Small Business Marketing Plan – Increase Your Business Profit Without Breaking Your Marketing Budget

Most small business owners fail when it comes to their small business marketing plans. They’ve got excellent technical skills in their line of work, but that just doesn’t translate to having effective marketing skills.

As a result, profitability of many small businesses has been declining over the years. Ever increasing competition is making it more challenging in many ways. For those businesses that aren’t losing money, most are not producing the profit they could be if they knew how to market themselves properly.

These business owners usually just copy what they see other businesses doing, or they follow the advice of some media sales person. The problem is they copy the wrong types of businesses, and the media sales people typically only know as much about effective marketing as the business owner does.

Without the right kind of marketing system in place, the success of any business is by pure chance. To help remedy this situation, below are seven things a small business can do to increase profits while spending less on marketing.

1. Use the power of free stuff

Everyone likes getting free stuff and you can use that to your advantage. If your business lends itself to giving away free samples of your product, do that. It helps get people hooked on it. Business profits have boomed on this marketing model.

As Chris Anderson author of the book titled, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” says, “You can make make money giving things away.”  In his book he talks about how businesses are giving away products and services they used to charge for, and in return, a percentage of their customers are buying something else. As a result, they are making more money than ever.

When you give something away, you often activate a universal law called the “Law of Reciprocity.” It says that when people get something free, they feel obligated to do something for you. Obviously it doesn’t work every time, but it does work enough of the time.

But there is another way to give away free stuff that can greatly benefit your business. When you do it right you get something very valuable in return: customer contact info…which leads us to the next tip.

2. Start capturing customer contact info and use it

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is not tapping their current customer base. They let customers visit their business (online or offline) all day long without ever trying to capture their contact info so they can continue to market products or services to them.

You likely know how expensive it can be to get a new customer. But you can market to your current customers for little or no cost. Capturing and using customer contact info can mean the difference between a profitable business and one that barely gets by.

Your business has more customer value in it than a customer can possibly digest in a short visit so if you aren’t continually marketing to your customers, you are throwing money away!

You can make customer contact capture easier simply by using the power of free from tip number one. Simply start a monthly drawing to give away something free and print some registration slips visitors can fill out. Also have people register online on your website.

Tell customers they only have to register once for all drawings and you will contact them monthly via email to let them know who won. Of course you will always include an offer for a product or service!

What do you give away? Anything with a perceived value makes a great free item. Free items do not have to be expensive. Buy something on sale at WalMart or at eBay and offer it. You can also offer free informational reports that help people solve their problems. People are always looking for ways to solve problems they are having.

Of course, once you capture this information you have to do something with it. If you’re too busy to take on any more work, then the next tip will help you out.

3. Use automated tools to keep in touch with customers

Once you have a customer list, I recommend you send a minimum of 25 “messages” a year to it. A message could be an email, direct mail piece, fax, or phone call.

If you don’t use an automated tool to do the work for you, you’ll likely be too busy to get the job done. When you automate, your messages go out regardless of how busy you get (the more messages that go out, the busier you’ll get).

One tool you can use is an email autoresponder, which is a web-based system that sends out emails when someone signs up. It sends out emails at intervals you set up. You can also set it up to send an email on a specific day, such as a holiday.

The great thing about an autoresponder tool is that you enter your messages in the autoresponder one time, then it automatically sends emails to your list. You can also broadcast messages any time you want.

Using this tool, keeping in touch with your customers is easy and it will help keep the competition from creeping in and stealing your customers because they’ve forgotten about you and the services you provide.

4. Stop marketing like you’re a big business.

Marketing a small business like it’s a big business is something almost every small business owner does. They just copy the marketing they see being done at large companies with big brands. This kind of marketing is called “brand identity,” “brand building,” or “image” marketing.

This is a HUGE waste of advertising money for a small business. You simply don’t have the resources you need to support a successful branding campaign.

Brand advertising typically has no “call to action,” (they don’t ask you to do anything). They just give you features of the product or service, or they entertain you without asking you to do anything.

Brand advertising is usually benefit free. The viewer has to determine if there is a benefit to them. It may contain a list of features and the user will have to assign their own benefit to each feature. It is usually focused on the product or provider of the product instead if the customer.

A successful marketing campaign for a small business is created around direct response marketing techniques.

5. Use old fashioned direct response techniques in new ways

The kind of marketing plan that works for a small business is direct response marketing. It doesn’t require a huge marketing budget to use effectively. It can be used for all types of products and services.

And the good news is that you don’t even have to hire an advertising agency to do it since it doesn’t require creativity. All you have to do is learn the basic structure of direct response marketing and you can easily increase the sales your business makes.

Direct response sales copy always asks the reader or viewer to take some sort of action i.e. “Call in the next 5 minutes, and we’ll include a free set of Ginzu steak knives!”.

It may ask for the sale directly if a full “sales presentation” was done (one-step advertising), or it may ask them to request more information (two-step advertising). It will at a minimum, ask the reader to take some form of “traceable” action so you know if it is working or not.

There should always be a headline for written advertisements! Never put your company logo at the top of a direct response advertisement. That’s brand advertising.

Whenever you create an advertisement in any form always look at them from the customer point of view. Look it and ask “Who gives a crap?” about everything in it. Do you think the customer cares about your logo. No! They care about what you can do for them. Put in benefits and not features. Let the customer know what’s in it for them. A successful direct response ad for a small business includes several things:

 

  • An offer to buy something
  • Sufficient information for the consumer to make a decision to act now (or directions on how to get more info)
  • An explicit “call to action” sooner rather than later
  • A clear way to respond such as a telephone number or web page
  • A means of tracking the response.

Direct response advertising is not just used for mail campaigns. You use it in all forms of media: print, web, mail, and broadcast. Take a look at all the advertising you are currently doing no matter where it is and start making the change now.

6. Use the Internet to advertise for free

Even though websites as we know them have existed since around the early 90s, only 49%* of small businesses currently have a website *9/08, Barlow Research. It’s surprising how many businesses do not understand how powerful this marketing tool is. If you don’t have a website, get one because there is no better source of free advertising!

The Internet has hundreds of “Web 2.0” websites where you post “content” for free. The content can be text, videos, or audios you create and it can lead people to your business. Plus, it helps establish you as an expert in your field.

EzineArticles.com is one such place you can post content. There was no charge to post this article. All I had to do is write it, post it, and then you found it.

You can put links in the “author resource” section, to drive traffic to a page on your website. The articles you post in EzineArticles can rank extremely well in Google search results with a little help from you.

You also want to get your business listed in places like Google Local if you do local business. Once again this is absolutely free.

Once you learn how to do use the Internet for promotion you’ll have a head start on the future of advertising and you get customers for free!

7. Outsource routine marketing tasks so you can work on the growing your business

One of the biggest problems small business owners have is that they get so consumed by working IN their business, they don’t have time to work ON their business. So no growth can occur.

When it comes to marketing yourself on the Internet, there are ways to use “virtual assistants” to do most of the work for you. A virtual assistant is someone you hire on a full or part-time basis who does the work for you.

But a virtual assistant is not a direct employee so you don’t provide benefits or have the normal hassles of an employee. They are usually located somewhere in the world that has low-cost wages so they are very affordable. That’s the beauty of the Internet and the communication it provides.

Virtual assistants aren’t just confined to small business marketing plan tasks though. They can do almost anything for you: reservations, schedule appointments, answer phones, customer service, send flowers, buy a present for your spouse, find someone to fix your car, website development, accounting, software development, writing, graphics, or anything you need.

There are lots of resources on the Internet that can help you find a virtual assistant.

Create Your Small Business Marketing Plan Now!

Use these seven marketing tips to start building your small business marketing plan right now. If you procrastinate, your busy life will get in the way of business growth. Even if you only take a little of the advice you’ve been given, you’ll find it can have a big impact on the profitability of your business.

 

Small Business Insurance Quotes – What You Need to Know

Every business, whether large or small, needs to have insurance coverage to help protect their assets. Small business insurance is very important to have in any case. From umbrella insurance to vehicle insurance, the right coverage to suit your business’ needs is available. However, now the question becomes: How do you find the right insurance for the best rates?

These types of business quotes are available from just about any insurance agency that offers such coverage. Quotes for insurance are just a standard part of their everyday workload. So, whenever you do ask for a small business insurance quote, no one will be unsuspecting.

Finding the Right Business Quotes for Insurance

So, how do you find small business insurance quotes? Actually, there are a variety of different ways that you can go about obtaining quotes for insurance for your business.

1. Make phone calls. Making phone calls in order to obtain insurance quotes has been the primary way to obtain the quotes for many years. It can take quite a bit of time in order to search through the hundreds of insurance agencies that may be in your local area, depending upon how many small business insurance quotes that you want to obtain. In this case, there may be many times when you will have to wait a day or more in order to receive the quote that you have asked for.

2. Search the Internet. On the Internet, a lot of times you can find websites that will help to guide you through the process of finding small business insurance quotes. Just tell the website your information and the type of insurance that you are looking for and they will get the quotes for you. Isn’t that great? This way has proven to be the fastest growing way to obtain a variety of different small business insurance quotes in the least amount of time. Many consumers are changing their methods.

What to Do When You Get the Quotes

Once you have received all of the quotes back from the insurance agencies that you are interested in doing business with, it will require a little time on your behalf to make an informed decision before purchasing the insurance.

1. Price: Of course, the price is the biggest determining factor for which insurance agency you will decide to go with. The price that the insurance agency offers you on your small business insurance quote is probably the best price that they could get you.

2. Amount of coverage: Make sure to compare the amounts of coverage of the small business insurance quote states. You will want to make sure that between the different insurance agencies that they have quoted you for the right coverage, the coverage amounts are comparable. Mistakes can happen, and unfortunately, this could be bad for your business. Just make sure that the quote is for what you asked for and in the right amounts.

In the end, after you get the small business insurance quotes and you have looked over them, you will be able to find the right insurance agency to do business with.

 

The Three Reasons Your Small Business Needs a Blog

Just a few short years ago hardly anyone knew what a blog was, but now, because they are so easy to set up and maintain, their popularity has blossomed beyond all expectations. Blogs are not just for ordinary people who wish to expound on their hobby or area of special interest. Blogs are for the smart small businessperson who understands the power of the published word online.

A blog can provide a low cost means of marketing online, a feedback mechanism for establishing your side of the story against someone spreading negative and potentially damaging things about you and your business, and a means of connecting and communicating with existing clients and potential clients. The purpose of this article is to explain these three main positive reasons why your small business needs a blog.

1. A Blog as a Marketing and Promotion Tool for Your Small Business

Small business internet marketing seems easy at first glance, but many have tried it and failed. Others have persevered, perfecting search engine optimization techniques, keyword density and linking strategies, which work for some but not always for others. They have followed the advice of every “guru,” only to be more mystified at the end of the process than when they started out. They invariably end up thinking that there has to be a better way, and there is – a blog.

The search engines love blogs. Yes, a little optimization with careful keyword placement and some back links will never go amiss, but even the complete novice knowing nothing whatsoever can enjoy good results simply by regularly maintaining a blog. All it takes is a simple strategy, perhaps focusing on a particular product line and posting just once a day, to get results that will make a difference.

With time and as your understanding of blogging techniques improve, your small business internet marketing efforts will bear significant fruit. And remember, the cost of all this is negligible compared to newspaper advertising, for example. Of course, this is not the only reason why your small business needs a blog. What if someone is “badmouthing” you by blogging all over the Internet, perhaps because they didn’t like something about the way you do business? How do you defend yourself and give your side of the story? You need a blog!

2. A Blog as Feedback Channel to Establish a Positive Image for Your Small Business

A real-life example of someone who found themselves dealing with negative blog posts involves a medical doctor who practices on her own in California. She treated two patients whose poor health situation was largely of their own making. She told them that they needed to take some responsibility for their own health. This was not at all what they wanted to hear. Feeling insulted, they started to blog about it online, giving only their side of the story and painting a very damaging picture of the doctor in the process.

If you were to go to Google or any of the major search engines now and do a search for her name, the only information you would find are negative, almost libelous, rants created by these two aggressive individuals who couldn’t face up to the truth about their own health situations.

However, had this doctor previously considered the advantages of blogging for local small businesses to complement her business activities, she would have been able to limit at least some of the damage caused. Patient confidentiality rules would have prevented her from posting a positive rebuttal to the negative blog posts -her side of the story in other words. But she could have built up an archived library of positive and factual information about herself and her practice, automatically dealing with negative blog posts at the same time. Anyone then using Google to search for her name would still have found the negativity, but they would also have found the positive balanced view.

This type of situation can happen to anyone running a business, not just doctors. A blog for your business offers you the chance of great flexibility to promote your business, publish a positive image, and to communicate with all your clients, even those who don’t know that they have yet to become your clients!

3. A Blog as a Communication and Connection Tool for Your Small Business

People love getting free things on the Internet. We all do, in fact. And one of the most successful things to give away and help build your business at the same time is a free newsletter. Traditionally, this has taken the form of a specially formatted email, but increasingly small business owners are turning to blogs for publishing their newsletters. They still send out an email to the people on their list, but only to send them over to the blog where the newsletter can be read online.

This is a great way to communicate with your existing clients. You can regularly give them useful information, making them realize that your newsletter has real value. And every so often you can pitch an offer – a special bargain offer perhaps, and a percentage will make a purchase that you would not have had otherwise. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Your blog can be a tool for getting new customers too.

If you have carefully built up your business blog with regular and useful posts, the search engines will have noticed and in time your blog will be ranked according to whatever the search engines deem appropriate. Hopefully this will be a favorable placement, and if it is, people who search for the kind of product information you provide will find your blog.

When they are on your blog you can ask them to sign up for email alerts to whenever you make a new post, or whenever your latest newsletter is published. Once you have them on a list you can make offers to them and a percentage of them will buy. Blogging for local small businesses can be a wonderfully inexpensive and highly effective method of acquiring new customers with little effort.

There are many more ways to use a blog for any small business. Often it just requires your imagination to come up with new ways to use it. And you don’t have to limit yourself to only one blog; you can have several, each one dealing with a particular topic, and all of them linked together. This can be extremely powerful if done properly, and it isn’t hard to do either.

The three reasons I have offered you for why your small business needs a blog are indeed important ones. But they are not the only reasons. Don’t waste time now trying to think up other reasons. Get a blog in place first, and then the ways to use your blog will become increasingly obvious. You really do owe it to yourself to get your own small business blog in place today!