Many small-business owners have only enough time to approach marketing as a one-time deal, or they view it as a responsibility that can be tended to once in a while. Running your small business is an arduous labor of love, but promoting your company continually and with new, targeted efforts is necessary to connect with new customers and stay top-of-mind with current ones.
Whether you're just starting out or have been in business for years, staying on top of new ways to market your company is important so you don't end up with only an ad in the Yellow Pages. And, if you do have an ad in the Yellow Pages, also consider the following three new ways to market your small business.
1. Ride the daily deals wave
Daily deals exist for nearly every industry or audience these days. Sites such as Groupon can help you market your local business to consumers. RapidBuyr can connect your company with very targeted, very receptive business purchasers. What type of customers are you trying to attract?
Daily deal sites offer specific packages that help promote businesses at the optimal time and to the people who are likely to act quickly. The urgency of a daily deal—with a limited number of available units or an approaching expiration date—will jumpstart customers to scoop up your offering before they miss the opportunity to get a discount.
2. Create a Foursquare presence
Location-based services are a great way to market your business, whether you're a restaurant owner or a realtor. Foursquare offers a free set of tools for merchants and business owners to attract new customers and keep their most loyal ones coming back.
Offer Foursquare specials (e.g., coupons, discounts) to users when they check in at your venue for the first time. Motivate customers to come back by giving them a chance to "unlock" incentives after a certain number of visits.
B2B companies can use Foursquare to market their products and services locally in much the same way. In fact, even more untapped opportunities exist for business-facing companies to use location as a sales tool. Learn about venues and places in your sales region that your target customers are likely to frequent. Use location-based applications to connect with them, or to expand your lead database by identifying new companies in your area.
B2B companies could also use location-based services to stimulate interaction at business events and tradeshows. For example, after creating the venue for your event on Foursquare, use the "Tip" function to broadcast event updates, provide information about nearby meetings and venues, and encourage event participants to take certain actions. You may also provide a Foursquare-exclusive discount on event activities to those who connect with your company there.
3. Enable word-of-mouth marketing
Today's customer—consumer or business—doesn't touch a new product, restaurant, or service agreement without researching online. Ideally, everyone wants a peer recommendation before buying. The more educated customers are prior to making a purchase, the more influenced they are in their decision-making.
Remember, all reviews are a learning experience because they are usually a frank snapshot of your customers' experience with your company. If necessary, make changes based on those anecdotes, and wow your audience by letting them know.
According to a Harris Interactive survey, 61% of consumer respondents said they would be shocked if a company responded to a complaint or negative review that they published on the social Web. You can derive significant value from direct qualitative communication with your customers via that transparent medium.
Ask your customers to review your business on various websites, such as Yelp or Google Places. You may also enlist the help of a Web developer to enable customers to post reviews on your own site. Consider reviews on each item— for example, menu items if you are a restaurateur, or individual software packages targeted toward various industries if you're a software vendor.
Communicate your request to be reviewed via all channels of communication (e.g., your email newsletter, your website, in-store displays, social networking accounts).
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Differentiate your small business by being present where your customers are. Just as most consumers want peer recommendations before making a purchase, they also want to connect with companies in new, refreshing ways that help them understand the company's products or services, and frankly, give them a reason to return.
Businesses that provide customers multiple opportunities to connect not only bring a breath of fresh air to their marketing programs but also strengthen the relationships they have with their customers in unprecedented ways.
(Note: Author has a business relationship with RapidBuyr.)