In the second of the Small Business Success series AAMI presents instalment six: ‘Marketing Your Business for Under $500.’
Marketing may not be every business owner’s forte, especially when dealing with the more technical aspects of creating an on and offline presence in industries where competition is rife. When you marry this with the need to pull purse strings tight, a marketing budget may often be undercut, misguided, and non-strategic. Luckily, we live in era which is both self-educating and more cost effective when creating a marketing plan for an SME business…and you’ll be surprised just how far $500 can take you.
1. Business mentor
Don’t be put off by the price of an initial business mentor consultation as you may only need one, depending on the direction of the business. The first $100-$200 cost of a business coach session is an invaluable investment for your SME business; you cannot put price on quality advice. In most instances these will go for an hour and the mentor is usually time conscious, so will be able to squeeze as much advice into that hour as possible. The information that you will receive will be constructive – and sometimes forthright – but is a priceless investment to your business and will steer you in the right direction.
2. DIY online business cards
Printing companies have embraced the changes of online media in recent years and offer the convenience to customers of being able to design and customise business cards online, and have them delivered straight to their door. If business owners are particular about the printing stock before committing to an order, some companies can mail out samples to test which colours, stock and sizes would suit their desired look. You can design your own in Office packages or use online software such as Moo to create these as well. An average box of 250 full colour business cards will cost under $100.
3. DIY websites
We can dispel the website myth that you need to spend thousands to build an online presence. There are hundreds of sites which offer free web template builders and customisation and minimal cost hosting. The first small outlay will be purchasing the company web domain name, usually priced at under $50 for two years. For example, www.timshardware.com.au. There are also a growing number of hosted online stores like Magento Go that offer everything you need to run an online store.
4. Social media
Probably one of the most effective marketing tools in turning around customer growth, brand profile focus and sales, is social media. Depending on your industry and type of sales/services there are a number of channels which can be taken advantage of at zero cost. We know that over 62 percent of Australians are using social media to engage and consume content. If small business owners aren’t engaging in some level of social media they may be missing out on a large percentage of customer sales.
Starting with basic social media sites (Facebook, Twitter) to launch a new online presence initially is worthwhile before investing in additional social channels which are more fine-tuned to social media needs. For further discussion on social media advice for small businesses, read the 7 Seven Deadly Social Media Sins to Avoid article.
6. Electronic newsletter
Online services such as MailChimp and AWeber offer affordable, customized and easy-to-navigate e-news software, which can be packaged for around $10 a month for an average subscription. Newsletters should be used sparingly as inundating a customer’s inbox will make them unsubscribe…and quickly. Depending on how much product or company news is viable for an electronic newsletter issue, keep distribution down to a weekly or monthly time frame if there isn’t a high turn around on new product information. This is also a good occasion to run a competition as an incentive to loyal readers, for example:
“The first ten respondents to send their name and address to our firstname.lastname@example.org will receive $50 voucher to spend at our store.”
7. Print advertising
Local press is the most cost effective way to add a classifieds listing to a regional or messenger newspaper. There are still quite a few people that rely on the trusted newspaper for finding information who aren’t internet savvy and use classified sections for finding small businesses. You can purchase a small placement ad from around $150 and may even be offered an advertorial story if you advertise regularly.
8. Targeted online advertising
If you a have a Facebook business page you will benefit most from their fan-targeted advertising. It does cost per click or for impressions but it can boost initial fan numbers when the business is in its early stages, and prices can be capped to suit individual budgets. Because advertisements are targeted to Facebook users with particular interests, you are more likely to have like-minded, genuine followers who are aligned with your business focus than most other online advertising schemes.
9. Press releases
Even if you only send out one press release during the succession of your small business marketing plan, it could leverage good media coverage and get new customers attracted to your business. For example, you may be a small business owner opening Sydney’s first solar-powered, eco-friendly café. This event may be considered newsworthy amongst local media who may pick up interest for local papers, radio, and if you’re lucky – television.
If you feel you don’t have enough of your own contacts to distribute a media release to can also pay for the one-off services of having an online PR company distribute a press release for you. For the cost of around $150 – $200 your media release can land in Google search results and can be potentially picked up by journalists if the story is newsworthy enough. But remember: don’t create a press release for the sake of it. After all, news has to be current, newsworthy, and relevant.
10. Free directories
Google receives a staggering 2.5 billion searches a day, which is potentially inclusive of new customers looking for businesses to engage with via search engine results. If your small to medium company is not listed online in a directory, you may as well be out of business. And with cost savings in mind, most business directories in Australia are free to list with and have a huge daily visitor rate. This also relates to listing your product as well as your business enterprise. Some of the top free business listings include TrueLocal, Hotfrog, Aussie Web, Google Local, and Start Local.
This article is presented by Australian Associated Motor Insurers Ltd (AAMI, ABN 92 004 791 744), the issuer of AAMI property insurance products.