Next year planning is underway – have you started using your marketing budget yet? With all of the new technology changes, new websites, and consumer habits, it can feel like a battle trying to determine a low budget marketing strategy. Here are 10 ways that you can make your dollars work smarter this year.
To get even more marketing strategies, download the ebook "9 Tips to Grow Your Small Business."
1. Increase ROI with a ChatBot
Chatbots, used on social media sites, are a quick and relatively easy way to provide customer service and create a new path for the customer journey. These AI programs work with Facebook Messenger, What's App and other sites and can be programmed to offer basic tech support, acknowledge customer service issues and ping your team for support, and promote your services or products through links. If you're not a programmer, don't worry – companies like ManyChat have templated programs that are easily installed for reasonable prices.
2. Create Mobile-friendly Videos to Promote Your Brand
Mobile videos are a rising force and are projected to only increase in consumption. In fact, social sites like Twitter and Facebook prefer this kind of content. Not only do consumers enjoy videos, they are also more likely to act on them. Videos boast, on average, 135 percent more organic visits are driven to websites than by images or text, and are a worthwhile investment in a social media budget for small business. Intimidated by the all the work you think videos require? Depending on the kind of video you're making, you probably already have all the equipment you need in the palm of your hand. Smartphones and tablets boast better cameras than ever and are perfect for capturing spur of the moment live videos. If you want a slicker production, the newest tax laws make it a perfect time to invest in cameras, lights and recording equipment.
3. Optimize Content for Voice Search
"Alexa, where is my nearest dentist?"
Alexa, Google at Home, Siri and a slew of new contenders in the home assistant market have lead to a jump in voice-assisted searches. In fact, 20 percent of all online searches were done through them in 2017, and that number is projected to increase to 50 percent by 2020. Are your website and content optimized to help them find you? Investing in the SEO for this now will help you stay ahead of the game and get your business out to more people.
See also: 8 Social Media Marketing Strategies to Foster Your Veteran-owned Small Business
4. Start an Influencer Marketing Partnership
Trust is the most important asset a business can have, and having someone that your customer base trusts endorse your product can be the sales boost you need. Depending on if your business is national or local, it's a good idea to stay within your community. Big names can cost up to $1 million per mention in their social media, videos or blog, which is not in the average marketing budget for a small business. Instead, look locally. Who do people trust in your community? Partnering with the library, a local charity group or the high school football team can get your name and product in front of your best customer base. Influencer marketing can take the form of donations, sponsorships or producing content or products for them.
5. Host an In-person Event
Americans spend around 10 hours a day staring at some type of screen, be it a phone, a monitor or a TV. We also report more feelings of loneliness and alienation. Your customers are looking for the human touch, so why not provide it for them? Hosting a coffee or a happy hour, where you present fun and useful information, can be a great lead generator and increase feelings of customer satisfaction and loyalty. If you are an online business, this can be a great opportunity for people to put a face to the name they see in their inbox or in their shopping carts.
This doesn't have to be expensive – check with local restaurants or coffee shops to see how you can make a win-win for both companies out of this. Many chains also have programs to help support local businesses that want to put on a live event. Libraries and college campuses are other sources of free meeting space to consider. Your city or community may have a coworking space that has meeting space available. WeWork has 23 locations across the United States and there are many locally-owned coworking spaces.
6. Improve Your Customer Experience Online and Offline
People are busier than ever, and they are looking for a moment of peace. How can your brand offer that to them? If you are a brick and mortar business, you can start by providing your customers with a location that is clean, attractive and reflects the vibe they expect from your industry. A mechanic's shop should have comfortable chairs, wifi, and refreshments available for customers who are waiting, while a florist's shop should have lots of bright colors, cheerful music and plenty of flowers available for visitors to touch and smell. While this may not seem to be directly related to making sales, it does relate to customer retention. Since it's much easier and cost-efficient to keep customers, making a few changes in-house can save thousands in the long-run.
Another place where the customer experience could be improved is your website. How easy is it for people to contact you or buy your products? Investing time or money into website analytics can show you exactly how long people stay on the website and at what point they leave. If they are leaving before taking action on your products and services, changes that make the process easier or clearer will help drive sales.
7. Get Involved with Corporate Social Responsibility
When you do good, you feel good. This is a prime driver of charitable donations and something that you can tap into to increase customer loyalty. Companies that support charities have seen a boost in recent years, from Tom's Shoes to Box Lunch. Customers like knowing they are helping others while taking care of their personal needs. Seek out organizations that make sense for you and your customers to support. For example, veteran-owned small businesses could sponsor advertising or donate to the local VFW or first-responder organizations.
8. Run a Contest
Everybody loves a bit of fun, and your customers are no exception. Organizing a contest or sweepstakes is an engaging way to get your brand out into the marketplace and keep it first in mind when it comes time to make a purchase or hire a service provider. A contest can be as simple as entering your name and email for a chance to win a free product or as complex as an in-store scavenger hunt. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it's fun, manageable and executable.
Learn about the StreetShares Foundation veteran small business grant contest.
9. Go Back to Old School Direct Mail Marketing
Millenials have a different relationship with physical mail than other generations. Whereas their parents associated getting the mail with receiving bills and stacks of junk, they associate it with receiving the packages they order online. Take advantage of this with highly targeted, creative mailers that offer value to the recipient, such as coupons, free items or invitations to in-store events. The key word in this concept is targeted. By determining who your ideal customers are and sending the mailers only to them, you avoid wasting time and money.
10. Survey and Analyze Your Customers' Behaviors
Since we talked about targeting, now is a good time to ask: when is the last time you actually studied the data surrounding your consumers? If it's been a few years or never done, you may be surprised by who is using your products or services. Having a better understanding of their needs, desires and pain points will help you create better products and services. It will also allow you to make better use of your marketing budget. You can hire a company to survey your clients and analyze the system data you already have, or you can run the project on your own.
Use Your Marketing Budget to Grow Your Business
Now that you have some ideas of how to optimize the marketing cost for small business, learn more ways to grow in this free ebook "9 Tips to Grow Your Small Business." You'll get nine solid growth strategies such as reinvesting in your business with small business funding, building brand awareness, and winning government contracts. Download the ebook now.