What you need to know about expanding your small business
Relevance is everything when it comes to small business marketing. The hot platform today could be tomorrow’s old news. But when it comes to marketing ideas and strategies for your small retail business you may question, where to start with confidence? Perhaps you can start here with this blog, where we have put together our top picks for small business marketing ideas on a budget that focus on attracting more customers to your business.
No matter your size and offering, the best marketing strategies start with research. The aim is to understand the market and validate any assumptions you may have. You can DIY it fairly easily.
1. Identify your best customers
(who they are, how they think)
Try setting up a simple online survey; see what they’ve shared with you on social media; talk to them face to face; you could even profile your customers – e.g. age, attitude, location, lifestyle. The more you know, the more convincing the marketing.
2. Pinpoint the competition
(who they are, what they do well)
You want customers to come to you rather than them. Take pictures of competitor window displays; join their social media pages; check out their print collateral; go to their events; even get your brother-in-law to do some mystery shopping. You might find big gaps to fill.
Play to your strengths
Great marketing has a real point of difference. So your next step is to be clear on your USP or unique selling proposition.
To determine your USP, ask yourself these questions:
1. The best things about our products/services?
2. Our knowledge and expert skills?
3. What’s really in it for our customers?
4. Why do customers come to us and not the competition?
5. How would we describe to strangers at a BBQ what we do?
From there, craft a simple description that neatly explains your USP. It’ll come in handy for anything marketing-related, including:
• what to include in your window display
• what to say on a poster
• deciding on which community group to sponsor.
Marketing and promotion top picks
They say it’s easier to keep an existing customer than it is to bring a newbie through the door. But let’s have a look at both as your aim is to attract as many customers as possible.
Whether it’s your front counter, window or front door, first impressions count. And that USP comes into play big time with visual merchandising. Keep it clear, catchy and clever. When a potential customer walks on by, that’s your moment to help them make a snap decision and come on in. It’s just like a website home page – if they see something useful, they keep clicking for more.
Text messages and email
Customer mailing lists are a great way to get the word out about new stock and sale items. If you haven’t, jump on it now – remembering that you need the customer’s permission. Email is great for news and short, sharp, product snaps. Be sure to lead with a punchy subject line that makes them open it. (And with text messages, say what you need to say and be polite about it.) There are plenty of service providers who can help you set up automated emails and texts.
Got a coffee card in your wallet? Everyone loves a deal, even better when it’s tailored to purchase history. Use your point of sale system to capture key customer data and surprise them with their favourite product at an exclusive discount. Give them a freebie if they send another customer your way. Do 10%-off-next-visit shopper dockets. Be sure to value your loyal regulars and they’ll thank you for it.
If you have new stock or offers, keep your website updated, or link people elsewhere – like if you use Facebook or Instagram for example. Include any educational information your customers might find handy, like how-to videos and fact sheets.
Make sure people can find the information they need. And include a sign-up link to your email or text list so you can keep them engaged. There are plenty of website-building platforms you can use if you’re yet to get started – like Squarespace or Wix. Not to mention search engine optimisation, if you want to really help people find you online.
Social media is the tool so many of us use to make decisions, like ‘where should I eat?’ and ‘can I trust this tradie?’. You can use social media to create buzz and talkability about your business, share news, get peoples’ opinions and create long-lasting customer connections. Before you start posting, the most important thing to do is understand what platforms your customers are on so you reach the right people. For more information on how to use social media, read our blog post titled “Social media tips for small businesses”.
Sponsorship & community
Research tells us that people care about shopping with businesses that do good. How could you show customers that you have a community mindset?
It could be a certificate at reception saying thanks for donating a prize to the local primary school fete; it could be your business name across the back of the under-10’s netball uniform; it could be a logo on your website acknowledging that your team spent a day planting trees for bees. Community loves community.
If you have new stock, or it’s *that* time of year, or there’s something new to the industry, bring people together over a beverage and nibbles. Or set up camp at a trade show. Knowledge-sharing and being there to answer customer questions can be a huge sales booster.
You could even encourage prospects to try products on the spot. It’s an experience they’ll remember.
Print isn’t dead! We’ve talked about digital marketing, but don’t forget that some people love a piece of paper that they can pop on the fridge. Whether it’s a postcard with your basics, an ad in a trade magazine, or a business card with your social media handles and phone number, give them what they want.
Think about who your customers are and the things they need in their hot little hands to make decisions.
Sales and offers
Lastly, use any or all of the above when you need to get rid of old or slow-moving stock, or when there’s just no space on the shelves for next season’s must-have. Some of your customers may have been patiently waiting for that thing they love to go down in price, some will buy more because they see the value in a discount.
The elephant in the room
We haven’t talked about TV or radio or cinema or those posters you see at the bus stop. And yes, these have their merits too, but mostly at a price which is not lucrative for small retail businesses. But what you do have here is plenty of food for thought on how to get the word out there to the right people at the right time. Which is what marketing is all about.
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