If you own a small business, you're probably dodging pesky vendors every day. One wants to build you a new website. Another wants to redesign the interior of your brick and mortar store. Still others claim they can increase your profits with new product lines. There's just one problem—where precisely are you supposed to get the money to buy their products and services?
The Financial Challenge for Small Business
After all, there's a better than even chance you're just breaking even every month, trying to find the money for payroll, taxes, loan payments and to pay the vendors you already use. Consider these metrics from Fit Small Business:
- Of small businesses that fail, for about 30% the reason is running out of money
- Only 40% of small businesses are profitable; 30% are breaking even, and 30% are losing money
- 26% of small businesses don't hire or expand because they can't afford to
What's a Small Business to Do?
If you're barely breaking even and some months can barely scrape together the money to pay your bills, how can you expand? How can you afford to enhance your marketing efforts when there's just no money to do it with? Fortunately, not every marketing strategy will cost you and an arm and a leg. In fact, some of the most effective ones are affordable for virtually every small business, including the following 5:
- Get involved in your community: it doesn't cost much to sponsor a local team or charity event—but getting involved in your community can mean a lot of free advertising, and a lot of good will for your business. Keep on top of what's going on in your area and, when you see an opportunity, jump in. It could be anything from sponsoring a kid's athletic team to getting involved in local politics, being a featured speaker at a local event or helping neighbors who are less fortunate then you.
- Cross-promote with other local businesses: most businesses in your area are not competitors. Talk with the owners of those businesses about a mutually beneficial, cross-marketing program. For example, you could each carry promotional flyers for the other's business, or post content about each other on your websites. Among the benefits of cross-promotion (in addition to the fact that it's inexpensive) is that you'll probably reach prospective customers you otherwise wouldn't have.
- Offer incentives for customer referrals: remember the Directv pitch—they picked up a lot of new customers by offering current customers $10 off their monthly bill for every referral. You can do the same thing for your small business, and without spending a lot of money. You can give prominent mention to your referral program on your website, or simply create flyers that you give your customers at the cash register. Current customers will appreciate the opportunity to save money, and new customers will be more loyal because they were referred by a friend.
- Don't forget to nurture current customers: according to Harvard Business Review, it costs about 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one. That means you need smart (inexpensive) strategies to hold on to the customers you already have. One of the best ways to do that is with email marketing. Ask your customers if they'd like to receive emails for sales and new promotions. Once you get them to opt-in, you can also send useful content that answers their top questions and helps them solve their problems. Over time, that will build the trust and loyalty you need to keep your customers from running to the competition.
- Give free trials a try: if you believe in your products and services, so will new customers. The problem is getting them to make that initial purchase. One way to solve that problem is by letting prospective customers try your products and services for free. Although you might be hesitant to give away anything free of charge when money is already a challenge, keep in mind that good products and services sell themselves, and that you'll probably make up the money you spend relatively quickly through increased sales.
Smart marketing doesn't need to break the bank. It's all about knowing who your customers are, giving them what they want, and finding innovative, inexpensive strategies to identify and engage similar, prospective customers who, if you treat them right, will give you the loyalty you need to build your business.
To learn more about the ways our marketing services will you give your small business the tools you need to connect with your customers, drive sales and grow your business, connect with us today.