Running a small business is no small feat. Expert tips for marketing and growing your company.
Want to know the #1 reason your customers don’t recommend you to their friends? It isn’t because they don’t like your product, or because they don’t care or are too busy. The real reason is either because you don’t ask them to, or you don’t make it easy for them to do it. If you ask them in the right way, however, the word of mouth referrals and additional business you can get from the experience will easily be more powerful that just about any other advertising or marketing you could do. Here are a few ideas for getting your customers to promote you to their family, friends and social networks in a way that won’t make it appear as if you’re paying them to like you… 6 Non-Salesy Ways To Ask Your Customers To Promote You – Social Media Today.
Flickr photo credit: Duchamp
Old-school lessons in marketing
I was reading a Q&A column today in the LATimes by Karen E. Klein on new business marketing. A reader had asked her, how do I as a new small business owner selling designer hats get the word out about my business. The answer from Karen: “promote yourself online as a fashion expert.” As a small business owner myself with forays into social media, I am surprised by how much Karen’s advice did not ring true for me. Surely not all of the answers to our business marketing needs are now to be found online?
Perhaps Karen was feeling rushed (not a lot of column space for the advice she might have given were this reader sitting across from her in her office). Or perhaps Karen was feeling high on all the energy that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are generating these days. I know I often do. But, still, I don’t buy it. And were I Karen, I might advise another path.
Hm. Good idea.
Speaking from old experience in nonprofit fundraising, there are two key principles to live by. One, ask. Two, ask your friends first. While the promise of online marketing will help you grow your business, getting the word out should start close to home with those who know you, trust your work and want to support your success. That means letting your friends and family know that you’ve launched your new business and asking them to pass on the news to their friends (word-of-mouth campaign). That means (re)connecting with old colleagues to update them on your new business venture (networking). That means researching and making appointments with the businesses in your local town or city that could be promoters for your products as distributors or partners.
This doesn’t mean that you should forgo the fast-growing online marketplace. Absolutely not! This plan above presumes that you’ve done some infrastructure work that will make venturing further afield more viable and less frustrating. You’ve taken photos of your products, put together a print and online catalog, and even printed your business cards for those face-to-face meetings with the storefront sellers.
Still, and while it may be a matter of opinion, I believe there are plenty of people who see buying from their friends and from locally owned businesses as much of a priority as buying organic and they are willing to pay a premium for the opportunity.
And isn’t the point of all this social media about building strong relationships? Why start then with strangers?
Flickr photo credit: Arend Kuester and a nod to Karen, who does great work.
Establishing ongoing relationships with customers enhances the long-term success of most small companies. It’s more cost-effective and a lot less stressful to serve ongoing accounts than it is to continually search for new business. Cash flows are more stable, and increased operational efficiencies can reduce internal costs, increasing profitability.
To secure a long-term customer, sales personnel need to “look beyond the sale.” They need to form a relationship with the customer, solving all of the customer’s needs and providing ongoing value of products and services.
The basis for establishing such a relationship is to address the five key needs of every customer. These include…Don’t Make a Sale, Make a Long-Term Customer – NFIB.com.
Flickr photo credit: KateMonkey