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Choosing the Best Marketing Tools For Your Small or Local Business
by Linda Olson Tue, 04/28/2009 - 06:09
Online marketing...Email marketing...Blogs...Search engine optimization (or SEO)...Google Adwords...Yellowpages...LinkedIn...Facebook...MySpace...
Do any of these words cause you heartburn? Today, we are fortunate to have so many marketing options, but more options can mean more confusion. But how is a business owner supposed to evaluate which ones are right for their business or the most cost-effective?
Today, I was a guest panelist at a large conference in Tampa on “How to Effectively Market Your Business in This Economy.” As you can imagine, this is a topic on the minds of many, if not most, small and local business owners these days. Certainly, many of the questions for the panel today revolved around how to choose the most effective marketing tool for their business.
While I am happy to recommend my company WOMbeat! to be the tool of choice, I am a big believer that the first question should not be about tool selection. That is akin to asking a doctor to prescribe medication without a diagnosis. The doctor must know what illness or condition needs to be treated; then the choice of the medication or treatment plan is usually rather straightforward. The same is generally true for small and local business marketing.
Question 1: Where Do Your Customers Come From?
Do you understand where your customers come from? How do they find you? (Or how should they find you?)
Let us look at an example. Say you run a small diner near a large professional center. Chances are that the vast majority of your business will come from the professional center – in the form of repeat business, word of mouth customers and passers-by. If you are the business owner, it may not make sense to spend much on website, yellow pages or print advertising. By doing so, you are likely to have a very low or negative return on your marketing dollars unless the marketing is aimed directly at your richest source of potential customers.
To better make this point, take a look at the results of a recent survey of the home remodeling industry (courtesy of the HousingZone.com). Repeats and referrals continue to be the most reliable source of leads. Check out these numbers for where their business comes from:
- 32% repeat business
- 35% referral business from past customers
- 12% referral business from networking and professional trade organizations
- 21% business from other sources (signage, web site, direct mail, advertising, etc.)
Wow! Did you catch that? By adding the first two numbers together, you can conclude that sixty-seven (67) percent of all business came from their existing customer base. Whether repeat business or referral business, two-thirds (2/3) of all business comes from happy customers.
For businesses in this industry, this means a couple of things.
- If your individual business is not reaching similar percentages in terms of repeat and referral business, why not? If customers are not happy enough to return or refer your business, then figure out why and fix that.
- But if your customers do love your business and you are still not reaching similar percentages, then perhaps you need to do a better job staying ‘top of mind’ with your customer base.
The point being that for these businesses, the richest source of potential customers is within their existing customer base. Once business owners in this industry understand that, then the choices of marketing solutions begin to narrow, and now I could recommend one or more tools that will help these business owners best tap into their most valuable asset! (Hopefully, these business owners maintain a good list of customer contact information!)
And here’s a juicy tidbit! For most businesses, regardless of industry, their richest source of potential customers is also typically within their existing customer base. From books to blogs, there is a universal truth in marketing – it is far less expensive to gain repeat business than to acquire a new customer.
So while I do recommend that you evaluate your individual business to figure out where YOUR customers come from before choosing your marketing strategy, it is a good bet that a large portion of your marketing dollars and efforts are best spent on tapping into your existing customer base.
Question 2: Do You Have a Plan in Place?
If you are expecting or hoping to achieve a substantial portion of your business from repeat customers, then you need to have a plan in place. By a plan, it could be as simple as a frequent customer card or an email marketing campaign with coupons. But if your business needs repeat customers, then do not leave this to chance. Put a plan in place, execute the plan and then monitor the results (preferably at least on a monthly basis).
Likewise, if you are expecting or hoping to achieve a substantial portion of your business from customer referrals, then you need to have a different plan in place. Again, do not leave this to chance. Put a plan in place, execute the plan and then monitor the results (preferably at least on a monthly basis).
Question 3: Do You Have the Right Tools?
Once you know where your business comes from – which are the richest sources of potential customers for your business, you can put a plan in place.
Once you have a plan in place for each of your best sources for customers, then you can identify which tools will help you achieve your plan goals.
Some tools might be FREE (like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).
Some tools might have a modest monthly fee (like an email marketing service).
Other tools might be far more expensive – but if they work and provide a good return to your business, do not be turned off by the price tag alone.
I understand that many business owners are facing tough times, and it can be tempting to pursue the “promised land” of newer marketing tools on the market today. But there are no quick fixes. No magic pills. Plus, with some of these marketing tools, you can quickly and easily waste a lot of time and money, which I doubt any of us can afford.
So take some time to figure out where your business comes from today, or better yet, where it should be coming from. Then devise a plan or strategy for achieving these goals. And only after you have a plan in place should you start considering which tools are best.
So which tools are best once you have a plan??? Perhaps I will share my opinions on that topic for my next post! Stay tuned…