By choosing to do just one of these actions this year, you could make a real difference to your business – and your bottom line.
- If you haven’t already, start marketing …
All too often marketing is seen as a dirty word for small business owners, but it’s really just making sure that what you have to sell matches the needs of customers and then communicating the benefits to them.
- Improve your customer service
If you do nothing else this year, look at your customer service. There’s no better marketing than word of mouth. People buy from people and nothing encourages positive recommendations more than excellent customer service. It can also ensure repeat custom, so make it a core value of your business and make sure all of your staff know what standard is expected of them. Use mystery shoppers to highlight any problems and training to resolve them if necessary.
- Start a blog
Show customers the human side of your business by keeping a blog. Benefits to your business can include:
- Credibility in your marketplace – become an instant ‘industry expert’
- A quick and easy way to get more content on your website
- Improved search engine rankings for commonly searched terms relating to your business – blogs are also easily indexed by search engines such as Google
- Build relationships with potential customers and clients
- A way for people to identify with you personally
- Get to know your local journalist or radio DJ
If you operate on a local level, getting in the local press is a great way of raising your businesses profile. Your local journalist or radio DJ really should be your best friend, so let them know that your business exists. If you don’t know who they are, find out and introduce yourself.
- Get networking
Wherever potential customers or referrers meet, be there. You usually have to pay a fee to attend networking events, but the number and quality of contacts you make will often justify this small cost.
If you’re already a seasoned networker, why not step it up a gear this year and offer to give a free talk to a group.
- Start a newsletter
Sending a regular email newsletter is a quick and cost-effective way of staying in touch with your existing and prospective customers, letting them know about new products and services and giving them special discounts.
- Analyse your competitors and your market
You may remember doing this when you started your business, but how often have you done it since? Regularly assessing your competitors and the market will help you to discover the things customers are demanding, and what your competitors are – or aren’t – delivering. You should also survey your customers regularly to find out what they want.
- Start using social media
If you haven’t already, promote your business by getting involved in social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Not all social media channels will be suitable for your business, so just choose the one that is best for you and where you know your target market is active.
You could join online business forums, start a Facebook page for your business or join a LinkedIn networking group like the Forum’s.
Put a little bit of regular time aside a week to read posts and reply with relevant comments so that it doesn’t start to interfere with your work.
- Review your website
How many people are coming to your website? How many people read your blog? If your answer is “I don’t know”, then you should. How can you know whether you’re getting the best out of your website if you don’t know how it’s performing?
Put yourself in the customers’ shoes and test your website as if you’ve never visited it before. Is it easy to find out more information or to buy from you? How does it compare to your competitors’ sites? Is your content out of date? You may find that many problems can be fixed easily and inexpensively. For more information read our guide to making your website work for your business.
- Do something different
Marketing doesn’t have to be boring. Use your imagination and have fun with it: dress up, give away free samples in the street or do something positive for your community to make you really stand out. Just make sure you stay within the law and that it’s appropriate for your line of business.
Remember small steps can be really effective in raising awareness and that there are plenty of resources available to provide inspiration and ideas including further hints and tips on the Forum’s website www.fpb.org