6. Help customers find you.
Having the best product or service will not mean anything if people don’t know that you exist. The authors recommend that you ask two important questions: Do the maximum possible number of potential customers knows how to find your business? Assuming a potential customer knows who you are, can he actually get to your goods and services with reasonable ease?
Answering these two questions involve thinking about a lot of things about your business. There is no one way to list information about your business in a way everyone will find it; you need to try different venues and see which of these works for your business.
Is your business name easy to remember? Can people find where you are located? If you are operating a traditional store, it is extremely important that potential customers know where your business is located. You must think about your location’s convenience of access, as well as the visibility of your signs. If you are on the Internet, your domain name must be easy to spell, type, and remember. How do you expect users to remember a 36-letter word domain full of dots and hyphens?
Whether you are operating online or offline, telephone accessibility is extremely important. Be sure that customers can always reach you, or at least be able to leave a message when you are not around. Also, consider how Yellow Pages listing can boost your presence. Note, however, that some businesses are perfect match for the yellow pages, while for others; it is a waste of time and money.
You also need to find ways to creatively and widely list your services. Try specialized phone books, trade and professional association directories, Chamber of Commerce publications, online listings such as directories and electronic bulletin boards.
7. Keep a database of customer information.
It would be very easy to tap customers to help market your business if you know how to find them. Devise ways to get some information of your customers, including their mailing addresses and phone numbers. Some big retail stores get their customer’s name, address, phone number and birthdays to plan promotional offers around their birthdays. Also keep a listing of their referral sources, if applicable, and a separate list of interested parties.
8. Have an open recourse policy.
Try as we might, we cannot avoid slip-ups and customer-related problems. You may have unintentionally charged the credit card of your customer twice. A customer may return a dress bought from your store that turned out to have a manufacturing flaw. A car that was not repaired right will be brought back to you for another round of repairs. A customer may request for a refund after the pottery ordered from your Web site arrived in a thousand broken pieces.
How well you respond to complaints can spell the difference between winning the recommendation or the wrath of the customer. To avoid losing customers (and their referrals), the authors recommend that you need to establish an effective recourse policy. You need to provide a way where customers’ complaints and grievances can be addressed and given a fair resolution. More than that, you need to make sure your customers understand and trust what you offer. You can gain customers’ loyalty when you promptly and attentively make sure that they are treated right.
9. Design and implement a marketing plan.
A marketing plan objective is to give your customers, associates or prospects a sense of participation in your business. The authors suggest that a marketing action plan should include three basic elements: (a) the statement describing your business; (b) list of people you already know who are in a good position to recommend your business to their friends and acquaintances; and (c) list of marketing actions and events that will stimulate the people on your list to make recommendations.
The next step is to plan your marketing actions, which could either be direct, parallel or peer-based. Direct marketing entails contacting people by telephone or in person to inform them of an event or a promotion. Recitals of dance schools where families and friends of performing students are invited is a subtle way of direct marketing. Or if you have the cash, you can follow America Online’s lead in mass mailing software and offers of free access time to entice potential customers to use their service.
Parallel marketing, on the other hand, is aimed at promoting your business area in general, and not just your business. You basically tie your business with a complementary product or service, whether as part of an information package or suggestions of other valuable products that you know your customers will use and appreciate. A lawyer, for example, could send his small business clients with a booklet on partnership laws. An Italian restaurant could have a regular drawing among customer entries for tickets to the opera.
Peer-based marketing requires an understanding of your role as part of a group of peers in your field and to make effective use of it.
10. Create a calendar of events.
What good is a written marketing plan if it is never executed? Sometimes you are so caught up with our day-to-day tasks that you forget to implement your marketing action plan.
The authors strongly suggest the need to plan ahead and spend time and effort doing creative marketing on a regularly scheduled basis. Keep track of events, scheduling major events well in advance. If you want to meet business people in your area, for example, you can schedule an open house for businesses. The steps leading to this event could include designing fliers and invitations to businesses, printing these materials, meeting with business owners, ordering flowers and catering, and planning for the logistics of the event.
Don’t wait for business to slow down before putting your marketing plan into action. The best time to market is when you do not need the business. The book Marketing without Advertising can show you the right marketing techniques without the damaging your bank account.
Recommended Books on Marketing Without Advertising
- Marketing Without Advertising: Easy Ways to Build a Business Your Customers Will Love and Recommend
- Free Marketing: 101 Low and No-Cost Ways to Grow Your Business, Online and Off
- Smarter Branding Without Breaking the Bank: Five Proven Marketing Strategies You Can Use Right Now to Build Your Business at Little or No Cost
- Powerful Marketing On A Shoestring Budget: For Small Businesses