Low Cost Marketing Ideas to Grow Your Business

Determining what your marketing budget is, if any, should be an important part of every small business owner’s annual planning.  I hear this question regularly, “I want to grow but I don’t have a marketing budget, can you still help me?”  The answer is yes and no!

5 Low Cost Ideas to Grow Your BusinessEstablish a Marketing Budget

When I hear this, the first thing I recommend clients do is take a good hard look at their cash flow and determine if there is ANY money you can allocate monthly for marketing.  Even if it’s $100 it’s better than nothing to start! From there, you need to figure out the most effective way to spend that $100.  I can help you determine this through some goal setting and consulting sessions.  If you determine you have a larger budget than you thought, then we can talk and figure out the most effective way for us to work together!

5 Things You Can Do To Grow With Little to No Marketing Budget

Now, if you determine you don’t have a marketing budget at all, I still may be able to help you from a consulting standpoint where we talk occasionally as your budget allows. But in the mean time you can’t leave your marketing sitting idle waiting to get a budget. Here are 5 things you can do to market your business with little to no marketing budget.

1.  Collect emails and use them – Email is a cost effective way to reach your customers with little to no marketing budget.  There are a few free email marketing platforms that are good and several low cost options as well.  I am Constant Contact provider and their email marketing programs start at around $20 per month.  Here are the details…

2.  Get active on social media – I’ve worked with several companies who have successfully built their business using social media.  The key is being consistent and posting regularly then leveraging your work with some ads buys or boosted posts (if you’re using Facebook.)

3.  Networking – Find some networking groups and attend.  Many are free or low cost to attend so bring a stack of business cards, your brochure and what ever else you can pass out and start talking up your business!

4.  Tap into your existing customer base – It costs far more to acquire a new customer than to retain and develop an existing customer.  Find ways to sell more to existing clients or to get them to promote your business through referral programs or other incentive based opportunities.

5.  Partner with other businesses – Many times you can find other businesses that offer complimentary services to partner with to promote your company or to generate business.  For example, if you are a florist, making connections with event planners, funeral homes, churches, wedding venues and other businesses like that could lead to a nice source of referrals that help you grow your business.  All you’d need is a nice brochure, a business card and maybe drop off a sample or two.

I can work with you to implement items like this by helping you map out a plan of attack and by keeping you accountable!  Contact me to learn more about my consulting calls that work well for small business owners that have small marketing budgets.   And remember…not having a marketing budget is no excuse for pushing your marketing efforts to the back burner…there are plenty of low cost options out there to help promote your business!

Is Not Having a Marketing Plan Hurting Your Business?

Marketing PlanLet’s be honest, writing a marketing plan isn’t all that fun.  In fact, authoring a marketing plan is a lot of work.  Because of these two things, most small business owners go without having a solid marketing plan in place.

Unfortunately, not having a marketing plan can end up hurting your business.  Just like a business plan, a marketing plan acts like a road map for success to your business.  When you don’t have one, here’s what can happen:

No Marketing Plan = No Boundaries

With no marketing plan, there are no boundaries for your business to adhere to.  I see owners without a plan just aimlessly spending money on things they “think” will help them grow their business.  I’ve seen everything from promotional coozies being bought to thousands of dollars in television advertising being bought with no clear plan for leveraging either spend.  Which leads to the next problem…
No Marketing Plan = No Marketing Budget

When there is no written marketing plan, there is usually no marketing budget.  This can lead to overspending and spending on items that don’t have an impact.  Every marketing dollar you spend should have a goal attached to it.

No Marketing Plan = No Marketing Goals

Without a plan, many small business owners fail to define the business goals they want to achieve.  Without clear goals, it is difficult to allocate marketing dollars correctly.  When I ask clients what their goals are for their business I always hear “I want to grow the business.”  That’s a good start but in order to accurately spend your budget dollars, you need to further define what that means.  Do you want to acquire new clients?  Leverage existing relationships?  Increase the average spend of each client?  The answer to those questions will drive how you spend your budget and help you realize your goals.

No Marketing Plan = Overwhelm

There are SO many ways to market your business now a days.  Without a marketing plan it is easy to get overwhelmed with options and to spread yourself too thin.  I see it happen all the time.  Small business owners try to do too much with too small of a budget.  They get overwhelmed by all the options and think if they do a little of everything it will make a difference.  Sometimes that works, but many times it doesn’t.  Having a clear marketing plan in place can really help you focus on implementing marketing tactics that make a difference, not just spinning your wheels to be everywhere all the time!

Thinking about getting a marketing plan in place can be overwhelming in and of itself!  Keep in mind, your marketing plan should be a working document that changes as your business changes.  Also, marketing plans come in different shapes and sizes.  Some businesses need marketing plans that are really in-depth but for the average small business owner you don’t need to go crazy!  You can create a simple marketing plan that contains:

  • A budget
  • Goals
  • Upcoming opportunities
  • Marketing tactics aimed at achieving your goals
  • To-do items

Keep it simple and you’ll see that writing a marketing plan doesn’t have to be painful!

How to Get the Most Out of Your Marketing Team

Getting the most out of your marketing team is important when justifying the expense of outsourcing.  I have met a number of small business owners that tell me they’ve tried to outsource their marketing tasks but haven’t had luck working with marketing professionals.  I commonly hear from people that they have hired either a marketing agency or a freelancer and haven’t had a good experience.  They tell me things like: “they weren’t doing a good job”,  “business wasn’t growing” or “I get better results when I do it myself.”How to get the most out of your marketing team

Depending on who you choose to work with, all of these things could very well be true, but sometimes, as the owner you may be a playing a bigger role in your lack of marketing success than you think!  I have found with just a little client support, I can help small business owners get the most from their marketing team.  The key is knowing what to ask for and how to ask for it!

1.  Be Prepared

If you want to be successful in outsourcing your marketing tasks to someone, you first need to take some time to prepare yourself.  Give some thought as to what areas you really lack knowledge in when it comes to marketing.  Maybe you are good at managing your social media presence, but aren’t so good at placing advertising.  If that’s the case, you should continue to manage your social media and then hire a media buyer to help you place advertising.  Understand what you need help with, before you ask for it and then find a marketing person that can round out your skill set.

2.  Have a Budget  

Whether it is $50 or $50,000, have a budget in mind.  A marketing team will not be able to help you if they don’t know what they are working with.  As a marketing professional, I can put together the best marketing strategy in the world for you, but if you don’t have the budget to implement it, it’s useless so have an idea of what you can spend.  Without a budget, you are setting your marketing person up to struggle.

3.  Set Goals

One of the biggest mistakes I see clients make is not setting goals.  I can post to Facebook for you all day but if you don’t have a goal in mind as to what you want those posts to achieve you are wasting money and setting your marketing person up to fail.  If you want to get the most out of a marketing team, set measurable goals and be clear about what they are from the very beginning.

4.  Respond in a Timely Manner

When you are working with a marketing team, you can’t just “set it and forget it” as Ron Popeil from that old infomercial used to say!  If your marketing team emails you with questions, get back to them in a timely manner.  They may have a time sensitive opportunity or question that needs to be addressed.  Even though you are outsourcing, you still need to play an active role in your company’s marketing strategy in order for it to work.  You are the person at the heart of the business and you will know best when something is working and when something is not.  Also, if your marketing person relies on email as their primary means of communication (which many of us do) but email doesn’t work for you, request a phone call.

5.  Communicate Regularly

To piggy back off #4, you may have to tell your marketing team how to best communicate with you and you need to find time to talk with them regularly.  If you can not make time to communicate regularly with your marketing team, you are setting them up to not perform well for you.  They need to know what is going on with your business in order to help you improve it.

If you are currently working with a marketing agency and feel you are not getting what you need from them, contact me.  I can function as an extension of your team and help you navigate the projects you are working on with your existing marketing team.  If your team still isn’t getting the job done, I can introduce you to my team and see how we can help!

Marketing Support for Direct Sales Professionals

Did you know that Small Talk also provides marketing support for direct sales professionals?  It’s true…I have found a way to partner with direct sales reps to help them grow their business, so if you work for a direct sales company like Arbonne, Mary Kay or any of the other big players, you need to read on!

Marketing Support for Direct Sales Professionals: Learn how to Leverage What Is Provided

Many direct sales companies offer their representatives a TON of marketing collateral.  When you join some of the larger direct sales teams you often get everything from your own website to brochures, catalogs, takeaways and business cards all in one swoop.  AWESOME….but now what?Marketing Support for Direct Sales Professionals

The problem is, even though the parent company is providing the material, sometimes reps don’t know how to leverage what is provided.  That is where Small Talk comes in!  I can take a look at the materials that your company provides and guide you in ways to use them.

If there is something your company does not offer, like email marketing, I can work with you to take the materials they do provide and turn them into a great email marketing campaign.  And then there’s social media…

A lot of direct sales companies provide a ton of graphics, videos and other content to use on social media, but they miss a step when it comes to educating their reps on HOW to use them.  Posting a picture isn’t enough, you have to ask questions, get to know your audience and learn what will get them talking about your products!  Some times figuring these things out just takes a little guidance and a fresh perspective to help find the “secret sauce.”

Direct Sales Success Story

Last month I did a one hour consulting call with an Arbonne representative.  Like most of the other direct sales companies, Arbonne provides a lot of great content to their reps.  My client was using all the info but wanted to increase her visibility and get more engagement on social media.  Within a one hour call I had given her a number of action items to start working on to improve her social media efforts using what Arbonne already provides.  Just two days after our call, I got this message from her:

“Hey Jen- just wanted to let you know I have been liking other business pages and commented on ones at night…woke up to 8 messages with people requesting samples and a bunch of new likes! Thanks again for the coaching and I will for sure set something up with you again!!!”

I recently followed up to see how this client was doing and I’m happy to report that she has been building relationships with the people that reached out for samples and she’s confident it will turn into business over time!  As you know, building a relationship is usually step one in the sales cycle.

So, whether you need consulting services or something created that your company does not offer, contact Small Talk for a free consultation and learn how I can provide marketing support for your direct sales business and help you grow!

Initial consultations are always complimentary!

Employees and Your Business Facebook Page: What You Need to Know to Keep Your Company Safe

I hear from small business owners all the time that they are “just going to have their employee set up a business Facebook page” for them and let them handle it.Employees and Your Business Facebook Page  My immediate thought is YIKES!  Many owners think, “oh my employees are young and savvy when it comes to social media, who better to run my page.”  While I am for collaboration and different members of the team contributing to the company’s social media presence, you really have to be careful on how much access you give your employees to your business Facebook page or any other social media account for that matter and here’s why:

1.  If your employee is the only admin on your page, they can high-jack it!

We never want to think about things getting to a point with one of our employees where they are high-jacking our social media accounts but the fact is it happens!  I have had a number of my social media colleagues tell me about situations where the company they are working for had an employee create their business Facebook page and they were the only admin on the page.  The relationship between the company and the employee changed and the employee left…taking access to the business’s Facebook page with them.  If you are going to have your employees work on your social media accounts, make sure you also have full admin control over the accounts so that if you sense things starting to go south, you can remove that individual’s access before any problems occur.

2.  They may not be upholding your brand standards as you would expect them to.

What you say on your Facebook business page and social media in general as well as how you respond to people’s comments on your pages will become part of your brand messaging.  While you would hope your employees understand your brand and the message you want to send, giving them complete control over your Facebook business page is putting a lot of power in their hands.  If you are going to let your employee manage your business Facebook page be sure you are checking in on it regularly and ensuring they are speaking to your fans the way you’d want them to!

3.  Social media is now a customer service platform and as the owner you NEED to know about customer service issues.   

Like it or not, customers are turning to social media more than ever before to voice their customer service concerns.  If you have an employee running your business Facebook page, you’ve got to be sure they are not only responding to customer service inquiries in a timely manner but also resolving the issues according to your company’s standards.  While you don’t need to deal with every customer service issue yourself (if you’ve deemed that to be someone else’s responsibility) you should at least be aware of what type of customer service issues are coming up and how they are being handled.  Bad customer service can really harm a small business.

Encouraging your employees to participate in your social media efforts can make for great content.  It can also take some of the responsibility off you as the owner in having to manage your business’s Facebook page or other accounts.  While I am all for members of your team being a part of your social efforts, make sure you are still monitoring your accounts and be sure that you retain complete access to everything in the event that you and one of your social media helpers parts ways!

If you have questions about how to effectively have your team help you with social media, contact me at jennifer@smalltalkmarketing.com.  We can set up a time to talk about a social media strategy that you and your team can work on together!