Small changes to your marketing mix can have a big impact — especially if you tap the wealth of low-cost tools available to you online.
Here are seven small marketing changes that you can make now to boost your sales in 2011:
By including a link to your Twitter page at the bottom of the signature file in your e-mail messages, you can spread the word about your business every time you hit the Send button.
'I use Twitter religiously to promote my company and my clients,' says Stacy Kelly, CEO of Mobile Previews LLC, a New York City company that promotes movies and other products by creating engaging experiences that consumers can access on their mobile phones. 'I also link to it to help build up my list of followers. The cost is nothing but a little thought power.'
Can't afford to advertise in print or broadcast? The back of your business card is advertising real estate that you own, and, best of all, it's free. By featuring a photo of yourself, a picture of your product, a 10 per cent off coupon, or a list of services that your company provides, you can turn your business card into a powerful marketing tool.
'That extra info can be a great conversation starter,' says John Fletcher, president of Johnny Agency Inc, a New York City graphic design firm that creates marketing materials for growing businesses. 'It also allows you to convey important facts about your business during those precious moments when you have someone's attention.'
If you've already spent the money to build a website, it may be time for a facelift. Rather than spending big dollars to redesign your home page, try creating a series of low-cost 'landing pages' to test different ads and offers for your products and services.
'Your website is not a brochure,' says New York City consultant David Ronick, co-founder of Upstart Bootcamp, an online school for startups. 'Most people today come in through the back door and through blog posts.' Be sure that your site is easy to read -- not only for people browsing the web through their computers but accessing your site through their iPhones and BlackBerrys, too.
There's nothing that builds your brand faster than free advice. Whether you're a landscaper, a handbag designer or a dog walker, your expertise will have customers knocking at your door offering to pay you to help solve their problems.
'The key is to give away thought leadership to build an audience,' Ronick says. Once you find out what works, go out there and replicate it.' One of Ronick's clients, a luxury outsourced concierge service, regularly tweets about hot, new restaurants, clubs and bars, generating new leads from prospects who need the company's service.
There's no reason to pay big money to rent a mailing list when you can get sites that attract a similar audience to let you borrow theirs for free. Ronick says that one of his clients, a site that publishes a newsletter about women in finance, used this technique to build a list of 50,000 subscribers.
'They did lots of trades that didn't cost them anything out of pocket,' he says. 'The key is to create great content and give it away for free on the web.' Be careful to respect the privacy of the subscribers whose e-mail addresses are on the lists you swap, or you may get labelled a spammer by your ISP. To avoid trouble, ask the site whose list you're borrowing to handle the mailing itself and to include a link to your site that their subscribers can click to sign up for your newsletter.
Just because the phone company stuck you with a random number when you signed up for their service doesn't mean that you're saddled with it for life.
Torya Blanchard, a former French teacher who opened Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes LLC in Detroit two years ago, was looking for ways to bring customers in the door when she found Ring Ring LLC, a company that provides small businesses with vanity phone numbers. Blanchard picked 1-877-PARISCREPES, and her phone has been ringing off the hook every since.
'I'll never give up that number,' she says. 'That's how people know us.' The cost: approximately $25 a month, says Aaron Beals, Ring Ring's CEO.
Just because you've found a marketing strategy that seems to be working doesn't mean that you should blow your entire budget on, say, business cards or vanity phone numbers. Test, measure and test again before rolling out your campaign. Google Analytics will measure your traffic for free and tell you where your site visitors are coming from and which search terms they're using to find you. 'Test every piece of your marketing campaign,' Ronick says. 'Once you've found the right formula, follow it.'
The bottom line: You don't need to have a big marketing budget to make a big splash. A tweak here, a tweak there, and soon your phone will be buzzing with new business.
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