Marketing on a budget (Part 2)
Last week, we covered core messaging, web presence, and awareness. These are the first steps to small business marketing on a budget. In this post, we’re covering early sales, lead development programs, and scaling.
4.(continued) Early Sales
The key here is not just to make some initial sales, but to make the very most out of them. We’ve found the following combination of tactics to be successful:
Friends and Family
Send an email to as many friends and family as you can – don’t be bashful! Reference the core messaging you developed and make sure you come across as confident, excited and determined.
Door to Door
Pick an area you know well, and knock on doors. Spend 2 hours per day for at least one week doing this. Not only will you quickly refine your sales pitch, but you’ll probably close a few deals. Key: Don’t get discouraged. Many folks won’t want to speak with you. But learn from this experience. Use this experience to figure out what messages work and which ones don’t. At this point, speaking with customers and potential customers is the best research you can do.
Make a deal that people can’t refuse – consider a discount or coupon. Sure, these sales may not be as profitable as full-rate sales, but you need the customer base!
MAKING THE MOST OUT OF EARLY SALES
Making the most out of these sales is crucial, because doing so will help you make more sales, faster.
At a very minimum, you should get a testimonial approved by each of these early customers. Write the testimonial for them, and then ask them to approve it (tell them you’ll use it for marketing, and won’t include their full name). Even better, convince them to post the testimonial on online review sites like Yelp.com. Depending on your product/service, you should also consider building a case study for each customer: write a one-page document that concisely explains how the customer had great success with your product. Use all of these resources (testimonials, case studies, etc.) in your future sales efforts, and include them on your website!
And last but not least: ask for referrals! Each time you have a satisfied customer, ask them if they know anyone else who may be interested in your product/service, and ask them to connect you.
5. Lead Development on a Budget
By now, you’ve got some strong core messaging and you’ve made some early sales. There are three blog posts about you on the web, and the local paper ran an article about your business. You’ve gotten a few referrals and you’ve been able to compile a handful of testimonials and even a couple of case studies. What’s next?
You need to create a system that connects you with new customer prospects on a regular, predictable basis. If you focus on the basics, it’s not as hard as it sounds.
First, think about who your target customer is: where they live, what they do, what they’re like. Maybe you’re focused on residents of a specific neighborhood. Maybe you’re focused on a specific niche, like doctors. Once you’re clear on a target market, make a list of all the possible ways to reach them: email, direct mail, signs on street corners, door knob hangers, flyers, etc. Pick what you think will work best, start small, and try it out – but stay disciplined. If you test mailers, send the same number every week and track your returns. Compare the costs to the sales you’re bringing in, and decide if the return on your investment is worthwhile.
Continue testing as many channels as you can until you’ve identified one, or several, that provide consistent, predictable sales.
Once you’ve identified the channels that bring you sales consistently, you’ve jumped a huge hurdle that many small businesses never pass. The next step is to scale these efforts in a controlled manner. So, before you go from sending 50 to 5,000 mailers per week, here are a few things to consider:
Can you and your team handle the volume of inquiries that will result from scaling your marketing efforts? If you experience a large increase in inquiries from customer prospects but are unable to respond to them in a timely manner, your brand will suffer – these people will assume you have poor customer service if you can’t even respond to their initial inquiries promptly.
Can you and your team deliver your product/service if many more customers are buying it? If you scale your marketing efforts and bring in lots of new customers, you’ve got to deliver at the same high quality level as before, or you’ll experience negative reviews online and negative word of mouth communications. This will harm your business for a long time into the future, so avoid it at all costs.
Will you maintain adequate profitability as you scale? If doubling your rate of customer acquisition means you have to hire a salesperson to field the inquiries and another person to deliver the product/service, are you sure you’re still going to be generating a good return on your sales? Do the math before-hand to make sure everything adds up in your favor.
Ideas or suggestions?
These straightforward ways of promoting your business can help move you toward profitability faster. Feel free to contact us if you have any comments or suggestions about things we should add to the list!