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5 top tips for marketing on a small budget

I read recently that 74% of SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) expect their recession to last at least another couple of years. These organisations often work within tight budgets, and the recession is no doubt tightening these even further.  So, if you are working for, or run an SME, here’s my top five tips for marketing on a small budget.

Know your customer
Whether your customers are other organisations or individual consumers there are basic facts you need to know about them. For example, do you know what type of businesses buy from you, and specifically what they need from you? If you gather information from customers about their changing needs you can stay ahead of competitors in meeting these needs, and by profiling your existing customers it can help to target new customers of the same profile.

Do you know what criteria your customers use to choose between you and your competitors? If you do, then you can focus on what is important to them rather than producing what you think they want.
Plan and collaborate
Many smaller businesses that I have worked with tell me that planning is too time consuming – they don’t have time to plan. Time spent planning is usually an investment in the longer term as one of the many things it helps with is focusing activity and avoiding wastage (of time and money).

In terms of collaborating, think about joining an industry or trade association.  Very often they will communicate the bigger/broader message about what you do, leaving you to focus on your more local target customers. In fact they will often help with promotion in posting case studies about their members on their website, or at the very least carrying a list of where members are based.

Use case studies
Use case studies about satisfied customers who are prepared to say what your product or service has done for them. If written genuinely, your potential customers will see themselves in the position of those in the case study and find it more credible than an advertisement you pay for elsewhere.  These can feature on your website, on literature you leave with potential customers or in PR copy. Make sure you have permission to use the case study in every type of promotional opportunity – don’t leave a loyal customer thinking you are only using their quote online and then be surprised to see it in a trade journal.

Use digital channels
Make the best possible use of all appropriate social media and digital promotions. Think about using Facebook or Twitter or writing a Blog, but don’t underestimate the time this can take.  Sometimes this time might be better invested in face-to-face sales if you have a fairly tight market and make few but large sales each year. Whatever the size of your business, marketing is all about balancing the activities you want to carry out with the resources and capacity you have available. For ‘resources’ read human, financial, equipment/systems and time.

Make the most of referrals
Positive recommendation (word-of-mouth promotion) is so much more valuable than any marketing communication you pay for. Of course, you have worked (and so paid for) this already by delivering excellent service to customers and meeting their expectations.

Don’t waste any referral opportunities that you are given.  Make sure someone is responsible for following up these referrals and qualifying them in terms of the business opportunity they offer. A customer that becomes an advocate for your business will only carry on recommending you until you disappoint them either in the way you approach them or neglect those that they recommend you to.

Please use the comments section below to add your top tips to mine – I’m sure there are lots more tried and tested approaches.