7 Small Business Marketing Essentials

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There are no secrets any more just good advice. Here Alex Joll gives a good general guide to small businesses and independent professionals on how to market and sell their product or service. You should be running multiple forms of marketing at all times; how many do you have in place right now?

1. There are NO secrets

Most information about almost everything is available on the internet and in general it can be found for free.

Mostly its common sense but sometimes we all need help formulating what we know into a clear course of action.

There are also a few facts that are little known or considered which I guess makes them secret from some people but if that is the case all information is secret from us until we are exposed to it.

2. The Shocking Truth Revealed

Most advertising is not working. Not just that but most companies that advertise do so because they feel they should and they have absolutely no idea what the results are.

The thing to learn form this is to continually monitor your results. You can do this by building tags into your adverts; if people have to call you use different numbers for different ads. You can do this easily with internet based companies offering 0870 numbers for free that are directed to any phone.

If you are calling people to come to your shop and take an offer you can either place something in the advert, such as "mention the Times to get an extra 10% off."

Best of all you and your staff need to ask people what brought them to your business. Ask them what they think of it, what could be better and what they like best. This way you can improve where needed and promote the best, most attractive things in your advertising.

3. Don't Sell the Business

Sell the benefits of what you are offering not the business itself. Often people get caught up in telling the world how long they have been in business, that it was their father's, father's, father's uncle who started it. That's all very well but what does that tell me about what you are offering me today?

Talk about how the customer will benefit from having your company service their needs or sell them a new widget. They need to know that they will have a better life because of what you are offering them so make it clear.

Always direct your offer and sales literature at the audience that is intended for. Write from their point of view, put yourself in their position and imagine what issues are important to them; it may not be what would be important to you.

4. If they say its too expensive you have made the sale

It is a classic misconception that when someone says that something is too expensive it really means that they like it and would have it but don't see how they can justify it.

So that just leaves you to tell them how they will be much better off because of it and in fact that they will save money in the long run. Just because the competition has a similar product at half the price doesn't make it twice the value.

You have to justify the expense with the benefits and thus prove the value of your offer. Often a cheap product will need replacing or not function efficiently so the value of a more expensive quality version is easily proved.

It is a common mistake to become preoccupied with price and sell on price alone. The problem with that is there is always someone cheaper than you and you end up cutting your margins and profits. Then you have to cut services and before long there is very little value in your offer.

It is much more profitable to sell on value and it can mean better profits and levels of service. It is also more rewarding in other ways and, more often than not, easier to market.

5. Saying "I can't afford it" is saying I want it

Here again, as with the last point, people say they can't afford something only if they like it but haven't got the cash. Imagine selling Ferraris, almost everyone wants one, that's not the problem, its finding people what can afford the finance!

So if people say that they can't afford it, make it more affordable to them with easy payment plans or finance. This has been the secret of the success of the white goods trade over the last 20 years. It is the way most people now budget for big item purchases; gone are the days of saving up.

Make them want it enough, make it no money down and low monthly payments and you are assured of success. Not always possible, as with the Ferraris, but finance is a killer amplifier to almost any offer.

6. Use free advertising

This is something that is little used and often misunderstood. There are several ways of getting free publicity and they are often more effective than paying for adverts.

One example is through the press with press releases. Newspapers have many pages to fill day after day and they often don't have much to talk about. Give them an interesting story and the chances are you will get it published.

The chances are that you will not get in the news talking about your latest offer or product but if you can come up with a story of interest and value to the readers then you have a very good chance. The added benefit is that people are much more likely to read editorial copy than ad copy. They are also much more likely to take notice and believe it because it comes from the news paper and not an advert.

You should be looking to get a story in the press every few months and you can offer it to more than one paper as well. Once you have done a few you will get to know the people responsible for the choice of article and it will be easier to get them to publish you.

To take this to the next level you may want to offer to write a weekly or monthly column. Then you put yourself as an expert and your company as a leader in its field. People will look to you for advice and your offer will become even more believable. In this way you are adding to the service that you are offering.

Other ways to get free publicity include publishing articles on the internet, contributing to relevant blogs. Writing and publishing books, although that may sound involved it can be very rewarding. You should also have your own website, apart from your business's one, where you can offer help and advice to people.

All of these things elevate your position and the way that the public perceive you. Make sure that you write things of interest and value that people will benefit from. In this way you are building your personal brand as well as promoting your business.

7. You must be running between more than 5 forms of marketing at any one time

As mentioned most advertising does not work and at best it is very hit and miss. Most business could completely stop advertising with no ill effect. The reason that people do it and have such faith in it is that the big companies do and its always been done.

Big companies spend huge amounts on advertising but most of it is brand advertising. This has no direct result but builds the brand in the publics mind. That way when they are presented with an offer they will recognise the brand and are more likely to choose that one over others.

Small business can't afford to spend that kind of money on brand advertising and money that they do spend needs to give direct results. That is why it is so important to monitor, refine and adapt, and test your advertising.

The best forms of advertising are often free and some I have mentioned. One not mentioned is having a referral program in place. The best advertising should come from your clients in the form of testimonials and recommendations.

Always ask for testimonials from happy customers, they are mostly very happy to promote a business that they like because they want it to do well. So include these in your marketing literature, post them on your website and let people know what a good job you did. Be sure to get permission to use peoples names because without them it can look as if you just made the testimonial up. "They're great" say Joe from Wilts isn't quite the same as "We love the service with care" says long time customer Joe Phelps from Bridport Devon. Or for a company selling to other companies include the company name and position of the person quoted, put a link if you post it on your website. The client will like that and it also means that people can go and see for themselves the people that are benefiting from your offer.

Taking testimonials to even greater effect you can offer a referral program. Let your customers know that they will be rewarded for bring you business. This can be in the form of discounts, free products, or straight out cash commissions. How you do this depends very much on your business.

Other Ways of Marketing

As mentioned to be most effective you should be running multiple forms of marketing. Don't worry if you don't have 5 or more currently, just start to think about ways of adding to what you have.
It is easy to put a system in place and then leave it running whilst you start another one. Then come back to the first, make sure it is working, refine it and then start a third. Then check on the others and do more.

I think of it like a plate spinner; he concentrates on one, gets it going and then to the next, then a quick spin of the first, check the second and on to the next. If you set things up well in the first place the maintenance of a system can be planned to be minimal.
You can schedule a day a month when you might write an article for publication, noting ideas as they come to you during the weeks before. Then write and publish and you are done for another month. Referral programs can be set up to run on their own as can many other things.

There are so many automated systems available now on the internet that is becoming easier to give great value to customers and improve your service. A newsletter is a great way to do this and gives you an opportunity to keep in touch with clients and let them know of developments and things of benefit and interest.

The best thing of all is that now you can run a newsletter through email and have it go to your whole client list at the push of one button. More than that it will be addressed to the recipient by name if you so choose.

This adds a personal touch and can give clients the feeling that you are talking directly to them and for their own interest. The newsletter also lets you communicate your current offer and remind people that you are there when they need you.

Customer Relations Management (CRM) systems sometimes have this feature built into them and one that does, and that will give you a free trial, go to http://www.CustomersAreForLife.com . These systems also allow you to schedule appointments and phone calls as well as monitor the progress of each client, company or group.

Selling is Dead

Gone are the days of the salesman as we imagine them. No longer can a man turn up at your home with a vacuum cleaner and you invite him in for coffee and then let him demonstrate his wonderful new machine.
We don't like people to call us with offers anymore either, cold calling died a death but some companies are still flogging it. We no longer expect to be sold to, people don't like it and if a shop assistant comes up to someone offering advice people often shy away. They want to be left alone to make up their own minds, they will call for help should they need it.

This means that the sales person becomes the order taker or the cash register operator. This isn't a bad thing if we accept it and adapt our approach accordingly. The worst thing is if the staff then think that they don't have to do anything at all. Too many times I find that staff have very little knowledge of the products that they are selling.

So nowadays you need to get people to buy rather than selling to them. You make them an offer so good that they can't resist, an "irresistible offer" should answer the basic questions of what, how much, what's in it for me and why they should believe you. The latter is often overlooked and incredible offers sometimes seem too good to be true and if we think that they are not all that they say; then we don't buy.

Credibility is key because without it we can offer the world for a fiver but no one will believe us so we will not sell it.

Radical Killer Copywriting

The best way to get an offer across is through the copy of the offer. These days you have but a few seconds in which to grab people's attention and make the offer.

You need a headline that shouts out "read me - pay attention!" then the first paragraph should hook the reader in. Follow this with story like writing that leads people through the offer. Sell the benefits and concentrate on what is in it for them if they buy, and what they will miss out on if they pass up this once in a lifetime deal.
Answer the key questions and then call the reader to take action, immediate action. Tell them what they must now do, call us NOW or email, or go online; come into the store today before they are all sold out….

As people are exposed to more and more offers all the time it is becoming harder to get people to act. It is also becoming harder to offer something incredible that will make people jump up and take action.

This means that your writing has to have a big impact to draw people in, get them to believe you and then do something about it. I go into much more detail about copy writing in the Gold Members area of Sales and Marketing Wealth so go an have a look; if you're not a member then sign up for free and you also get 30 days Gold Membership for free at the moment.

Incredible Offers

Companies increasingly have loss leaders to get people in or hooked and then sell them other profitable items. This works really well on the internet with eBooks and information products. I am currently offering one of my books, "Say YES to Success" for just £1 on Sales and Marketing Wealth so that people will sign up for my newsletter and join the Gold membership program.

Online it's easy because you can automate systems so that there are no costs involved in the sale but off line you have to be more canny and look for the angle. What will bring people to you, what will make them buy your product or service? If it were free would they buy? And if you offered it free would they believe you?

Giving stuff away is an amazing way of getting people to buy from you. I admit it's not always practical, but again, online it works fantastically. I give a free report away if you sign up to the newsletter on Sales and Marketing Wealth and that works well. People then get to see what great value it is to be a member of the site and they buy other products.

Learn and Adapt

The key to success is to keep learning and adapting; keep reading, join sales or marketing websites and read all the relevant information. There is an incredible amount of advice out there and most of it can be found for free or for a very low price.

With advertising be sure and load in ways of testing the results. Test and re-test your adverts, the smallest of changes can make the biggest of differences to the results.

Try different media too, just because the rest of the industry advertises in on place doesn't mean you should. Think out side of the box and place your ad somewhere it will stand out. The same demographic of people that read one magazine will often read several others.

A Final Word
The final word has to be perseverance, keep on at it, keep learning and developing your skills. You are the key to your success so invest in yourself and your knowledge and skills.

You are the source of all your wealth so believe in yourself and commit to your future; don't let anything stand in your way. In every set back there is an opportunity, you just need to find it.

For more information and articles go to http://www.salesandmarketingwealth.com

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