1. Customer Contact Details
Ensuring that you maintain up to date contact information both your for your existing and potential customers is essential.
Small businesses can utilise a range of free resources to keep contact information up to date and in one place securely. Companies such as Mailchimp or Sender which both provide the ability to create beautiful and well presented marketing emails.
While for bigger businesses, a CRM system can help you track and maximise the value of your client base. Such as Salesforce or Zoho who both offer a range of competitive prices.
You must make sure that you comply with GDPR rules. A useful guide for organisations to follow can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation.
2. Social Media
Create accounts on the main social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using your business name. Try to complete your profiles with details to provide new visitors with as much information about your business as possible.
Social media provides your business with a voice and allows you to showcase your brand for free. It is also a cost efficient method to increase your SEO discoverability depending on the number of followers you have.
Consider using industry specific social media platforms such as Pinterest to inspire your customers if you are an interior designer or wedding planner or YouTube for videos of work you have undertaken to gain subscribers on your channel. Ensure you regularly update these to keep clients informed of what your business is up to.
Social media networking on platforms such as Linkedin have become increasingly popular within the professional world in recent years and is a great way to showcase any qualifications and experience you may have.
Ensure your business is registered with Google and if you have a fixed location, make sure that the address and placement on Google’s maps is perfect to allow your customers to find you.
3. Referral Schemes
Create a referral scheme that rewards existing customers but also introduces new customers into your business.
Remember, word of mouth is an incredible resource to entice new customers. However your existing customers often don’t realise this, so think about providing them with a small incentive. This can be something such as a discount for every customer they introduce or an upgrade when they next use your services.
Referral schemes are an efficient way to build your business without having to pay upfront for advertising and also incentivises existing customers to stay with your business. Using this method is also an easy way to track your marketing sucess and spend.
If you're looking to promote your referral scheme through your social media, try to use a catchy headline such as "Share the love and receive a free service". Making the imagery as visually pleasing as possible is also one of the best ways to grab attention.
Using the free function of social media design tools such as Canva can really help make your scheme stand out from the crowd!
Often branding is considered something that only large companies need to concern themselves with.
On this basis it is extremely common for small businesses to design a logo and matching business cards and consider this as their branding complete.
Branding communicates to your customers that you are trustworthy, that they have a reason to connect with you and be completely inline with the customer's wants and needs.
Branding also gives businesses a direction of travel for future growth and a clear idea of what you stand for.
To avoid confusion for new and existing customers, you need to make sure your branding and all communications are consistent, well presented and reflect your business in the best possible light.
Prospective customers can be swayed very easily by mistakes such as typos or confused by inconsistent messaging so take the time to ensure that everything you publish is perfect and completely inline with your marketing plan and future growth.
The careful use of promotions is a fantastic way to fill empty appointments in your diary or develop a market for a new product that people haven’t tried before.
Utilising your social media platforms is an efficient and affordable way to advertise your promotion.
Promotion also ties in with tip number four, branding. The better your promotion the more you are making people aware of your brand.
One simple and common promotional technique (to tie into tip number two) is to offer a giveaway in return for a follow, like or share on social media. Another could be to offer a discount or giveaway to clients who write reviews of your services online.
It's also a good idea to make sure that you are using the correct platform for your promotion and to know which platform your customers use most if you use social media as one of your promotional tools.
Just be careful not to alienate new or existing customers by providing lots of discounts, while still expecting to charge full price at other times. Think carefully on your discount or giveaway levels to make sure they are inline with your usual pricing structure and offering.
6. Build a Marketing Plan
As a small business owner you have a million and one tasks, but the planning of your marketing in advance across all of the different platforms and methods that you use can really make a difference. A marketing plan can give you a frame of reference to work from.
For example, as a restaurant, you may need to begin advertising your Christmas availability in September, whereas beauty salons may want to start pre-summer holiday treatment advertising well ahead of the summer holiday period to allow customers to book in advance.
Having a formal marketing plan like this helps maximise the impact of your communications and best ties into your customer’s natural focus.
Keep in mind that your marketing plan needs to be closely tied to your overall goals and objectives for your business (back to branding).
Important questions to answer as part of your marketing plan could be:
Who is your desired target audience?Which social media platforms do they most visit?Do they value the quality of service or the price? How far in advance do they book their services?What do they need right now?
7. Customer Complaints
As all small business owners know, even when you try your absolute best, customers can still have problems. You can't please all of the people, all of the time, it's just not possible.
While you may feel some of these are unreasonable and receiving complaints can be distressing, dealing with them quickly, courteously and in the best possible way and can often allow you to rebuild your relationship avoiding bad publicity.
There are often benefits to receiving complaints. These include:
Recognising a mistake your business may be makingEnsuring that you are best addressing the needs of your current customer base Ensuring that word of mouth isn't harming your business by dealing with complaints quickly and politelyImproving the communication you have with all of your customers, whether this is positive or negative
Taking on feedback can also potentially assist your business to diversify into new markets by helping you to better understand the wants and needs of your customers.
8. Email Marketing
Use an email marketing platform such as Mailchimp, Sender or SendGrid to communicate with your clients via email which is either free or very low cost.
The biggest benefit to email marketing is that it is a quick and efficient method to communicate with a large number of current and potential customers in one go.
Another is that the more customers hear from you, the more you will build trust in your brand. It's also a very convinient way to communicate with your customers as they can read, at their leisure, about any new products or services your business may offer.
As with the first tip at the start of this guide, you need to ensure that the contact information you hold is up to date and that you are offering an option to unsubscribe whilst complying with the new GDPR regulations.
There have been several studies on when is the best time to send marketing emails. CoSchedule say that 10am on either a Tuesday, Wednesday or a Thursday is the best time to email.
We all know how annoying email spam can be, so pick the timing of your communications perfectly.
Entering business awards is a commonly overlooked way of marketing your business which can be successful whether you win or are a runner up!
You must ensure you find the right award for you, this will depend on whether you only operate national or whether you are national or international.
A great opportunity is the British Small Business Awards which you can enter now here - https://britishsmallbusinessawards.co.uk.
There are also competitions for specific industries as well as general business awards such as the Catering Awards which can be found here - https://www.caterer.com/people-awards/ or the Cleaning Company awards here - https://cssa-uk.co.uk/awards/.
Just remember that there may be a fee to enter some awards and it is always worthwhile to take your time when completing the application. The more you can tell them about your business and why you're different from the rest, the better chances you have!
10. Lead Generation Assistance
Saving the best until last.....
Lead generation tools offer small to medium business a wide range of benefits. Utilising companies such as Proffer can reduce the time spent trying to attract new customers and increase the time you can spend actually delivering your services.
What is Proffer you ask? It is a place for businesses where consumers are matched to Proffer Pros based on their service level requirements and budget. This means that you never receive a Proffer request that is outside of your service offering.
Proffer can also assist you in testing a new area of the market that you're thinking of moving into, without incurring heavy advertising or research costs.
Proffer was designed to be a transparent tool, providing you with the customer's budget before you respond which leaves you to decide which leads you want to respond to.
Proffer offers a low cost monthly subscription option and doesn't charge you to pay per lead meaning that you can plan your marketing costs in advance!
To find out more about becoming a Proffer Pro, please visit https://www.youproffer.com/proffer-pro.