by Michael Wren
Marketing is often seen as an expense that many small businesses don’t budget for, viewing it as an unnecessary expense and relying solely on word of mouth advertising or their storefront sign. While this will bring in some people many will never know of your business. However, even without a marketing budget there are many actions you can take to advertise your business and get people interested in coming. During a panel discussion at the Northeast Greenhouse Conference and Expo four panelists, Sue Adams, Kirsten Maskell, Teri Boardman and Dustyn Nelson shared their experiences with marketing. While some spoke of their great success with billboards or television ads, other panelists spoke of their inexpensive and even free ideas. Often when you don’t have the budget to market is when you need it the most. Implementing all or some of these ideas can help put your business on the map.
Social Online Media
A strong presence on social media websites costs nothing and can be one of the easiest ways to increase your customer base. The new generation is constantly filtering through social websites and enjoys feeling a connection to the businesses where they shop. Many check Facebook pages of prospective stores before buying. It is recommended to post at least twice a week about what your business is doing as well as any special events occurring. Keeping up with social media is important, but keeping an up to date website is crucial to show prospective customers that your business is on top of its game.
Holding classes for adults or children or both is a great way to not only get people in your door but also showing them a way to use your products in a different or better way. As Sue Adams put it, “Generation Y is becoming generation DIY.” Millenials enjoy hands on gardening and cooking projects and are willing to pay to get hands-on experience. Charging for classes can bring in another source of income. However, many do not charge for the class itself but may charge for materials used and rely on sales generated after the event or write it off as a marketing expense.
Being part of your community is important for small business owners. Holding charity events not only helps the charity chosen but also shows the community that you care about it. Kirsten Maskell of Smith Acres holds a charity event for the Main Street Beautification Committee and every year helps to improve the town. While holding charity events is a good way to get your name in front of the public, participating in charity events will also show the public that you care. Volunteering is a free method in which to improve the public perception of your business.
Keeping your storefront and selling space clear of negative signs will have a positive effect on your customers. Negative signs include those that are worn out, out of season, and grammatically incorrect. Also included are signs with negative messages, for instance, No Running or Checks Not Accepted, etc. Find a way to put a positive spin on the message you’re trying to get across.
While buying billboards and marketing on television are known ways to get your business and products in front of many people, they are also quite expensive. Many small businesses don’t have a large enough marketing budget to sustain these types of advertising. Clean and clear storefront signs will speak volumes of your business.
Most large retailers offer loyalty programs for their repeat customers and so should small retailers. It can be something as simple as a card that marks their number of purchases and gives the 10th one free. This both rewards customer loyalty as well as giving customers a reason to come back. Making your customer feel special will in turn make your store special to them.
People can have bad days, businesses cannot. Owners and employees alike can have bad days but it is very important to remember that while you’re at work you are the face of the company. The most valuable type of marketing is word of mouth recommendations. If you turn your selling space into a pleasant and happy environment then that is the way people will describe your store to their friends and family. People trust their friends and family much more than any advertisement you could ever hope to create.
Many marketers like the use of coupons either online or on paper because they allow the store a definitive count as to how many customers the targeted ad brought in. Keeping track of how much revenue a particular marketing campaign brings in helps a business to understand what their investment brought in as well as help to plan the next phase of marketing. Coupons also reach out to a part of the market that might not necessarily come into your store without the coupon.
Marketing does not need to require a large sum of money to be efficient. In fact sometimes it is the simplest methods of keeping your business presentable and clean that transfers to the biggest gain in customer base. Setting aside a specific budget for marketing is generally a worthwhile investment. There are many ways to promote your store and product; if you’re just starting your marketing mix you can employ some or all of these inexpensive methods.
Marketing with more than just money
by Michael Wren