – Once you understand any seasonal cycle, then you can implement a Marketing calendar tool. Why? Because knowing what’s around the corner reduces frantic, last-minute stress and helps with best-practices strategic planning. It’s easy to create reminders in advance using Microsoft Office calendar so you can plan.
•Monthly – Plan your Marketing for the month three months ahead. So, for example, if you a tax accountant, you’d want to start promoting your services in January for tax season. This should include emailing to existing/past customers, perhaps a direct mail campaign to introduce your services to new customers as well.
•Weekly – Check your website analytics. Get in the habit of watching your online traffic, where it comes from, how many contacted you, etc.
•Daily – If social media is a channel that works for you, make time each day for these tasks. Using social media management tools such as Hootsuite can save you lots of time because it allows for scheduling messaging (up to three social media accounts for free) in advance.
4. Be your own customer – To crystallize your Marketing efforts, change your perspective. Have you….Dialed your own business phone? Purchased from your own website? Sent yourself a package? Tested all the forms and links on your website? Signed up for your own email list? Googled your business? Googled your name? I recently had a call from a client who by accident found out his order form didn’t work. Thankfully, the customer called to check up on their order which uncovered the problem. Upon digging further, it turns out that something happened to the contact form links as well. He had had dozens of inquiries and didn’t know.
5. Always gather contact info – Tether your customers to you so you don’t have to chase them all over the neighborhood (or the internet). Doing this from the very beginning will give you an edge. This can be done in several ways including using an email service provider and linking it to your site to capture prospect information, if you have a front desk it’s easy to capture information there, and also consider creating a snail mail list to send special promotions, holiday and/or birthday cards to those you do business with, and collecting phone numbers can pay off big too.
6. Keep a sample file – Doing this makes it easier for you to create your own pieces and emulate proper benefit-driven Marketing verbiage. Start a ‘Sample’ file folder to drop in tangible pieces you receive such as postcards and other mailings, even those you may pick up while out and about such as menus, etc. Also, create an Outlook ‘Sample’ email folder so you can save email promotions you like and can emulate in look or feel of those as well.
7. Understand basic SEO to use to your advantage – Labeling your content with appropriate language amplifies your messaging to the audience that is looking for your business. Once you know the verbiage, incorporate across all your Marketing channels such as: website, social media, blogging, posting articles, etc.
8. Content is everything – Learn to write solid, edited pieces to publish online and position your expertise so leads come to you. LinkedIn articles, blog + tie to site, press releases, to create social media content. Repurposing your own content is fast and easy. You can use it on your social media, blog, write articles, use in newsletters and more. When consistently using the same words and phrases you increase your SEO rankings.
9. Never underestimate the power of a single business card – Stash them everywhere!!!!!!! I have some in the glove compartment of my car, every briefcase and purse too. And, don’t forget the back of your card either. This is a billboard opportunity to advertise a new product or service, or even as a coupon to hand out at networking meetings.
10. Front line employees have a bigger impact on brand perception that any amount of Marketing spend – This can make or break a customer relationship, especially in retail. Train the hell out of anyone who represents you to the public. Remember, it is ALWAYS appropriate to say Thank you who just gave you their hard-earned money. Treating customers right keeps them coming back and supporting your small business. Great service beats impersonal low prices on internet shopping sites! Many studies have shown that customers will pay more for great service and the best part is — this is FREE marketing and costs you nothing but a smile.