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Small Business Marketing Plan – Increase Your Business Profit Without Breaking Your Marketing Budget

Most small business owners fail when it comes to their small business marketing plans. They’ve got excellent technical skills in their line of work, but that just doesn’t translate to having effective marketing skills.

As a result, profitability of many small businesses has been declining over the years. Ever increasing competition is making it more challenging in many ways. For those businesses that aren’t losing money, most are not producing the profit they could be if they knew how to market themselves properly.

These business owners usually just copy what they see other businesses doing, or they follow the advice of some media sales person. The problem is they copy the wrong types of businesses, and the media sales people typically only know as much about effective marketing as the business owner does.

Without the right kind of marketing system in place, the success of any business is by pure chance. To help remedy this situation, below are seven things a small business can do to increase profits while spending less on marketing.

1. Use the power of free stuff

Everyone likes getting free stuff and you can use that to your advantage. If your business lends itself to giving away free samples of your product, do that. It helps get people hooked on it. Business profits have boomed on this marketing model.

As Chris Anderson author of the book titled, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” says, “You can make make money giving things away.”  In his book he talks about how businesses are giving away products and services they used to charge for, and in return, a percentage of their customers are buying something else. As a result, they are making more money than ever.

When you give something away, you often activate a universal law called the “Law of Reciprocity.” It says that when people get something free, they feel obligated to do something for you. Obviously it doesn’t work every time, but it does work enough of the time.

But there is another way to give away free stuff that can greatly benefit your business. When you do it right you get something very valuable in return: customer contact info…which leads us to the next tip.

2. Start capturing customer contact info and use it

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is not tapping their current customer base. They let customers visit their business (online or offline) all day long without ever trying to capture their contact info so they can continue to market products or services to them.

You likely know how expensive it can be to get a new customer. But you can market to your current customers for little or no cost. Capturing and using customer contact info can mean the difference between a profitable business and one that barely gets by.

Your business has more customer value in it than a customer can possibly digest in a short visit so if you aren’t continually marketing to your customers, you are throwing money away!

You can make customer contact capture easier simply by using the power of free from tip number one. Simply start a monthly drawing to give away something free and print some registration slips visitors can fill out. Also have people register online on your website.

Tell customers they only have to register once for all drawings and you will contact them monthly via email to let them know who won. Of course you will always include an offer for a product or service!

What do you give away? Anything with a perceived value makes a great free item. Free items do not have to be expensive. Buy something on sale at WalMart or at eBay and offer it. You can also offer free informational reports that help people solve their problems. People are always looking for ways to solve problems they are having.

Of course, once you capture this information you have to do something with it. If you’re too busy to take on any more work, then the next tip will help you out.

3. Use automated tools to keep in touch with customers

Once you have a customer list, I recommend you send a minimum of 25 “messages” a year to it. A message could be an email, direct mail piece, fax, or phone call.

If you don’t use an automated tool to do the work for you, you’ll likely be too busy to get the job done. When you automate, your messages go out regardless of how busy you get (the more messages that go out, the busier you’ll get).

One tool you can use is an email autoresponder, which is a web-based system that sends out emails when someone signs up. It sends out emails at intervals you set up. You can also set it up to send an email on a specific day, such as a holiday.

The great thing about an autoresponder tool is that you enter your messages in the autoresponder one time, then it automatically sends emails to your list. You can also broadcast messages any time you want.

Using this tool, keeping in touch with your customers is easy and it will help keep the competition from creeping in and stealing your customers because they’ve forgotten about you and the services you provide.

4. Stop marketing like you’re a big business.

Marketing a small business like it’s a big business is something almost every small business owner does. They just copy the marketing they see being done at large companies with big brands. This kind of marketing is called “brand identity,” “brand building,” or “image” marketing.

This is a HUGE waste of advertising money for a small business. You simply don’t have the resources you need to support a successful branding campaign.

Brand advertising typically has no “call to action,” (they don’t ask you to do anything). They just give you features of the product or service, or they entertain you without asking you to do anything.

Brand advertising is usually benefit free. The viewer has to determine if there is a benefit to them. It may contain a list of features and the user will have to assign their own benefit to each feature. It is usually focused on the product or provider of the product instead if the customer.

A successful marketing campaign for a small business is created around direct response marketing techniques.

5. Use old fashioned direct response techniques in new ways

The kind of marketing plan that works for a small business is direct response marketing. It doesn’t require a huge marketing budget to use effectively. It can be used for all types of products and services.

And the good news is that you don’t even have to hire an advertising agency to do it since it doesn’t require creativity. All you have to do is learn the basic structure of direct response marketing and you can easily increase the sales your business makes.

Direct response sales copy always asks the reader or viewer to take some sort of action i.e. “Call in the next 5 minutes, and we’ll include a free set of Ginzu steak knives!”.

It may ask for the sale directly if a full “sales presentation” was done (one-step advertising), or it may ask them to request more information (two-step advertising). It will at a minimum, ask the reader to take some form of “traceable” action so you know if it is working or not.

There should always be a headline for written advertisements! Never put your company logo at the top of a direct response advertisement. That’s brand advertising.

Whenever you create an advertisement in any form always look at them from the customer point of view. Look it and ask “Who gives a crap?” about everything in it. Do you think the customer cares about your logo. No! They care about what you can do for them. Put in benefits and not features. Let the customer know what’s in it for them. A successful direct response ad for a small business includes several things:

  • An offer to buy something
  • Sufficient information for the consumer to make a decision to act now (or directions on how to get more info)
  • An explicit “call to action” sooner rather than later
  • A clear way to respond such as a telephone number or web page
  • A means of tracking the response.

Direct response advertising is not just used for mail campaigns. You use it in all forms of media: print, web, mail, and broadcast. Take a look at all the advertising you are currently doing no matter where it is and start making the change now.

6. Use the Internet to advertise for free

Even though websites as we know them have existed since around the early 90s, only 49%* of small businesses currently have a website *9/08, Barlow Research. It’s surprising how many businesses do not understand how powerful this marketing tool is. If you don’t have a website, get one because there is no better source of free advertising!

The Internet has hundreds of “Web 2.0″ websites where you post “content” for free. The content can be text, videos, or audios you create and it can lead people to your business. Plus, it helps establish you as an expert in your field.

EzineArticles.com is one such place you can post content. There was no charge to post this article. All I had to do is write it, post it, and then you found it.

You can put links in the “author resource” section, to drive traffic to a page on your website. The articles you post in EzineArticles can rank extremely well in Google search results with a little help from you.

You also want to get your business listed in places like Google Local if you do local business. Once again this is absolutely free.

Once you learn how to do use the Internet for promotion you’ll have a head start on the future of advertising and you get customers for free!

7. Outsource routine marketing tasks so you can work on the growing your business

One of the biggest problems small business owners have is that they get so consumed by working IN their business, they don’t have time to work ON their business. So no growth can occur.

When it comes to marketing yourself on the Internet, there are ways to use “virtual assistants” to do most of the work for you. A virtual assistant is someone you hire on a full or part-time basis who does the work for you.

But a virtual assistant is not a direct employee so you don’t provide benefits or have the normal hassles of an employee. They are usually located somewhere in the world that has low-cost wages so they are very affordable. That’s the beauty of the Internet and the communication it provides.

Virtual assistants aren’t just confined to small business marketing plan tasks though. They can do almost anything for you: reservations, schedule appointments, answer phones, customer service, send flowers, buy a present for your spouse, find someone to fix your car, website development, accounting, software development, writing, graphics, or anything you need.

There are lots of resources on the Internet that can help you find a virtual assistant.

Create Your Small Business Marketing Plan Now!

Use these seven marketing tips to start building your small business marketing plan right now. If you procrastinate, your busy life will get in the way of business growth. Even if you only take a little of the advice you’ve been given, you’ll find it can have a big impact on the profitability of your business.

4 Reasons Why an Internet Marketing Plan Can Help Any Business

For those who wonder whether or not their business is a “fit” for Internet marketing or whether they think their marketing dollars would be better put to use elsewhere, I encourage them to take a serious look at aspects of Internet marketing. For active businesses that are not currently incorporating a significant portion of their efforts to generate new customers online with a comprehensive Internet marketing plan, they are missing out on something that could take their business to a whole new level.

For new businesses, an Internet Marketing plan can be just as helpful, if not more so. Let’s go into each of the following four major reasons in a little more detail:

  1. Access to target market
  2. Speed
  3. Low cost
  4. Measurable results

Access to Target Market

Many business owners think that their customers aren’t searching the Internet for their type of product or service. Well I’ve got good news for them…there are. Lots of them. And for all types of products and services imaginable.

Is anybody searching for the term ukulele (since I have a ukulele store, of course)?

Yep, 24,700 per day (Google only)!

How about cat sitting? Does that seem like something that nobody is looking for? Well, they are…

4,500 per day (Google only)!

Small businesses have access to their target market through the Internet. Either at a national level or local if that is more applicable. It is sure a lot easier to sell to people that are actively looking for your stuff than to try to convince somebody that they should want your stuff, don’t you think?

Speed

The Internet allows us to receive instant feedback from around the world on our ideas. That fact is still absolutely amazing to me. Post a comment on a blog site, post a topical video or article, or create a pay-per-click advertisement for a search engine and see how others view this in minutes! Now let’s think about how a product might be typically marketed:

  • Define audience and offer
  • Write copy
  • Purchase advertising space or produce direct mailing
  • Wait weeks for any meaningful results

…and what if the results aren’t good? Much time and money has likely been spent producing this marketing campaign, but many things could have been wrong with it. Wrong audience, wrong copy, wrong offer…

For small businesses, this failed attempt at a marketing campaign (that we likely had high hopes for) has left us maybe even a bit sour on marketing in general for our business.

On the other hand, with Internet marketing, we can accomplish the following in a single day:

  • Find the people that are searching for our exact product or service
  • Place an ad directed to those people only
  • Get feedback on the effectiveness of that ad

Different versions of the ad can be running at the same time and provide critical info about what works and what doesn’t.

Low Cost

The thought of low cost might surprise business owners that have put money into Internet marketing and seen that money disappear more quickly than if they were to feed it into a shredder. This has happened to a great many of us.

But, the cost of designing and hosting websites is lower than ever. Or at least it should be if you utilize the tools at our disposal today. The problem is how to get actual traffic to the site. Most business owners are familiar with the paid type of traffic, using a mechanism like Google Adwords. The squandering of marketing dollars with Google AdWords is a common occurrence. If not done properly it can be a very costly lesson. This is not to say that AdWords can not be an outstanding tool for businesses, but it needs to be done very carefully and many have failed in getting an actual profit from their efforts with Adwords.

But get this…there is an even more effective way to get those Google searchers to your site. A phenomenon has occurred in search.

I’ll provide some background first…People searching the Internet are far less frequently clicking on the paid sponsored advertising. Do you know that the top search result that is not paid for (otherwise known as organic) gets 35-40% of the clicks?!

This is compared to typically only 0.2-1% for the top paid result.

These organic results can send a huge number of people searching for your product or service to your site- for free! A properly planned and executed search engine optimization (SEO) plan can get small businesses that traffic at a very low overall cost (the cost equates to the effort required to execute SEO plan).

Measurable Results

How does a business really know the return on its marketing dollars? If a business often chalks its results up to “branding”, it likely means pitiful actual results.

Actual results meaning: active leads; customers; and revenue.

Although there are plenty of ways to blow your marketing dollars on the Internet with branding activities, small businesses will avoid these like the plague. Instead, they should focus on measureable activities. We can see each and every time somebody clicks on a link that brings them to our website, and then get the statistics on how many of those visitors took us up on our offer (whatever our most desired result for them is). The information available from Internet marketing is pure gold and these measured results show us where to focus our attention in future marketing campaigns and what needs to be changed and tested.

If a business incorporates a results-oriented Internet marketing plan into their next business plan, the results might just be amazing.

Turning a Personal Book Marketing Plan Into Recognition Marketing

I’ve seen book trends come and go, such as prequels following sequels. Book authors used to market their work four ways: price, place, and special promotions. But the Internet has changed this approach. Name recognition has evolved into something called Recognition Marketing.

Today’s book buyers search the Net for what they want and they want fast results. If they don’t get fast results, they move on to another website.

David Miranda describes this marketing shift in his article, “The New 5 Cs for Successful Marketing,” posted on the Recognition Marketing website. According to Miranda, Recognition Marketing has give components: Consumers, Context, Convenience, Convergence, and Community. Ever since I read his article, I’ve thought about adapting my personal book marketing plan to fit these components.

Consumers. Just like the housing industry, the publishing industry has become a buyers’ market. Publishers keep this in mind when reviewing manuscripts. You may write for the sports niche, for example, and have an idea of what buyers want. While you’re writing you keep these wants in mind.

Context. Target marketing is the focus of context. Your publisher may advertise your books on websites, in electronic newsletters, and print newsletters. To expand this context, you may write for specialized websites and print publications..

Convenience. An increasing number of consumers are reading books on electronic devices. If you are a published author, ask the publisher about formatting your book for the Kindle or the Nook. The cost of formatting depends on the word count.

Convergence. This is a one-word description of the blending of media and distribution channels. Amelia Kassel, of MarketingBASE, an information brokerage, offers convergence suggestions in her Info Today article, “How to Write a Marketing Plan.” Her suggestions: personal/electronic marketing, direct marketing, print advertising, public speaking, publicity releases, and trade shows. “The ability to develop and implement each of the above strategies requires learning and honing new skills,” she notes.

Community. This term refers primarily to social networking. When I think of community I think of the resources in my city–churches, colleges, service organizations, and volunteer groups. You may, or may not, be making use of these networks; I know I’m not. Browsing through printed and online phone directors will give you a better idea of community networks.

Are you trying to expand your personal book marketing plan? Recognition marketing may be the way to go, but it isn’t a quick fix. Rather, it is a detailed and ongoing process. “Be persistent,” writes Amelia Kassel. “Marketing projects are the sorts of things that often need to be repeated over and over before permanent change is achieved.”

Copyright 2012 by Harriet Hodgson