Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Five Low-Cost Marketing Activities for Small Businesses during a Recession

With the recession gathering steam, 2009 looks to be a tough year for small businesses. Belt-tightening on marketing budgets is a natural reflex to diminished sales. However, it would be a huge mistake for a small business to shut down marketing in a recession because marketing is essential to surviving a downturn. And fortunately, there are effective marketing activities that can be conducted for little or no cost to help keep your sales alive.

Marketing promotion doesn’t have to cost a bundle to yield results. Some of the most effective marketing activities are inexpensive and require little more than investing your time to make them work for your business.

Here are five inexpensive marketing activities a small business can do to keep existing customers coming back while creating new ones:

  1. Fine-tune your Website. Go over your site from the perspective of a first-time visitor. Are visitors able to discern what your site is about and why they should do business with your company within the ten seconds that you have to capture their interest? Is the site easy to navigate – can visitors readily find what they are looking for? If your business is selling online, is the purchase process simple to use and fool-proof? Do you offer complementary items for sale during the checkout stage? And finally, have you at least performed basic search engine optimization by including meta, alt and header tags, as well as populating your page titles and textual content with keywords relevant to each page? If that sounds like gibberish to you, check out sites like www.WilsonWeb.com to get helpful non-techie site tuning tips. Take an hour or so to perform an audit of your Website – it will ultimately yield big returns for your business!
  2. Nurture your customers and prospects with a monthly email newsletter. Use “push” marketing through an email newsletter to stay in touch with your customers and prospects. Gain their ineterst by providing valuable information. This allows you to promote your products or services directly to potential buyers. Include incentives and create a sense of urgency. Insert click-through links to special pages on your Website that are germane to any offers or subjects promoted in the newsletter. Use low-cost ($30-$50 monthly online services like www.ConstantContact.com which offer professional newsletter templates and email list management. Just remember to “drip, drip, drip” on your clientele to remind them of the value your business provides.
  3. Include your Website address on all correspondence, especially business cards and emails. Add a tagline to emails under the signature block that promotes your business. For example, “World’s Largest and Most Affordable Supply of Custom Widgets.”
  4. Do press releases. These can be simple one-page releases announcing new products or services offered by your business, your latest achievements, new employees, management changes, new markets, discount programs, etc. – basically anything of public interest. Press releases are free advertising! Distribute them online to targeted geographical locations or audiences by using inexpensive services like www.PRWeb.com ($80). Don’t worry - these services show you how to set up the release. Make sure to include a link back to your site to provide interested readers with more information or drive traffic to an online sales funnel. And since online press releases get picked up by other Websites, newsletters and blogs as “filler content,” they help to create one-way links to your Website from a variety of complementary sites, thereby enhancing your search engine ranking. Don’t forget to mail your press release to local hard-print publications as well!
  5. Advertise weekly or monthly promotions on your Website and in your newsletter to generate new sales and keep your customers coming back. If appropriate, you can even get a unique Website address (e.g., BigSale-TailorMadeSuits.com) for about $10 that points to a page in your Website where the promotion is presented in detail along with possible online purchase options. You can also add this unique online address to flyers or small ads in your local paper or industry periodicals.

With a little effort, your small business can have an effective marketing program for minimal expense. And now is the time to try new things and learn new marketing skills while you may have some slack. If you master the above activities, they will continue to provide a foundation for inexpensive marketing once the economy recovers. So make an investment in your future by starting with just one of these proven marketing techniques. Then tackle the others. You will be surprised and pleased with the results!