1. Public relations, darlingPaying thousands for adverts can often offer little return – a wasted cost particularly for smaller businesses. Issuing newsworthy press releases, meeting journalists and contributing opinion to features is a great way to get your brand name in front of your target audience and showcase your expertise. Remember to adhere to journalist deadlines and offer real insight – most won’t just reprint your news! 2. Meet other entrepreneurs There are thousands of business networks up and down the country, from industry-specific groups to general business peer groups. Specifically for b2b businesses, they can provide access to a captive audience for business development and allow you to gain honest feedback from like-minded entrepreneurs. Look at your local Chambers of Commerce, Business Links or use websites such as Meetup.com for events in your area. 3. Use online marketing tools The internet has enabled businesses to take advantage of low-cost web-based marketing tools. Whether it be listings websites or ‘e-tail’ platforms, these tools can result in cost savings. Brandweaver is a free-to-set-up web-to-print system, which allows you to manage your branding and save a significant amount of money on printing costs rather than regular trips to your expensive local printers.
4. Never accept a first offer One positive thing to come out of the "current crunch" is the acceptability of negotiation. You should never take the rate card as final. If you want to place adverts, hire marketing consultants, sponsor events etc, make sure you negotiate to a price that suits you. Marketing spend has dropped so suppliers are looking to attract new customers where possible.
5. For gawd’s sake, get a websiteYour website is a fundamental part of your marketing. The first thing potential customers will do is Google you. If they cannot find your website or your website gives no information, you are immediately disadvantaged. A basic website doesn’t need to cost a lot of money and you can run your own Google Ad Words campaign. Your website should be informative, give all the required contact details and if possible include testimonials or case studies of happy customers. You can also link to reviews or articles about your business. Websites that take ages to load or are difficult to navigate will put potential customers off. If your product/service is complicated, think about using video to explain it. 6. Make your employees love you With the popularity of networks such as Twitter, you need to make sure that any employees representing your business online understand corporate guidelines. Your employees are unofficial (sometimes official) sales people and represent your business and your brand. An employee moaning on Twitter, in the pub or at a dinner party is damaging for your brand.
7. Butter up your clients Marketing isn’t just about attracting new customers, it is about retaining current ones and building loyalty. The best way to understand your customers is to speak to them – having an open feedback forum, easy access to sales teams with numbers on websites, a comment mechanism, and regular focus groups will all help you understand customer response to your product or service. Having a fast and effective feedback system will also enable you to modify and/or extend your product/service if necessary.
8. Be a human beingWhen it comes to differentiation, this economic climate forces businesses to be more than just "the cheaper option". Culture, green credentials, and CSR policies and ultimately, your business personality, really make a difference. Consumers want to know who is behind the business and how the business was built. They want to speak to a person and not a machine and they want to email a name not firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. Make imaginary friendsSocial networking is now rife. There are millions of users on Facebook and Twitter alone and these users make up specific communities of interest. It is vital that brands of any size monitor social networks to understand conversations about the industry and competitors. In addition, a quick Twitter or Facebook group search will identify users that discuss topics relevant to your business. If you engage with them through debate and by offering relevant insight, you can grow your network of influence. The key is not to use social networks as a one-way channel for promotion – they are ‘social’, two-way channels and require you to join in and be responsive.
10. Join the blogosphereThe aforementioned points – speaking to your clients, having a personality, enhancing your web presence and engaging with social networks are all made easier if you take on the task of blogging. Writing posts offering your views and insight allows you to bridge a gap between your business and your public. Blog posts should be regular, short and opinionated. Be sure to comment on other blogs to engage in discussion.
John Reece is director of Brandweaver