Fire Up Your Marketing!

It ain’t over yet…

With only a few months left in 2015, it’s time to fire up your marketing! Whether your business is thriving, or you’d consider just hitting last year’s numbers as success, put your marketing efforts into high gear to end 2015 with a bang. Cost conscious and tried and true marketing strategies, sprinkled with a few new ones, can help make the difference in these next few months.

1. Customers comes first

The reason to keep a focus on customers through good times and bad is best summarized by Robert Half, who said: “When the customer comes first, the customer will last”. For the rest of the year, focus on your existing customers before trying to win new ones as customer retention and developing “greater share of customer” through a broader product mix are more cost effective than acquiring new customers. Treat your existing customers well and respond to their needs and preferences. Part of responding to your customers is asking them what they want. You can find out valuable information through a well-designed survey. A survey can reveal what you’re doing well, what needs to be improved and what possible opportunities may be worth investigating for new products or services.

When you make your customers happy, they’ll keep coming back and may bring you more business through word-of-mouth referrals. You can also encourage existing customers to spread the word about your business by rewarding referrals, and the easier it is for them to refer, the more likely they’ll respond to your request. E-mail and online marketing tactics help make referral rewards simple, so consider this action in your marketing arsenal.

2. Strut your stuff with PR

Consider putting your business in the media spotlight, even if you’re on the shy side. As scary as it may be for you to be an official spokesperson for your business, getting media attention is a low cost way to increase the credibility and coverage of your product or service. Media are always looking for fresh material, so let them know if you have something innovative or unique. Alternatively, if you have an interesting story or have the opportunity to weigh in on a subject as an industry expert, contact the media and find out if they’re looking for someone like you. While getting media coverage is never guaranteed, if you think you have something PR worthy, consider leveraging it through the media before spending more money on advertising.

3. Pound the virtual pavement

Participating in online groups and discussion forums is part of social network marketing. Your virtual voice is an emerging marketing technique to get the word out about your product or service. Get onto sites such as Facebook and Twitter to interact with your target audience. Capitalize on opportunities to create buzz about your business by starting a group on a specific interest, joining other groups, and getting involved in discussions. Just remember not to get into the “hard sell” – you can mention your business as being part of the solution while being a valuable contributing online member at the same time.

4. Partnership power

Partnering with companies that offer complimentary products and services can create a new source of customers for you for very little cost. Find other companies that have a similar clientele and see how you can work together to build a larger customer base (of course, while keeping your existing customers happy first). Consider exchanging ad banners on your respective websites or e-newsletters, or cross-promote your companies by trading draw prizes.

5. An event to remember

Hosting an event can be a great opportunity to connect with your customers and help build better relationships with them. You’ll need to consider your budget before holding an event and determine if it’s worth the cost. If you decide to proceed and promote your event, take advantage of free community event calendar listings, such as Facebook events or community newsletter listings. These listings are another great way to direct traffic to your website and create local awareness for your business.

6. Click to your success

Pay-per-click advertising continues to be one of the most affordable options for marketing your business. Studies show that a large percentage of the public search for information online before they commit to a purchase, so you need to have your business visible on the web. Pay-per-click ads are available through Facebook, Bing and Google. In fact, Google allows you to set up pay-per-click banner ads on relevant websites through their “placement ads” option.

7. Keep the frequency

It takes the average customer eight exposures to a marketing message to retain it. Help keep your customer tuned in by repeating your message frequently and in a number of ways. You’ll need a fairly aggressive plan to ensure your audience has this amount of exposure. While it may seem like overkill to you, you’re playing to human nature – repetition leads to action.

Whatever marketing methods you choose to leverage for the balance of the year, remember to keep your efforts focused:

8. Plan Ahead

To be effective, you’ve got to plan your marketing efforts. If you don’t, you risk relying on reactionary tactics that lead to ineffective or short-term results. Reactionary decisions are based on emotion, not reason. Planning ahead gives you the insight to identify marketing efforts that are off strategy. A one-year marketing calendar will allow you to prioritize when, where and how you will market. Without a plan, you may spend all of your marketing dollars before key selling periods, or you may miss opportunities and deadlines. Strategize your marketing efforts now for next year and consider adding the above activities to your plan as part of an overall marketing strategy.

9. Consider timing

Marketing doesn’t have to be a year round occurrence, which is good news when your budget may limit you to one or two marketing campaigns a year. Take advantage of key selling periods for your service or product by timing your marketing before (and during) these key seasons to build awareness. This strategy is better than spreading your budget over a longer time frame and risking less impact. If you’re already hitting your goals during the high season, you can try creating more business in the off-season through early bird discounts and special limited time offers or events.

10. Target your audience

Ensure you’re focusing the majority of your marketing efforts on those who represent your best customers. A limited budget means choosing your marketing dollars wisely, so spend where you’re likely to get the greatest return. Profile your target audience by age, income, gender, and lifestyle. Then, select your marketing vehicles according to your audience profile, avoiding “wasted reach” – marketing to those who are not in your target audience.

11. Limit your reach

Technically, many businesses can sell internationally or nationally, but the biggest impact is likely to be in concentrated areas. Prioritize your geographical markets to create more meaningful marketing in smaller locales rather than spreading your marketing budget too thin to cover a wider area.

12. Simplify your message

Keep your key messages simple enough so they’re front in centre in all your marketing efforts. Trying to cram too much information into a brochure, ad or billboard is counterproductive – either it won’t get read, or it will leave your customer confused, and away from you.

Whatever 2015 has meant for your business so far, you can still end the year on a high note. Match your marketing to your means, and your audience, to stay on your game into 2016.