Marketing Ideas For Small Businesses

How do you get the word out about your business? Whether it’s services or product, you’ve got to drive customers your way. Marketing plays a very important part in driving clientele to check out what you have to offer. Traditional ideas include advertising flyers, billboards, and radio and TV ads, however traditional ideas might not be achievable when your business simply can’t afford it. Let’s take a look at some less traditional marketing tips that can be just as effective as traditional ideas.

First, show that you’re committed to service. Set a realistic deadline, but factor in an extra day. Strive to deliver your product the day before you promised it. Clients are usually happy to get their product ahead of time and will use you again.

If you can, offer a gift basket with either your product or a coupon for a service. Have clients drop their business card in a bowl or take names online at your website. Have a drawing once a month. Also, if you can, work in gift baskets on lesser known themes such as St. Patrick’s Day or National Secretary Week.

Establish a catalog, one hard copy and one online, highlighting your product or services. Get your friends and family to pass it along. Word of mouth is inexpensive and nothing means more to a potential client than a glowing recommendation from someone they know.

Make yourself available after hours. By revamping your work schedule to take calls at night, you could double your income. Nine-to-five workers come home and are looking to take care of their errands or personal business in the evening hours. By being available at later times, you open yourself up to a range of clients you might not have had before.

Have your business accept credit cards. Offering payment options attracts clients and the payments are prompt.

Instead of taking a potential client out to lunch, try breakfast. It’s usually less expensive and most clients appreciate the invitation to have a meeting with you.

Remember a smile and a positive reminder go far. Take a coffee drive through – most baristas service you with a smile and leave you with a friendly, “See you tomorrow.” Good service is marketing in itself.

Keep in mind quick service leads to happy customers and increased profits, but don’t skimp on your product or service. You might want to tailor marketing for slower days. For example, if you’re a car wash business and Wednesdays is usually a slow day, offer fast service.

Remember most customers usually take their small children with them. If you’re a quick car oil lube business for example, you might want to set up a place for children with a TV, table, toys, or coloring books. This helps to keep the kids entertained while their parents can take care of business.

Do a little extra. If you’re a cookie business, set out a dish of cookies for customers to nibble on. If you provide a service, offer a tip the customer might find useful. Word of mouth marketing ideas can be as effective driving traffic to your establishment as traditional marketing and less expensive. Not only that, it leaves your customer feeling like they’ve been personally taken care of and that leads to repeat business.

How Can Joint Ventures Improve Local Small Business Profits?

If you own a small business, whether it is a bricks-and-mortar business, a service business, or a company operating primarily online, joint ventures can give you powerful influence in the marketplace. Joint ventures provide a huge reward for less effort because of the power of leverage.

A joint venture in business is simply a triple win, or a win-win-win. It happens when 2 (or more) business owners do a deal that not only benefits both businesses, but also serves the customers. There MUST be a win-win-win.

Let me give an example so you can understand the power of these profitable arrangements. There are many kinds of JVs that you can organize. This example is for local business owners. Imagine this scenario. Sam owns a dog-friendly restaurant. Sarah owns a gourmet dog cookie business. They form a joint venture that works like this.

Sarah makes little “doggie bags” with a couple of her gourmet treats, a business card and a coupon for 10% off the purchase of a bag of gourmet treats. When people go into Sam’s restaurant with a dog, they get one of the treat samples. They go into Sarah’s business and redeem the coupon. Sarah hands out a coupon to everyone who purchases from her shop offering a free appetizer at Sam’s restaurant. This is a good fit because people who own dogs would be interested in shopping at both businesses.

These mutually beneficial arrangements re-define economic stimulus, because they are based on people’s buying habits. This is only one of many ways a joint venture could work. Why not put on your thinking cap and consider how you might work out a win-win-win scenario like what I have just described?

All it takes is a little creativity and a deep desire to serve your customer. Find out what else your customer buys. If you notice that people often come into your business carrying shopping bags from a particular nearby business, you have the basis for a joint venture. Could you ask them to offer a coupon or a sample? And could you in turn find a way to give your customers a discount or sample of theirs?

Some questions you can ask yourself to get you thinking:

Where else do your customers like to shop?

What other products/services are a natural fit for your customer?

What else do your customers want and need that you don’t intend to provide yourself?

How can you make these customers to think of you as their hero?

Whom do you know in a business that your customers would also like to frequent?

Whom do you trust in a complimentary business?

How can you better serve your customers by forging joint ventures?

How will you track results?

Start stretching your mind and your expectations and create your own economic stimulus plan through the power of joint ventures.

Are You Wasting Time and Money Printing Business Cards?

If you use business cards, you’ve probably thought about printing your own. After all, you own an inkjet printer, a computer, and some graphics software. How hard could it be to save a few bucks?

To check out how well this works in practice, my employees and I conducted a small experiment. We created 3 batches of business cards, using 3 different techniques.

The first technique was fairly straightforward: We took the business card down to our neighborhood print shop, and asked them to print up some more. We brought a blown up copy of our logo, which served as “camera ready artwork.” The copy shop took care of the typesetting, proofreading, printing, etc. It was fairly painless, although it did involve physically getting to the print shop. Next time we’ll email them a TIF file. We had planned on getting 500 cards, but the price for 1,000 was only a little higher, so we went with the larger quantity. The cards took 5 business days, apparently because they were not printed on-site, but rather outsourced to a wholesale printer.

The second technique may sound unorthodox, but it worked. We used a custom made rubber stamp to create the cards. This was fun, though it took a while. We also wrecked a few cards by stamping carelessly.

Finally, we created some cards on our inkjet printer, an Epson Stylus C84. There’s special software available for placing the images 10-up on the page, but we opted to use Adobe PageMaker, since that’s what we’re familiar with. We printed the cards on Avery #8871 Clean Edge Business Card paper.

All three methods have their proponents, and none of the methods was clearly the best choice for everyone. The rubber stamped cards were definitely funky looking. If you work at a bank, don’t even think about it. On the other hand, if you just need a few dozen cards for your part time cookie baking business, rubber stamped cards might be just what you need to convey the “home made” impression. Art stamp enthusiasts often have fun with multiple ink colors. The more ink pads you have, the more variety your cards can have. The cost of rubber stamped cards was 12.4 cents each. Unfortunately, our 8 year-old assistant got bored, so we aborted the experiment after an hour and a half, and about 150 cards.

The inkjet printed cards were a little harder to evaluate. The image was clear and sharp, and we chose to use the printer’s abilities to mix several colors and a blend on the page. However, the designing is not quite as trivial as it sounds. You can easily end up designing a card that’s too busy. Also, our first few designs had type that went too close to the edge. If you’re not a professional designer, count on printing out some experiments to look at before you hit the “Print” button for 200 cards.

No matter how careful you are, however, you still end up with cards that look like they were printed on an inkjet printer. The “clean” edges were still perceptibly perforated, and the ink ran a little when it got damp. An informal poll of small business owners in New England showed that inkjet printed cards still convey a “less serious” impression. Of course, this could be fine for many businesses, but it deserves some consideration. All together, we spent about 3 hours designing and printing 200 cards. We saved the design, so next time it could be quicker.

We expected the inkjet printed cards to be much cheaper than the professionally printed ones. That was before we tallied the cost of ink cartridges and paper. The paper was $16.88 online, plus $7.95 shipping, for 200 cards. That works out to 12.4 cents per card. If you include a 10% waste factor, the final paper cost is 13.66 cents per card. Then we calculated the ink cost. Overall, we averaged 42 cents per page, or 4.2 cents per card. (Each page had room for 10 cards.) Again, a waste factor of 10% meant a final ink cost of 4.62 cents per card. Total cost for ink and paper was 18.28 cents per card. An excellent price if you only need a few dozen, but for larger quantities, we could do better.

The professionally printed cards were simple 2 color (black and dark blue inks) raised printing on an off-white card stock. The raised printing and lack of perforations won the thumbs up from the New England small business owners. One middle aged woman observed that “they look like a real business printed them.” The price of professionally printed business cards varied quite a bit when we called around, so it may pay you to do a little shopping. Remember that you’ll likely use the same printer again in the future, if only for the convenience. Most print shops keep your data on file for quick reordering.

The print shop we chose charged us $43.00 for 1,000 cards, which works out to 4.3 cents per card, or about a 76% discount from the inkjet printed cards. Had we chosen to order only 500 cards, the price would have been $38.00, or 7.6 cents per card. That’s still a savings of 58.4%. More importantly, we felt we had a good looking card. While not exciting, it was professional enough to hand out anywhere.

A few other points to consider: The price we paid at the print shop was for a fairly simple job. We didn’t choose, for example, to have solid ink coverage extending all the way to the edge (a “bleed”.) Nor did we have a custom color mixed up for us. These charges can add up, so if your design isn’t set in stone just yet, you might want to check with the print shop about their policies. Also, we chose to do our inkjet printing on specially made inkjet paper. You can save money by choosing a cheaper paper, but we haven’t had good results with any we’ve found so far.

Our verdict: Go with the method that’s right for you! For the homemade cookie business, get a rubber stamp. If you only need a few business cards, and aren’t overly concerned with appearances, go with the inkjet method. However, for most people in business, the professionally printed business card wins on convenience, cost, and professional image.