Whether brand new or fairly young, generating awareness of your business is one of the initial necessary marketing steps to success. This article discusses ten ideas for making your business (of any age) more visible in the marketplace, and of course with your targeted prospects.
But before I list these ideas, a business should always begin a marketing campaign by clearly identifying who you are targeting. At the first step, it’s easy to state whether you’re focusing on existing customers or new customers. Then, tackle the specific geographic, demographic and psychological characteristics of your target.
Marketing experts tell us to develop customer profiles which are the detailed descriptions of your desired customers, i.e., target market. Here are two examples.
- Company S, an upscale sporting goods company, targets American male executives between the ages of 30 and 45, with an average household income greater than $100,000. These men enjoy outdoor sports and purchase sporting goods at least twice per year for recreation and travel.
- Company P, a printing company, is targeting firms within a radius of 20 miles, with annual revenues of $10 to $25 million and a need for four-color printing runs of approximately 5,000 pieces.
Assuming you have undertaken the necessary research to develop your customer profiles, here are ideas involving your target market. Examine the characteristics of your target market to ensure you’re really communicating with those who benefit from your product/service. By this, I mean that you know who your target market is based on who uses or needs your product/service and how to reach them.
- Can they be reached by newspaper, magazine or the Internet? Have you obtained their address at time of purchase or inquiry?
- Do you have a small base that can be effectively reached by personalized direct mail pieces?
- Do you have permission to email them?
- Is it feasible to use local newspapers to geographically target where your customers and prospects live or work?
Second, if you have a storefront, compare the demographics of your geographic location with your target market. If you’ve been in the same location for quite some time, have the demographics of the area changed?
- Are greater shares of your customers driving greater distances to your store?
- Has your community become more of a mature market with empty nesters and fewer families with young children, or is it experiencing change in its ethnic make-up?
The remaining eight suggestions are promotional ideas for improving the visibility of your small business. One low-cost idea is to publicize (through the media and to your customers and prospects directly, if appropriate) the charitable donations and favorites causes of your business. Women in particular often take note of the charitable contributions made by the companies they support.
A second low-cost idea is to offer your storefront or office as a deposit center for a charitable drive, such as clothing, food, toys or books, or hosting a blood drive. Third, write and distribute a story about how your product or service benefited a particular user. Human interest stories are for the most part very positively received.
Never forget that one of the most powerful marketing words is FREE. By offering a free sample of your product or a free or low-cost demonstration of your service, you’re likely to attract new prospects. A few ideas to spark your imagination are bottomless cups of coffee or free batteries with purchased products requiring them.
By holding a contest or sweepstakes, you can draw people to your storefront or generate a lot of interest based on the type of contest or sweepstakes.
- A contest involves some type of ability or skill, such as writing the best story or developing the best recipe.
- Sweepstakes are promotions in which prizes are awarded on the basis of chance, not skill, and entrants cannot be required to make a purchase in order to enter.
I would be remiss if I didn’t stress the need to carefully plan and research contests and sweepstakes. Marketing experts advise consulting with an attorney or local authorities to ensure compliance with federal, state and local laws. In Texas, refer to the Texas Sweepstakes Act that is part of the Business and Commerce Code. A few specific ideas are asking customers to fill out an entry blank every time they visit your business for the chance to win a valuable prize, and working with a local elementary school in which the classes compete with one another in a window-decorating contest.
Finally, for the last three ideas, let’s focus on your actual promotional messages. First, always assess or evaluate your messages prior to putting them to use. Have non-vested parties provide feedback on your business cards, flyers, coupons, brochures, website, etc.
Second, do you ever find that your eyes are drawn to large print? When it comes to building awareness, your initial effort may be telling of your existence. Using large print in ads and coupons is one way to increase the likelihood that your advertisement will get noticed at a faster pace (i.e., less required repetitions). This can be beneficial if your name easily tells what your business offers and you have a highly visible location.
Third, consider developing co-op advertising with other tenants in your shopping center or office building along with suppliers and other non-competitors whom you’ve met through networking. Here are a few examples. Consider manufacturers, such as jewelers or clothing, who develop co-op deals with local retailers. The manufacturers don’t have the boutiques and stores to sell their products to the public, and the local merchants welcome the partnership opportunity for reducing advertising costs. On a local level, think how a dry cleaners, video store, card shop and hair salon of the same shopping center could combine forces as they’re all targeting residents within the same geographic area.
If you would like to discuss these ideas or others in greater detail, contact Kate Barlow at 817-488-2761 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Now is also a good time for small businesses to examine the effectiveness of current marketing efforts and new ideas worth considering.