By Sally Glick
When anyone asks for “lean” or “cost effective” ideas for marketing their company, it is always important first to decide what is expected of the organization’s marketing initiatives. Marketing is typically thought of as a communications and branding strategy that helps to position a company so that it can continuously and reliably attract and retain high quality customers.
Owners who seek to build the company's name recognition and reputation are reliant on good marketing techniques to help attain and confirm their leadership position in the business community. While it takes creativity and a consistent process, building a brand and developing meaningful community connections can be done without a million dollar budget.
10 Lean Ideas (more to follow!)
1. To produce cost effective marketing tactics for any company in any industry every owner should start with a situational analysis. This activity has no hard costs but it requires an investment of time and patience to yield meaningful results.
2. Based on the situational analysis and some competitive intelligence gathered through an extensive Internet search, a marketing plan or strategy should be written and integrated into the company’s strategic business plan.
3. The plan should include a detailed description of the company’s audience, product or service, pricing and promotional activities. (These first three lean ideas require little cost, and once accomplished, lay the groundwork for all your company’s promotional tactics. These tactics can range from simple to sophisticated, but the bottom line is to keep the costs low or inexistent.)
4. Ask your target market contacts (comprised of existing clients, referral sources and/or business owners you know) what they most value from your company. At the same time, ask what services or products they receive from your competitor and try to find out what your competitors offer that gives them an advantage over you. The survey can be conducted by phone so that you can capture valuable insights from a select number of “A and “B” customers. There is no cost to this process except for the time you will spend taking to customers, assessing their replies and preparing a strategy incorporating their responses.
5. Reviewing the survey, begin implementing ideas that make your customers comfortable:
- Write a Customer Bill of Rights and display it in the lobby
- Display your company’s framed vision statement in the lobby
- Provide your staff with telephone etiquette training
- Guarantee that no one will be on hold for more than one minute
- Establish a reasonable amount of time for calls to be returned (by end of day, within two days, etc.)
6. Offer programs related to your product or service utilizing your facility after hours to encourage education and networking among your customers and vendors. Have guest speakers who can address the key issues you are observing in the nonprofit sector.
7. Write an article highlighting your personal success or experiences as a business owner. Discuss your greatest challenge and share how you solved it. Be sure to load the article on your website, use it for handouts at events and include with any promotional materials
8. Speak at local events, perhaps Chamber of Commerce or an industry trade association, and provide relevant information for your audience. Your expert status will be evident – just don’t try and “sell” yourself or your company. Let your knowledge and experience speak for itself.
9. Use your letterhead and business cards as marketing tools. What do they say about you? Is there a tag line? Do you define your title appropriately? Do you include a cell phone number to show your accessibility?
10. Ask your loyal customers and vendors for meaningful introductions (not referrals). They will be more comfortable expanding your relationship network than referring an engagement or a potential customer to you. When you have the opportunity to meet, keep it informal, add value – and add the contact name to your list of people you are glad to know. You can “sell” later – but for now, just make a solid connection.
Sally Glick is Principal of the Firm and Chief Growth Strategist at Sobel & Co. LLC