Marketing is the most common problem that people running or starting small businesses ask me about - usually because their marketing strategies are not giving them the results they want. Typically, they say something like, "I've placed some ads but they just don't seem to be doing anything." In other words, their efforts are not bringing them the customers, clients or sales they desire.
Marketing Is More Than Advertising
But marketing and advertising are not synonymous and 'placing a few ads' is never going to draw the kind of business a small business needs to be successful. Marketing is a process, not an event. It involves planning marketing goals and implementing (often a series of) marketing strategies to achieve them.
Now, that doesn't mean marketing has to be a complicated process. But it does mean you have to know what you want to achieve and get out there and work at it. Here are six basic marketing strategies you can use to increase your customers and sales.
6 Basic Marketing Strategies
1) Offer some free classes/workshops related to your products and/or services — in your home, in a rented venue or through a local education institution such as a Community College. Target specific audiences or events, if appropriate. For instance, someone with a beading business might offer special workshops on Beaded Christmas Projects or Beading for Girls. A yoga instructor might offer classes such as Yoga for Men or Yoga for Seniors.
2) Join local business organizations and networking groups. Many groups, such as home-based business groups, are inexpensive to join. And the marketing benefits are huge. Once they get to know you and what you do, the other business people in your group will mention your business to others and may even give you referrals. Local business organizations are also great opportunities to create and participate in some cooperative marketing strategies, such as holding special Market Days or other events.
3) Create or be front and center in a charitable event. You can get huge amounts of press for events like this - which can translate into new customers. One local artist has painted paper grocery bags which he is selling with all proceeds going to a selected charity, for example. But you don’t even have to go to the trouble of creating your own event; many charities have established events that you can become a very visible part of by becoming a sponsor. See 10 Ways to Get Known for more on charity-based marketing strategies.
4) Create your own blog — and use it to build an audience of people who would be interested in your products and/or services. Creating a blog is easier than creating a website. Write regularly about topics related to your business and what your business is doing. You'll start connecting with other bloggers, business people, and potential customers.
5) Join and use social media. If you have time to get to know and use a variety of social media, do. If your business is particularly visual in nature, Instagram may make the most sense, but if you have only limited time and visual material, Twitter is my pick because it's so quick and easy to use. How to Twitter: a Get Started Guide will have you up and tweeting in no time. As for basic marketing strategies, be sure you don't use Twitter exclusively to promote your product but to find and converse with like-minded people who may be interested in what you're doing.
6) Ask for referrals. If you operate a service-based business, you know that I have saved the best for last here. Asking for referrals is the easiest and least time-consuming of all the marketing strategies in this article. It really makes me wonder why it's also one of the least used marketing strategies.
The Marketing Rope
Don't get me wrong; there's nothing wrong with advertising. It's just that in most cases it won't be effective unless it's part of a coordinated marketing plan. Think of marketing as a rope and advertising as one strand of the rope. How strong is a one strand rope going to be?
A mix of basic marketing strategies, such as advertising in conjunction with the strategies above, will get you the marketing results you want. None of these marketing strategies are going to draw hordes of customers overnight but, assuming you have a good product or service, if you do them and work at them consistently, you will see an increase in customers and sales.