Unlike big companies that have large budgets to invest in media and advertising, small businesses have to be resourceful and creative when it comes to building their brand. Here are five ideas that a small business can use to attract more customers.
1. Create a Referral Program
Word of mouth is a very powerful marketing tool for small businesses. How many times have you asked a friend or family member to recommend a restaurant, electrician, photographer or event venue? Unfortunately, waiting for your future customers to ask around about your category is not a very proactive approach to marketing. A system that you put in place to encourage customers to spread the word is a great way to encourage word of mouth referrals.
2. Partnership Marketing
Are there other businesses in your area that offer something different from you (i.e. not a competitor) but target the same target audience? Working with another business can encourage customers of one to patronize the other, and vice versa. For example, a movie theater could partner with a local ice cream shop to create programs that provide additional value to customers. A local winery could partner with a restaurant. A hair salon could partner with a clothing boutique.
3. Special Events
If you have customers that visit your business, but not very often, you may benefit from offering special events. Creating a limited time offer that differs from business-as-usual provides a different experience that will excite customers. The perception of exclusivity (one night only!) makes it exciting to participate. This is especially effective for service businesses in the food and beverage sector but works for other categories too.
4. Share Your Expertise
Customers trust businesses that they know, and that trust can be built through knowledge sharing. For example, if you are a plumber, a blog or Facebook post about how to prevent your pipes from freezing in winter is an example of knowledge sharing. An accountant who shares tips in preparation for tax time. Don't worry about giving too much away for free. Your future customer reading your post about plumbing tips is not likely to handle their own leaky pipe as a result of your knowledge sharing. Build trust as much as you can, whenever you can.
5. Stay in Touch
Email is a very cost effective way to stay in touch with customers, and educate them about upcoming events, new products and promotions. Unlike social media pages where you have to pay to access your entire list of "fans", sending email to lists under 2,000 subscribers is free. Make sure that the emails are compelling though! Boring, spammy emails will not help your brand. Make sure your email has engaging photos, valuable information and please don't forget to proofread. There is also a balance between sending frequently enough to stay top of mind and sending email too often. Measure which email strategies and tactics are most effective to make you a smarter marketing down the road.