Promoting a business using both modern and traditional methods has never been easier or more affordable…
Marketing is an essential business tool for getting the word out about your product, service or new company to attract customers and generate revenue. Large companies have substantial marketing and public relations budgets and often have a professional on hand to advise on spend and to identify appropriate target markets. For smaller, start-up businesses a marketing budget is often nothing more than a pipe dream. But there are ways of reaching your target market without spending the earth.
Digital marketing, includes all the more established forms of internet marketing (banner ads, pop up ads, site sponsorship etc), as well as cellphone marketing (SMS/ MMS), display/banner ads and digital outdoor, and can be an effective and inexpensive way of reaching your target audience. Digital or e-marketing is a global consumer trend that has been gaining momentum for the past few years since Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media held the first Web 2.0 media conference in 2004. Here he described the phenomenon as “the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as a platform and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform”.
While it is a complex term and has come to mean different things, for our purposes Web 2.0 refers to the way in which consumers or online users have taken control of information online and now have more say about what arrives in their inboxes. Users can choose to block spam and unwanted product information or sales pitches from coming through to their inboxes or feed readers. They can now choose what information they receive and read. With the rising prominence of blogs and “bedroom reporters”, it is crucial that marketers keep the consumer, agency or individual they are trying to convince to buy a product, in mind when marketing. These consumers are quick to turn to their blogs or websites to “report” on the product and if their experience is negative, the product will get a negative review. Consumers also have so many more options available to them these days, so losing them early on may mean that they never come back to try your service or product again.
Word of mouth, especially online, spreads faster than traditional print media or news reporting and one bad experience can tarnish your reputation amongst a network faster than you can say Web 2.0.
Digital marketing tips
- Consider first making direct contact with your target audience rather than just sending product or service information that hasn’t been requested. Unauthorised contact may see your email address or username blocked without them ever giving you a chance. First send a mail or phone your potential customer to let them know that you will be sending information, and ask if they are happy to receive it. If they decline the offer, don’t take the rejection too hard.
- Send an initial short introductory paragraph about your business or service and include contact details should the recipient want to get hold of you; a website address or phone number will suffice. Most people find too much text off-putting. Keep it simple and punchy to keep their interest.
- If you don’t hear back give them at least a week or ten days before following up. Don’t be aggressive; following up is just a courtesy in the event that they haven’t found the time to call you back. The personal touch is always worth the extra effort.
- Don’t make promises you won’t be able to live up to. Don’t promise to deliver work that you can’t do, or don’t have any experience in, just to get the business. The secret to longevity in any sector is repeat customers, a quick win won’t sustain you through hard times, a loyal client base will.
- For simple digital marketing campaigns, an introductory email with contact details, basic business plan or corporate profile, is sufficient. Don’t waste money on hiring a designer. Keep the format clean, simple and easy to read and understand; this is always appreciated. Let the work speak for itself. Once you have established a loyal client base and have a decent revenue stream, then contact a web design agency (search Google or bizcommunity.co.za to find an agency) to create a website (always include previous work done for reference purposes) and roll that design out to all corporate collateral. Consistency is key.
More traditional tactics
Traditional marketing tactics are effective and can also be inexpensive depending on the route you opt for. Research the available online, radio and print mediums relevant to your industry and area. Draft a clear marketing and advertising budget and be careful not to exceed the allocated amount. Don’t be seduced into thinking bigger is better – smaller businesses shouldn’t aim to appear larger than they are. This will only make prospective clients think that your prices will be high and they may therefore avoid you.
Also look at what your direct competitors are doing with regards to advertising. If all your competitors are in one particular trade publication then seriously consider advertising in the same publication – the fact that your competitors are there probably means that this is where the majority of clients are looking for their suppliers and service providers.
Remember that TV and radio are always going to be more expensive than print, especially newspapers, and if you don’t have the budget to produce a quality advertisement for your allocated slot it will be money wasted. Rather start small with a strip advertisement online or a column, quarter page or half page in your local community paper or trade magazine, and simply state what your company does with clear contact details. Once the company is up and running and the money is flowing in then you can start to conceptualise creative campaigns. Initially however, it is about getting the message across in a clear and concise manner.
Corporate collateral such as business cards, letterheads and branded stationery, a good website and service brochures are all musthaves for small businesses. Find a designer and printer that will give you a good price in return for your business in the future and print 500 or 1000 of each. Potential clients need hard copy reminders of what you do, and who you are, once they’ve had the chance to meet with you.
Finally always remember that you are your own best advertising – be friendly and professional at all times and always deliver work on time, within budget and to the highest standard.
FIND OUT WHAT YOUR COMPETITORS ARE DOING
Keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry is crucial as it will affect the products or services you offer, your business growth as well as marketing initiatives. Competitors keep you on your toes as they provide a good basis for comparison and benchmarking your impact in the marketplace. Knowing what your competitors are up to will provide insight into what works and what doesn’t. It will also give you a good idea of who their client base is made up of. By analysing your competitors you too will figure out what it takes to survive in the industry and will learn from their mistakes. Ways of staying informed include keeping an eye on the media. Scan newspapers, trade journals and consumer magazines for articles pertaining to your industry and make mental notes of important roleplayers. The same applies to television and radio and don’t forget to check the internet too. Attending industry-specific expos and conferences will also keep you abreast of trends and movements in your sector. Exhibitors will often discuss their business strategies and successes with passersby and could offer some valuable insight. Don’t be complacent. Most business sectors are vibrant and ever-changing and small business owners need to keep informed to stay competitive.
Kate Thompson is an account director at Magna Carta Public Relations in Cape Town. She handles all PR requirements for a variety of corporate and consumerfocused clients. Kate can be contacted on email@example.com or 021 417 5833.