Janet Chambers: How to Stretch Your Marketing Dollars
With the tight economy, most businesses are looking for ways to cut their budgets. One area often cut is the marketing budget. But consider this: Marketing your business is the best way to find new prospects and new customers.
Perhaps a better approach is to review your marketing budget and make sure you are using your dollars wisely by targeting your best prospects. Check out these cost effective tips to stretch your marketing dollars:
• Define and identify your best prospects. Most businesses know some of the characteristics of their top prospects, such as type of business, title(s) of decision makers and where they are located. The next step is to really understand why your customers like doing business with you and find similar characteristics among them. Host a small focus group with from five to eight customers and ask them why they do business with you, what makes your company stand out from the crowd, and what ideas they have to help you recruit more customers. You'll be surprised at how many good ideas you get. You can also find out more about how to service your clients better, and perhaps, more efficiently.
• Promote your business at events that your best prospects attend. A chamber after-hours event could be a great venue for collecting information on prospects. Look for local or regional trade shows that your prospects attend where you could purchase a booth space. Try to "piggy back" on events held by other companies that are aligned with your business. For instance, a bakery might give out food samples at an open house hosted by a local high-end clothing store.
• Share your knowledge. Sharing your expertise with prospects interested in seeing your products or learning from your expertise is an excellent way to promote your business. Many organizations are looking for quality speakers on a variety of topics. If you don't want to speak, consider sponsoring an expert in your field. You can also write an article for a local media source on a topic where you can share your expertise.
• Ask your staff for ideas. Company staffers often have great ideas on how to promote your company. Hold a round-table discussion and ask them for suggestions on how to reach new customers. Offer rewards for the best or most effective suggestion.
• Create reasons to come back. One of my restaurant clients gives out two free appetizer coupons to new patrons. He asks the patron to use one when they return and give one coupon to a friend.
• Get your company noticed by the media. Public relations encompasses getting your company name in print, and it's free. If you make donations to non-profit organizations, snap a photo and write up a press release. Share news about new employees, awards, new products or expansions. Send press releases to your local media outlets like newspapers, magazines, television stations, local web portals and radio stations. Post information on social media sites as well.
• Make smarter media buys. Meet with the local media reps from radio, television, newspapers, web portals and magazines. Review the media demographics and make sure they align with the demographics of your best prospects. Ask your customers about what they read, view and listen to. Use this as a guide to assist with selecting the best media sources for your advertising. Keep a good balance between paid advertising and public relations efforts.
Great marketing involves targeting the right prospects and directing your advertising and promotional efforts to these audiences. Creating a plan and sticking to it are keys to your success.