Setting achievable goals and realistic expectations

First of all, it’s best to establish what your goals and expectations are of your marketing campaign.  It’s very important to set realistic goals.

Surveying to find out what your customers want

While large companies spend thousands of dollars each year trying to determine what their customers want from their business, small businesses should be able to take advantage of their size and easier access to customers.

Direct mail and email questionnaires, telemarketing surveys, focus groups, and other techniques are effective methods of understanding your customers and prospects, but they can be costly and time-consuming. You can save money while getting the information you need by running informal versions of these methods.

For example, instead of hiring a firm to run a focus group, invite a few of your best customers out to a nice dinner and ask them for an informal appraisal of your product or service. This will allow you to get important, customer-driven input and ideas for a fraction of the cost. And it allows you to ask many more questions than you could over the phone or through man-on-the-street interviews.

Depending on the industry, another way to quickly gather survey information is to have someone survey customers as they enter your business. Offer a discount or free gift for taking 5 minutes to answer a few questions. After a couple of hours you should be able to efficiently survey enough clients or prospects to detect a trend on one or more surveys.

Hold on to existing customers

Marketers estimate that acquiring a new customer costs five to eight times more than keeping an existing one, so in industries with heavy customer turn-over, limited marketing dollars should be focused on retaining existing business.

Any combination of the following programs can help you retain customers not only by providing a useful service, but also by making customers feel appreciated and more likely to come again.



Give new customers a taste of what you have to offer

With the increase in advertisements that a consumer comes in touch with on a daily basis, it has become more difficult to cut through the clutter to attract new customers. Aside from referral programs and advertisements, sometimes all it takes to get a new customer is to offer them a taste of your product or service.

Here”s an example: Let”s say you are a massage therapist who only had enough business to fill up 2 to 3 days of the week, but wanted to double your business over the next couple of months. You could visit businesses and make a deal with the office manager to allow you to give each of his staff members a free 10 minute chair massage. This allows you to get in front of prospects and give out your card after they get a taste of the service and the business manager gets a perk out of it to – happy employees. It”s a win-win situation.

This can be used in any industry. Car dealerships offer prospective customers a test drive of the vehicle they want to buy. Some now allow you to keep the car overnight. With a little creativity and imagination, you may be able to provide similar “trials” of your product or service to win over new customers.

Leverage your own expertise

If you are a Professional, you can market the business by raising your profile as an industry expert. That way, when your future customers have a need for someone in your area of expertise, they will naturally turn to you.

Volunteer your time and expertise to community and industry events, workshops or associations. You also can check into becoming an adjunct professor at the local community college or university and teach a course for continuing education or graduate students.

However, don”t do this just to push your business or services at these events – it could damage your credibility and make people feel they were cheated.

With creative thinking, you can enjoy the benefits of well-planned marketing efforts without a huge price tag. Take the time to know what your customers want, and make sure to provide it to the customers you already have. With that goal accomplished, you can focus on winning new customers via focused research efforts, or establishing yourself as the local source of expert advice.