It’s critical to create a marketing plan before moving on to tactics. And the first step in developing a marketing plan is to understand who your target customers are and what they want from your company.
Coulombe suggests a good way gain a better understanding of your customers is to conduct a survey about your products or services. If you can’t afford to hire a research company, do it yourself by creating a short questionnaire and recruiting existing and prospective customers to participate.
2. Pamper your existing customers
Coulombe says it’s typically five times as expensive to make a sale to a new customer as it is to an existing one. So make sure you’re not neglecting the people who already know and trust you.
Coulombe suggests taking your best customers out to dinner or golf and using the opportunity to ask them about how to improve your business. You could also personally write to your top 10 customers to thank them and tell them they’re part of your new loyalty program or invite them to sneak preview of your latest product.
The Internet provides you with an inexpensive 24-hour virtual storefront. You can build relationships with prospective customers by offering them high-quality content on your site such as blogs, how-to articles, videos and a newsletter.
Extend your reach by using social media. But Coulombe cautions: "If you’re not willing to devote six to eight hours a week of an employee’s time, you’re better off going with a simple, well-designed website."
4. Use all your real estate
Your building and surrounding land or sidewalk are great places to put up signs and banners. And don’t forget to use your vehicles as moving billboards. But remember: Your images and messages should focus on what you’re selling, not your company’s name.
5. Work at public relations
Coulombe says a media story about your company is 25 times more valuable than an advertisement because of the credibility it confers on your business. But in this era of media cutbacks, it’s harder than ever to attract journalists’ attention. Keep in mind that they’re looking for a compelling story to tell. So help them by letting them know about your innovative product, unusual customer contact or high-stakes gamble that paid off. And keep at it—building relationships with the media will pay off.
6. Turn employees into ambassadors
Your employees are part of the community and have all sorts of contacts that could help you. How about inviting employees and their extended families to a fun event at your business? You may find you get new word-of-mouth business or hear about a potential new business partner. At the very least, your team will come back to work on Monday feeling energized.
7. Give back
By sponsoring a hockey team or participating in a charity drive with a cheque and a collection jar in your lunch room or by the cash register, you’re not only doing your part for the community, but also generating goodwill with customers and prospects.