Cost Effective Small Business Marketing Strategies and Tips – Part Four

In my Part 3 article on Marketing Strategies for your Business, I discussed Marketing Research and Targeted Marketing and how the two work together. In this article, I will show how the Mass Media can be effectively used, even on a tight budget. Let’s get to it!

Using the Power of Mass Media

Why use Mass Media? Well, it gives you a wide spread identity and recognition, which in turn, makes your Targeted Marketing more effective. It helps you establish and maintain a brand. Mass Media is far less expensive now, and it now targets small businesses.

MASS MEDIA OUTLETS

Newspapers

While Online Marketing is really giving newspaper advertising a run for its money, you will find that newspaper ads are getting cheaper and cheaper as a result. Moreover, a newspaper can add flexibility and can be quite targeted if necessary. Always test your ads by including codes so you know which ones are most effective. Narrow your ads to the most effective papers by contrasting ads and gauging the differences.

–Send in good artwork and confirm with the production department that your Ad will print well.
–I like to run smaller ads in different sections with tracking codes to determine your best as placement.
–I like the Classified Section Ads because this is where serious buyers go.
–Always point to a specific Sales Page on your website which is designed around the Ad you place.
–Always ask about volume discounts and reduced ad rates when testing the paper’s effectiveness. Everything in Advertising is negotiable!
–Offer something for FREE (Bold it & Capitalize it).
–Use a Graphic or Logo to increase the effectiveness of your ad by 30%.
–Repeat your message three times in a small area by using a Logo, Headline and Copy that relate.
–If you advertise on the TV, using one frame from the TV ad can increase the print ad’s effectiveness by 40%.
–A good ad can make good circulars and help brand your name / product.
–Newspaper advertising requires consistency to get any traction or ROI but make sure it is working for you before committing to a long run.

Magazines

I like Magazine advertising as it is Regional and National in scope and you can target your audience effectively. I like to test classified ads in different Magazines to see what works then I consider Display ads (and keep the classified ad).

–Magazines lend credibility
–You can use your Ad effectively in a Circular or other company medium. Always say, “As Seen in Entrepreneur Magazine (insert the magazine the ad appeared in).” This gives you instant familiarity, credence and credibility with the reader.
–Consider running a low cost classified Ad in a multitude of Magazines which target your prospect verses running a Display as in a couple. Your ROI for dollars spent will typically be much better.
–A prospect reading a classified as will think you are cheaper than the advertiser with the expensive Display Ad. If you aren’t selling a luxury product, this can be a great start to communicate with a price conscious prospect. They think money is being saved even before they call you and discuss price. What a win-win for both the prospect and the business owner!
–Multiple Ads run through a Ad Media Company in several magazines can get some great discounts. If your credit is decent, you can be extended payment terms which correspond with your Ad ROI. Therefore, no money out of pocket until revenue is generated from the Ads (if timed correctly). Powerful!
–Take advantage of Split Runs with Magazines to see what Ad works best, in what section of the magazine. Great way to test a Headline or Copy.
–Magazines are more targeted for the type of reader verses a newspaper. A newspaper is more geographically targeted. Using the two in conjunction can be powerful!
–If your product or service is business oriented, consider advertising in a Trade Magazine.
–MediaFinder.com is a great way to find the Trade Magazines to advertise in.
–Magazines lend themselves to color. Use it!
–Magazines life cycle or longer. People go back to them over and over, as well as, hang on to them. Your Ad has a chance of being read multiple times.
–Organize your Magazine Display Ad with Boldface sub-heads. These will be read first, should grab attention and get the reader to either read more or act. No more than 50% of a Display Ad should be text.
–Consider blowing up your Magazine Ads into posters and mount them strategically around and outside your business, with the Headline: “As Seen in Entrepreneur Magazine….”
–Ask the Ad Space Rep to call you when remnant space is available. You will save big bucks!

Radio

I like Radio when it’s a Question & Answer type scenario; ask an expert show; something which sets you up as an Expert. You can negotiate the price as it provides the public valuable information, which is the mandate of Radio. It’s an Ad disguised as a Resource! A Win-Win for you and the radio station. Make sure to give out a short website address and phone number. Make both easily memorable. Track the results!

–Another strategy is to run cheap, short ads on less popular stations, bundled for maximum savings but make sure you test and track them to ensure a good ROI. Cheap isn’t good unless you get viable, profitable results.
–Be sure to personalize your Ads and you do the talking. This is a great opportunity to connect with your prospects.
–Partner up with other strategic businesses to offer complete solution radio talk shows, like a panel of experts to give out advice. This is important: Have the moderator give out one website address and one phone number and the prospect can choose the company (or better yet companies) to follow up with. You can offer discounts for combined services and meet the customer as a dual solution. A marketing fulfillment company can help you set up and maintain a coop partnership. For instance, a Landscaper can partner with a Landscape Designer, which are two services that can be combined for a total solution for the customer. You can coop the cost with your Strategic Partners. You can kill the competition with this strategy! Make sure you choose your partner(s) carefully.
–Put your Ads on the website for people to listen to, especially your Q & A Expert Sessions.
–Interviewing the President of the company can be a great way to start, giving you plenty of material to draw on to make a variety of Radio and Online Ads. This is a very effective use of your Ad dollars.
–Consider the afternoon for peoples drive home for your radio ads, you’ll have their attention.
–Always mention your website and an easy to remember number. 9 times out of 10, if the website is easy to remember, the listener will find it.

TV

You can cost effectively target your audience. The average U.S. Household watches an average of 8 hours TV per day, with the average viewer watching 41/2 hours per day. With Cable, you can cost effectively target an audience.

–TV is a great set up for your Sales Page on your Website.
–Avoid prime time and take advantage of fringe time. Consider a media buying service to really save on your ad times; they often buy unsold TV time for pennies on the dollar.
–Consider hiring an inbound telemarketing cal center to take the calls off your ads, no matter the hour of the day. If you use a different phone number from channel to channel or ad to ad, you can easily track them.
–Direct Response TV can offer your prospects the entire sales process. This is a powerful system! Some direct Response advertising can be bought on a per inquiry or sales basis, taking a lot of risk out of your capital outlay.
–The TV station can provide all the Production services, saving you thousands. However, with a good marketing consultant, you should write the script. I like a Storyboard because it helps you visualize the Ad. Save money by having a pre-production meeting to ensure things run quickly and smoothly on production day. The less the editing, the more economical your ads will be – plan ahead! You normally can create three good ads in one production day – good planning can help you achieve this great use of time and money, which brings your production cost per ad to about $300. Shoot in digital so you can replay it immediately and quickly make any fixes.
–Concentrate on 30 second spots. Direct Response sales ads should be about 2 minutes and keep the phone number visible during the entire ad.
–Show your product or service in Action. This is the real advantage to TV ads.
–Don’t make the Ad more interesting than your product.
–Remember a TV’s volume may be muted so tell your story visually!

Outdoor Ads

I really don’t like Outdoor Ads because most aren’t visual enough or have an ad conducive to someone driving by it at 55 mph. If your Ad tells someone to Exit Now; has a big arrow; something very Visual, and your Ad is in a good location, then maybe it might be worthwhile. Things like Next Exit or Two Miles Ahead work, while being a constant reminder to commuters. An Outdoor Ad can establish an Identity for your business. However, these ads can be very expensive depending on the location.

–Use no more than Five Words; use one large Graphic; make sure it is well illuminated.
–If it is a Digital Board, make sure your Ad stays up long enough for passer bys to visually take it in and act on it.
–Consider sharing the Billboard with another business in your Office Park or Retail Center and / or have your Office Park or Retail Center mentioned for even greater cost savings!
–Consider other less costly alternatives like bus, taxi or bus stop Advertising if it serves your market well.
–Remember, an Outdoor Ad should be clear from afar as prospects will be viewing typically from a moving vehicle.
–Be careful to design your sign with the character and taste of your community in mind.

Direct Mail

Generates leads that can lead to a sale. Direct Mail sets up your leads.

Advantagesof Direct Mail:
–Measure results immediately
–Can target your audience
–Can be personalized
–Receives some of the highest response rates of all media
–Great for repeat sales
–Important Elements of a Successful Campaign:
–Ask the reader to take Action
–Find recipients who have bought via mail before
–Include a testimonial in your letter
–Ask for the business in your first headline
–Use Black and Red color types. Red for important words or headlines
–Have a good logo or graphic
–For success, repeat your mailings with different content

The Numbers on Direct Mail:
–90% chance of reaching your targeted audience
–60% read the letter
–50% make it to the decision maker at a business
–60-30-10 Rule: 60% of your Direct Mail success depends on the right list; 30% of it depends on the offer; and 10% depends on the Creative.

Direct Mail Tips:
–Oversize the Addressee’s Name
–Consider putting no return address on it to increase curiosity
–Use mail as a follow up for:
–Sales Call
–Appointment Confirmation
–Bad Customer Experience
–Recognize Achievement
–Introduce a new team member
–Holidays
–A Thank You for a demo, presentation, sale, no sale, referral

Note: If possible, I prefer Direct Email over Direct Mail because it is instant, automated, easily tracked and cost effective. However, obtaining good email lists without violating Spam Laws can be a challenge. Always consider using Direct Mail with Email or Point to a Website with Direct Chat to enhance the dialogue and personalize your campaign.

Resource: Consider getting the Magazine Direct Marketing to learn as much as possible about the art of Direct Mail.

More Direct Mail Tips:
–Keep a detailed database and manage your mailings with a Customer Contact System.
–Repeat important items / benefits
–Photos are good and increase response rates
–Best individual Direct Mail months are January, February and October. Best business Direct Mail months are January, February and March.
–Offer a Free Trial or Free Product
–Bundle your Product and Service Offerings
–Offer payment terms, discounts and a guarantee
–Address the reader / audience directly and personally
–Keep your wording short and concise
–Provide a list or Problems, Benefits and the corresponding solutions
–Test Mail until you have all the kinks out
–Repeat mailings combined with email and phone really increase your odds of success
–When marketing to Business Owners or Executives do not use labels. And follow the mailing with a handwritten note.
–Consider putting a Teaser on the envelope and don’t forget that a great Teaser location is the back of an envelope
–A handwritten P.S. gets people’s attention – use it wisely. I.e. Call to Action, an Added Benefit, a Bonus, Discount, etc.
–Toll Free Phone Numbers can triple your response rate.
–Treat every Direct Mail order as a Rush Order.
–Test, Test, Test to ensure your Direct Mail will work. Your goal is to break even during the testing period.
–Include publicity about your Company on your mailings
–Test many different lists to find the best ones
–Check out Direct Mail News

Post Cards

I like Post Cards over a letter. Why? No decision whether to open or not. Costs 1/3 less. Easy and quick to print yourself. Post Cards force you to be concise, which can be the main reason they are so effective.

–Consider using Email Audio Post Cards

Combine Direct Mail with Email

The combination of mail and email can double your response rate. You can send out mass emails and then mail a postcard to the ones who actually opened the emails. You can alternatively send a post card introducing your company and benefits, then follow with a more detailed email that calls for action and points the prospect to a web sales page (by the way, a phone number and web sales page should be included with the postcards for Your “hot” prospects).

Catalogs

You need @ 25,000 customers for this to make sense. @ 30 pages is the optimum length. 40% of prospects save their catalogs – this is the primary benefit.

–Needs to be well organized, indexed and have categories.
–Too cost prohibitive for you now? No problem: put it up on the web and grow your catalog customer base organically.

In the next article (Part 5) I will discuss Marketing Tactics, The Customer and Essential Marketing Elements.

5 Marketing Tips For the Small Business Owner

As a small business owner trying to run your business on an everyday basis is a challenge on its own. In these trying months you will need all the help you can get and hopefully it will be free. Now excuse me if I am reminding you how to suck eggs but sometimes business owners are so busy they do tend to forget the fundamental marketing tools they have at their disposal more often than not free or nearly free.

Let’s explore some of the tools available to you so that you can choose those that best suit your circumstances.

The majority of business owners complain of the lack of time and the constant new tools and ideas they have to learn to keep up in these tough times. For example the mere suggestion of using a website to promote and even sells their product, turn some business owners away.

Don’t panic! If you can type emails and send messages on your mobile then you too can use any Blog platform to market your business on the internet.

Do you send mail out or pay or issue invoices? Well one simple tip is to add flyers, postcards or even a simple compliment slip promoting your latest special offer or bulk discount. This should not cost you anything.

Word of mouth advertising is still very powerful. Even if you are the business, as long as you promote it at every opportunity it will help you brand yourself. You can wear a T-shirt or have a sign put on your car promoting your business it cost very little but will help further in promoting your business.

Do you use emails? Don’t forget to add a signature with every email. Make sure your signature promote your special offer and latest product or service adding your blog or website URL address. You can also add a picture or your logo helping you with your branding.

Use your answer machine or call waiting to promote your business. Take off the music and add an exciting special or latest offer message. Erase your out of the office message and replace it with your latest exciting promotion.

Blogging is free you don’t need to learn html that is the special website language, and you can start by using the simplest platform so you can practice posting. The easy way is to follow their instructions which are usually 3 steps and you have an online shop front. As in the real world you will tend to change your shop front display from time to time, well on the web and especially when you start you will need to post a blog daily.

Don’t worry you will only need a 150 to 200 words articles writing about your own experiences, your products and any special offer you are promoting. Your front page could be about the benefits of your services and or products. If you really do not have the time ask for help either in house, you will be surprised to find a webmaster within your midst, or seek the help of your local chamber of commerce or business association. You might be surprised but even your bank might help.

Those marketing tips dedicated for the small business owner are simple and achievable in very little time and easy to implement. Yet put all together will surely increase your marketing efforts 10 folds.

Copyright (c) 2009 Charles Boustany

Small Business Marketing Tip If You Plan To Use Meat Loaf In Your Marketing

This is a great lesson to for entrepreneurs who are thinking about using media advertising as one of their small business marketing tools.

Remember Meat Loaf (born Michael Lee Aday)? His album Bat Out of Hell, released in 1977, has sold nearly 40,000,000 copies and was on the charts for over 9 years. He is also featured in a new commercial that is running pretty frequently on TV.

The ad features Meat Loaf as a dad whose son is begging him to get him a cell phone. He’s singing about how he won’t run up the minutes. I personally like Meat Loaf and his music and I think the commercial is pretty cool with a very catchy tune that pulls some lyrics and riffs from Meat Loaf’s Paradise By The Dashboard Light.

The other afternoon, I heard the commercial and started singing the tune in my head and realized I had seen the commercial several times and could not think of the company or brand of the phone! Now, I’m thinking this was a fairly expensive production because in addition to Meat Loaf, Tiffany is in the commercial and they are probably fairly expensive talent to hire.

After all of this expense, I couldn’t relate a brand or a product to the commercial! I kept an eye out for the next airing and saw it was for the AT&T GoPhone. Think of all the money spent on the ad. They did a lot of things right like using celebrity endorsements, a good tune and an entertaining spot. But it really made me wonder, why couldn’t I think of the company or the product?

What could you do differently if were considering a similar TV ad as one of your primary small business marketing tools ? For one thing, a bit more focus on the product instead of the production. For another, you would add a special offer with a deadline to buy the phone or go to a Web site to download the video and a special offer coupon. You would have a tracking mechanism to see how many inquiries and sales were generated. What if they had a toll free number, 1-800-MeatLoaf, to call and get a special offer and find out how to download the song to iTunes or even a ring-tone? The marketing folks could track response and the ROI on the ad. What if there were a contest to be in a commercial with Meat Loaf?

But instead, the focus was all on creativity and entertainment. I’ll bet the ad will even win an award but I still think ads should be written to sell the product now, not build a brand or win awards. My guess is that you can’t afford Meat Loaf in your ads but remember, when you do advertise, it’s about making money, not building your brand. Brands don’t put food on the table, sales do. When you spend money on marketing, either do it yourself of find a professional whose goal is to increase your profits and is willing to guarantee results, not just earn a commission.

You can see the commercial on http://www.youtube.com. Search for Meat Loaf AT&T. This version is a 90 second commercial that does a better job of naming the product than the spot on TV but it still could have soooo much more potential as a source of REVENUE instead of a brand. When you think about branding as a strategy, ask yourself if you want to get your name out there or sell as much of you product or service as possible and build a strong and loyal customer list as quickly as possible.

For the small business marketing tools to add to your toolbox, go ahead and think about branding. However, make the strength of your brand be a result of your reputation of providing phenomenal products and services. Build your brand using marketing that creates prospects and leads. It is just as expensive to get your name out there with a compelling offer and reason for a client to buy from you now as it is to just get your name out there. The difference is the ROI. The Meat Loaf commercial offers no way to measure the ROI and small businesses can’t afford to throw scarce marketing dollars up against the wall and guess at the ROI.

Here is a powerful small business marketing tip when it comes to a brand-building strategy: If your financial planner came to you with an idea to spend $10,000 on marketing as an investment, you’d think, “What will my return be?” because she is your financial planner. Use the same standards with your marketing, advertising and media reps. Ask the question: “What is my projected return and how does it compare to other marketing investments?” If they tell you your return is x-thousands of impressions, ask them which impression will put money in your pocket?

After you watch the YouTube video, see if you can help me out. Why is Tiffany is carrying a leg of lamb on her shoulder in the commercial? Maybe she makes her meat loaf with lamb!

Hiring Tips for Small Businesses

Upon hiring, small businesses have little margin for mistakes. There are only so many turnovers that a small company can endure prior to either having to scrap the project or having trouble with their overall business.

1. Determine Your Budget

– Though the above is difficult if you are unsure of the job market, which most small businesses are, upon determining a hiring budget for this individual, it is best that you determine a range rather than a hard figure.

– Many companies blindly formulate hiring budgets and while some don’t procure the employees they want, others end up overpaying for someone who doesn’t turn out to be a fit for the organization.

– Having a pre-determined budget range that fits in with the rest of your business operations allows you to be realistic about what level of qualifications you can afford, and what skills and experiences are non-negotiable for the role to be filled.

Especially as a small business, you will almost always have to compromise, and a budget lets you know where compromise is necessary, and where you might be able to get more than you thought you would. Think about this balance when considering point two:

2. Determine the Time Investment You Have to Put in With This Employee

– Small businesses, for the most part, are on a strict budget. When determining whether to actively recruit a more junior or senior employee, it is best that you figure out how much time you have to train and mentor the individual.

While hiring junior employees may save money for the small business, it will turn out to be a fruitless investment if you don’t properly train the individual.

3. Determine the Future of this Individual

– The best businesses properly plan for the future. This is no exception upon hiring for your company.

Prior to determining what level and personality you want in the office, figure out where you want the individual to be in 2, 3 or 5 years. It is always recommended that as a small company you hire employees with a track record of stability in employment, however, where do you want that stability to go?

Another big advantage of having a predetermined vision for the new prospective employee is that this will assist you during the interview process when “pitching” your job – especially when the applicant is actively being recruited by larger, more stable (or seemingly more stable) firms.

4. Virtual or Office Employee?

– One major factor that small businesses have to determine upon recruiting is whether they wish to hire a virtual employee or have their new hire work directly out of their office.

Running an executive search firm for the past few years, I have seen some key advantages and disadvantages for positioning your employees either at the company’s headquarters or in a remote location.

For instance, if you have employees in a remote location, it does make your company appear larger and more stable to prospective clients, but remote employees are also more difficult to manage, thus having a higher turnover rate.

These are some of the most basic factors you need to determine before even beginning interviews as a small business hirer. Outside of key foundational factors such as these, the best thing a small business owner or manager can do is to be open-minded and flexible, within reason. The best new employee for you might turn out to be someone you never expected.