Small businesses are becoming increasingly challenged by changes in customer behaviour and the rapidly evolving the digital age; but one message is clear: small businesses need to find more effective, proven and profitable marketing methods.
Most small businesses think that they need to be on Facebook as that is what everyone is telling them, however social media has one of the lowest ROI’s out of all marketing tactics there is. In fact, only 14 per cent of businesses see a measurable return from their social media efforts.
If you own or market a small business, don’t worry, because below I’ve compiled five proven and time tested techniques that are effective and affordable. And the best part – you can take action on them today.
1. Referrals On Tap
For most small businesses, referrals are up to 7 times more likely to convert than a cold lead. Why? Because they have the power of a personal recommendation behind them which generates instant trust and lowers their defences.
The issue however is that from my experience the majority of small businesses don’t have a proactive system to acquire referrals, but rather see them as a nice bonus when they come in.
Instead, of waiting for these super valuable leads to come, if you use the simple system below you’ll see your referrals grow like clockwork.
- Capture all customer information at purchase, including mailing address
- 14 days after sale, send them an envelope with a letter telling them how much you appreciate their business, and include referral 3 cards with a discount on them to give to friends (Get cheap business cards printed for these).
- Lastly, include a token of your appreciation for them such as a little gift or a voucher for them to keep.
Why does this work: Most businesses these days only care about their bottom line so they are very wary to give customers a thank you gift. Think about it – when was the last time a business sent you a gift to thank you? Plus by posting it in the mail, it breaks through the clutter of the inbox. To make your letter stand out even more get the outside of the envelope printed with a big red bow and the text ‘Special Gift Inside’. This cuts through junk mail and ensures your letter gets opened.
Total cost: Approximately $2 each
Possible return: Up to 3 personal referrals + 1 returning customer
2. Reactivate Old Customers
The second untapped gold mine in small businesses is there old customers who haven’t returned for a while. I’m a prime example – I haven’t been to the Chiropractor for years, but if I was to get a discount in the mail from my Chiropractor I’d be back there next week spending money.
The point is this – just because a customer hasn’t been back for a while it doesn’t mean that they are not interested. In fact, 9 times out of 10 life has simply gotten in the way or its something that keeps slipping their mind.
Another example is about 12 months ago I purchased a top end water filter from a merchant online. Now the filters for these jugs need replacing every 6 months to be effective, but I haven’t heard from the merchant. I will get around to ordering one, but probably in another 6-months, which means they’ve lost out on $80 from missing the follow up.
How to follow up effectively:
- Prepare a letter to send to them along the lines of ‘we miss you – here’s a discount’ (Direct mail works best, but if you only have email then that will do)
- If after 2 weeks they don’t come in, then send a second letter with a voucher for a free gift that they can come in and collect from you. If you’re a beautician it could be a little gift pack, or if you’re an accountant it could be a nice parker pen. The goal here is to get them to personally come into your office or shop.
- When they are collecting their gift update them on your new services, specials and ask if they’d like to book in/buy anything.
Why does this work? As we mentioned above, life simply gets in the way of most of your customers coming back to buy. So by reaching out to them you’ll see a very strong response.
Total cost: Approximately $10-15 depending on what your gift will be.
Possible return: A returning customer, about 50% of which will make a purchase or booking while they are in your store.
3. Search Engine Optimisation
We’re now going to take a turn away from direct marketing, and into the most proven way to have a steady stream of new leads enter your business every day – being found in Google.
Bar none, SEO has been ranked time and time again as the most effective way to build long-term stability in a business. For small or local businesses it’s even more important than ever with 97% of consumers turning to the internet to find your business.
So how do you get found in Google and what is this SEO Stuff?
Basically SEO is a practise of making your site friendly for search engines. It involves making changes to the website, as well as building authority (Such as links) from other websites around the internet. Now there is A LOT more to it than just that, but that is a nutshell for you.
There are 2 ways to get your website rankings up. Firstly you can learn to do it yourself. I’ve found that if most business owners put about 4 weeks solid into learning SEO they can do a pretty awesome job at it.
Alternatively there are lots of SEO companies out there that can take care of it all for you. The two most important things to look for when choosing an agency are have they gotten results, and secondly, have they gotten any clients penalised by breaking Google’s webmaster rules?
Why does this work? Over the last decade we’ve been conditioned to turn to Google every time we want to learn something or find something. So by being found at the top when customers are looking for your service, you’re getting hot leads essentially for free. One thing to keep in mind with SEO is that it generally takes 3-months to break even from your investment. The good news is that over 6-12 months you’ll easily get back 2,5, even 10 times your investment. So it’s worth hanging in there for the long haul.
Total cost: Budget $500-1,000 a month depending on your industry.
Possible return: Break even after month 3. 2 Times from months three to six, and up to 10 times from months 6 onwards.
There are lots of other digital marketing tactics that are working in 2016, however I still strongly believe from the data that I see from clients that SEO is the way to go for long-term leads. But to get some quick wins, get started with tactics 1 & 2 today then invest in SEO for the long term.
About the author:
Author and Marketing Expert, Joel House, is one of Australia’s leading authorities in e-commerce and online retail. Joel has been featured on Digital Marketing Radio and is actively engaged in helping Australia’s eCommerce SMB’s grow as fast as possible.