How do you market your business to potential customers? And how does it work for you?

Let’s come at this from a different angle: what marketing do you respond to? Do you open every email that hits your inbox, or do you just batch-delete or archive emails because you haven’t quite got around to unsubscribing from all those mailing lists yet? Do you read ads in the local paper? Do you become infuriated by the ads Facebook have begun placing in the middle of videos? Do you get annoyed by stalker ads, do you dive in and buy, incentivised by discounting?

So often we choose marketing tactics for our own businesses which we know don’t even work on ourselves. We send out emails to our lists that contain no value and at the most amount to “hey, come and buy our stuff.” We advertise in traditional media because it’s what we’ve always done, even when we know we ignore those ads ourselves. And do you know anyone who will regularly be so engrossed in a Facebook video that they’ll watch an ad in the middle of it rather than just scroll on to the next entertaining thing? Recently I have become so very sceptical of any advertising expenditure that is not a direct conversation with the consumer whom wants to genuinely know, understand, appreciate the value and integrity of the brand’s reason for being. I have just invested a huge amount of time in meeting the most terrific bunch of executive women from all kinds of industry looking to make their mark in the world. Sharing experiences, lessons learned, battle scars, looking for solutions, input, perhaps simply looking to get away to re-gain perspective. (Perhaps someone honestly just looking forward to a good night’s sleep away from a baby.)

Marketing costs really are an endless concern in my pursuit of growing great retail brands and I am starting to conclude it is back to good old fashioned relentlessly targeted sales grinds, great conversations and healthy exchanges of ideas and objectives that jointly meet the better outcomes for brands and their consumers. I don’t have all the answers; I think anyone who tells you they do is bonkers. I do know that numerous businesses are throwing good money after bad on marketing tactics that just do not work.

So what do we do? Many of us find ourselves stuck; with a limited marketing budget it’s hard to compete with the larger brands who are able to place premium ads and grab everyone’s attention. We have discussed old school advertising, tube posters, everything from sticking a product to a bike commuter’s cycle at the station to gifting products to Mums at school gates. I do start to wonder which if any of the 100% is worth the time, effort and intended outcome which we never seem to generate, versus selling more of the time, everyday and managing the sales pipeline with a professionalised approach. Positively infectious product belief is a good way to make impact. Added to experiential outcomes such as the resilience and the wellbeing breathing control and reduction of anxiety that we have recently taught to major corporates, these things do convert to sales. The product plus the experiential and educational actual value – giving someone something to act upon.

Here are some ideas for marketing on a budget:

  • Who are your loyal customers? These days what we really need to tap into is that loyal band of raving fans which any brand needs in order to survive.  Take a look at the stats for your email campaigns, and see who opens the most emails and clicks links through to your products. Depending on the systems you have set up, you may be able to see how often these people have ordered from you. These people are the ones you need to show value and appreciation. Offer them special offers for being loyal customers – and a “friends and family” discount code to give to their friends. It should be fairly easy to provide a unique code to each person, which you can then track to see how often it is used.
  • Think outside the box. Firstly, ask all of your team – not just the marketing department – for their opinions and ideas. Try to come up with innovative, creative ideas for building brand awareness. If you have a physical location to which you want to bring people, can you create an eye-catching window display or even decorate the walls outside your premises? Could you get away with footprints on pavements around town, leading people to your door? Could you get interns (or your teenage children!) to hand out well-designed flyers in the right demographically fitting town centre, (I keep seeing Freddies flowers outside Waitrose), or to share your posts on social media?
  • Be sociable on social. Social media is a two-way street; it’s more about conversations and engagement than traditional, one-way “here’s our product” marketing. This means you need to spend more time on social media interacting with your followers – and the people you want to follow you. This means responding to comments/tweets, and even commenting on other people’s posts where relevant. Think of it as your store front, with people who comment on your posts as the equivalent of people who wander into your shop – presumably you wouldn’t just leave them to their own devices; you would chat to them. The same should be true with social media…I have not had enough involvement in our own social and feel with some of the brands I have a hand in I am weak keeping informed. I have just set a diary note, grey time in which I keep a self appointment to make sure I get better at this.
  • Provide value. If you have an email list, send them emails – but don’t make it junk mail. Provide valuable insights into the industry, opinion pieces where relevant, useful information, interviews or guest spots from high profile people in your sector. If you have a blog, make sure you send an email to your list every time it is updated – but don’t just say “here’s our blog post; buy our stuff.” Put a bit of effort into engaging your audience! Add a little more value so that there is a benefit to being on your mailing list, above and beyond knowing when you’ve published a blog post or have a sale on.
  • Engage in partnerships. Team up with brands in the same sector as you, and share content, giveaways and anything else you can think of. Share and comment on each other’s social media posts and support each other along the way. This can work really well for creating a cross-over of loyal followers who want to buy both your product and your partner’s product. KitBrix has a plan to support a children’s football team. We’ll provide both product and cash but ultimately we want more kids enjoying sports outdoors, and giving some team members KitBrix bags helps us introduce the product to other teams in the leagues.
  • Learn basic SEO. I am well aware that we can’t all afford to hire someone to take care of SEO on our websites. Search engine optimisation can seem very technical and daunting, but you can learn the basics fairly quickly. A great place to start is with Moz’s “Whiteboard Friday” which provides a short, weekly video filled with useful information and tips to get you started.
  • Get yourself featured in the media! This might seem fairly unrealistic, but these days it’s not as hard as you might think. If you keep an eye on hashtags such as #journorequest and #prrequest you may well find journalists who are looking to write stories about something around your product – or bloggers who want to feature products like yours in a post or video.
  • Sponsor events locally. This one only really works for businesses looking for a local customer base, but things like sponsoring a local football team or even awards or school related things can really help to get your name out there into the wider community.
Written by Vicky Charles

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