The rush and cram of the holiday season are finally over for most of us, and we’ve gone through and done our family things and made our personal new year’s resolutions. Business is typically very, very calm at this time of year (sometimes rightfully so) – but don’t panic. This is your opportunity to take a few steps at making your small business marketing even more successful in the New Year. Think of the lull as your chance to get ahead.
Marketing is an aspect of every business with overwhelming importance. The problem is that many small businesses overlook it as being too expensive or time-consuming. In truth, there are several marketing strategies you can work on that cost little to nothing. But I won’t lie and say marketing doesn’t have to be time-consuming … it can be, and usually is. Which is why this quiet time of year is perfect for getting a move on.
Keep It Clean – A Unified Design
Before you go to any other step in this article, make sure that you’re presenting a unified design in your marketing plan. If you have some design skills and a graphics program, great! Otherwise, you may want to look at investing just a bit of money in having a professional help you get started.
A unified design is essential in your marketing because it keeps the customer involved in the look and feel of your business from start-to-finish. Make sure that you have a good, strong logo and a color palette that you use in everything from your website to stationary to marketing materials. Here are some specific things to look for:
1. Logo – Your logo should be consistent in everything you do. Make sure it’s clear, crisp, and has an impact.
2. Color Palette – If you have a website, you should already have a color palette. These are the colors you consistently use in your graphics and writing. A good color palette will be between 4 and 8 colors – no more.
3. Email Marketing – If you send out emails as part of your marketing plan, they should read like your website and should use the same fonts, colors, and sizes.
4. Themes – Having specific issues related to a holiday, your small business focus or an event is a great way to make sure all your marketing materials are consistent with their look, feel, and content.
To know where we need to go with our small business marketing, we need to remember where we’ve been and how it’s worked for us. Take a look at the marketing efforts you embarked in during the last year and identify which ones were the most successful, the least successful, and the most personally satisfying.
Obviously, the least successful efforts are ones you won’t want to waste your time repeating. The most successful can point to continued marketing ideas. Where you’ll find the best results, though, is in creatively combining the marketing strategies you did which were highly successful with those that were personally satisfying.
Take time to make a couple lists, brainstorm, and identify what worked for you in 2008 so your 2009 marketing can be even better.
Yes, it is important to make a plan for all of this coming year. You should be flexible, but literally schedule your marketing efforts by the week or by the month using a planner, calendar, or spreadsheet. Print it out, tack it right in front of you, and make this list one of your most important New Year’s resolutions (made a little late).
While you work out a marketing plan for your small business, use the reviews you’ve made to help devise new strategies that you haven’t used before. Your most successful marketing effort might be right ahead – but you’ll never know until you release your creativity and combine it with your small business needs.
Also think carefully about scheduling. Tie your plan into things like holidays, events, and seasonal cycles. As slow as January can be, remember how July crept by and think of the “Christmas in July” cliché. This might work wonders for your business, used right.
Need more of a jump-start? No problem! Here are some small business marketing ideas that you may not have considered yet:
1. Get Personal – You know your customers’ names … but what else do you know? If your products or services are done in such a way that you know your customers’ birth dates, why not send out an individual birthday card with a little-handwritten greeting inside? We’re a small business, so let’s just admit that we don’t have so many customers that this is an unreasonable idea.
2. Give It Away – Whether you do it around the holidays or with every shipment you make, give your customer something a little extra. An extremely successful businesswoman in my hometown hand delivers a tray of handmade goodies every Christmas to her clients. I’ve read about technicians giving away software to their most loyal customers. But the best example I can give is a client of mine who ordered a reprint of her business cards, and I added in a set of 10 business card sized magnets as a thank you gift.
She and her partner were so excited they plastered the magnets all over their fridge and wrote me glowing thanks.
3. Sponsor It – This can sometimes be much like #2 … or it can be something more Nascar-like. The idea behind sponsoring something is that you make a 1-time donation which will be seen by thousands (at least) of people, more than paying back your investment. One of the biggest things on the Internet are personal blogs that offer giveaways to their loyal readers. Businesses are invited to “sponsor” a giveaway by donating one of their products. This has enormous marketing potential. Then, of course, there’s always the traditional route – sponsor a local baseball team, for example.
4. Remember the Kids – If you have a physical location, consider adding a small “kids area” to your store. It could be as simple as a small table stocked with coloring books and crayons, or as detailed as a gated section with toys, books, and games. This allows parents to do business without rushing – they know their kids are relaxed and having fun, so they can do the same thing.
5. Think Bigger – When you place ads, be it in the newspaper, in a magazine, or on the Internet, always think bigger. Never, ever decrease the size of your ads. This gives the impression that your business isn’t doing well and you’re having to cut back. It’s much better to run a small ad for a year while you save up for a larger ad that can be run over the next year than splurge on a huge one only to go back to the small one next month.
6. Coupons Are Cool – Everyone is looking to save a little. Try making a 10% or 20% off coupon part of your small business marketing strategy at least once during the New Year – I promise you’ll see the payoff.