Who says small businesses and start-ups need to play it safe? Odds are you can’t outspend the big dogs, but by using your entrepreneurial noggin you can outsmart them.
When it comes to building brand awareness, creating buzz for a new product, or connecting with a broader network of potential customers, there is no single path to success.
You have to use time, energy, and your independent voice to your advantage…
In order to create a low-budget, high-impact (LBHI) marketing plan, you need to optimize your resources and focus on results. Here are four winning ways to do it:
1. Pay Attention Your Customers
You may not have deep pockets, but you have time, energy, and an independent voice. Use them to your advantage. By focusing on your strengths and utilizing free social media resources — Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, for example – you can cultivate a deep, lasting connection with customers.
Customers have more power today than at any other time in the history of advertising. A small group of dedicated fans can drive your brand and provide valuable insights. Conversely, a few disgruntled customers can wreck your reputation by campaigning against your business on social networks and review sites.
Increasingly, small business marketing boils down to reputation management. If your customers are satisfied, and if they feel connected to your business, then they will grow your brand by promoting your business to their friends and family.
Target “super users” — fans who tweet or blog about your products — and reward them with gifts, special offers, or attention. Reach out to your most ardent supporters for advice and counsel. Thanks in part to social media, the boundaries between traditional marketing and customer service have shifted.
Survey your fans and followers to find out how your business can provide expert-level service that motivates customers to spread the word. Study their responses, and don’t hesitate to respond with a small act of kindness or generosity — a thank you note, a gift card—when a customer provides an insight that will create value for your business.
2. Create Strategic Content
Remember Pets.com? A former dot-com darling, Pets.com spent a fortune producing a series of iconic TV spots. The commercials were a hit with customers, but the company was weak on fundamentals, and the business soon went bankrupt funding its elaborate marketing campaign. Nowadays, everyone knows Pets.com, but for all the wrong reasons.
A blitz of TV and radio ads isn’t necessarily a cure for sluggish sales. You need to manage marketing content strategically, and always stick close to a budget that leaves your business with a little breathing room.
A single YouTube video can accomplish more than an expensive infomercial, provided that it brings fans and viewers to your door.
3. Think Mobile
95% of your customers use a mobile device that keeps them connected to the web at all times. If you want to keep your business in the conversation, then you need a mobile marketing strategy that takes advantage of popular sites such as Yahoo and Google Local, Yelp, and sites like Citysearch.
Respond to reviewers whenever possible. If a customer writes a scathing review of your business on Yelp, try to minimize the damage by politely addressing the reviewer's criticisms and complaints. Thank them for offering their opinions, and let them know that you will work hard to address the problems they have pointed out. If you’re lucky, you just might win them over.
4. Measure Your Results and Tweak Your Strategy
The age of static marketing is dead. If your best efforts aren’t producing favorable results, then reevaluate your strategy. Granted, some tactics are difficult to quantify, but social media marketing typically results in friends, or followers, or responses—something you can measure, more or less.
At the end of the day, your marketing strategies define how you connect with customers. If you invest your time and energy wisely, then your investment will bring big returns.
Do you have a favorite marketing campaign? Something that was memorable, unique, and trend-setting? Remind us what that was, in the comments section below!