One of the hardest things about running your own business is ensuring that the right people know about you and can be persuaded to part with their cash. Here are seven ways to find and grow your customer base when you are targeting your services at a business audience:
If the thought of the phone terrifies you, use social media and business networking to reach out.
And don't forget your existing customers. Create some simple categories such as VIPs, those that have the potential to buy more and lapsed customers. VIP customers warrant your extra care and attention; a customer that buys irregularly warrants some extra marketing nudges to encourage them to buy more; and a lapsed customer is not necessarily a lost customer.
In short, targeting saves time and it generates cost effective sales, so don't short-change your business with a scattergun approach.
Copyright © 2015 Dee Blick, Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Marketing and an Amazon #1 bestselling author of The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book and The 15 Essential Marketing Masterclasses for your Small Business.
So you've decided to start a business and join over 4.9 million other small businesses in the UK. You've got an amazing company name and you've bought the website domain. You've a great idea for a product or service and you know your potential customer base. Now just how do you let them know you exist?
Some start-ups are lucky enough to have a client list from day one. Often they have spun out of an existing business or they already know someone looking to buy what they can provide. Other new companies have to work harder to attract their first customers. Once are up and running, the next issue is how to continue their turnover growth and reach a wider audience, with limited marketing funds.
In today's business environment, clients and prospects expect certain marketing elements to be in place. Without them, a start-up can't be seen to compete with established businesses.
The marketing communications mix can seem daunting to many non-marketers. Direct mail, advertising, publicity, PR, packaging and sales promotion can seem daunting. They are not. Marketing is simple if you keep in mind your target audience, the message to be conveyed and the action(s) you want clients to take. Thanks to the internet, most entrepreneurs can kick off their own marketing plans on a small budget and with limited promotional experience.
The first step in any new marketing campaign is to get the logo right. You'll also need a strapline; a phrase that encapsulates what you do and that will underpin your marketing strategy for the long term. Freelance websites provide a low-cost way to get bids for logo design work. Website domain sellers offer technologies for website design and hosting, sometimes for free or charged for on a monthly basis, often with search engine optimisation as well.
The next step is social media. Most people already use social media and so marketing their new business comes easily to them. You can follow online guides to set up your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn pages. Link them where possible and post relevant content to build a following. It's also worth using Google Adwords but be careful to test and start with a small budget.
Many new businesses also find that promotional merchandise helps them to establish their name within a local area or sector. Here, success lies in working with a promotional gifts distributor and selecting the right products to brand with your logo and contact details. Then it's all about getting them out to your target audience - through exhibitions, sales visits, meetings and via mailshots, introductory letters and flyers.
Imagine the impact of handing out 1,000 items branded with your company details to potential clients and seeing a high prospect to new client conversion rate. That's the power of promotional merchandise.
When you are setting up a new business, one of the biggest challenges is finding your target audience and making them aware of what you have to offer. This can be daunting but, by following this step-by-step guide, you can identify and target the perfect potential clientele for your business.
It’s vital to understand who you think will want to buy what you are offering - based on everything from gender and age to geographical location. Are your products or services only available in one location, or can they be distributed on a larger scale? It's often worth brainstorming with a few close friends and family to build up a picture of who is most likely to become a valued customer.
You should then delve deeper into your audience segmentation, as there may be a psychographic (values, attitudes and personality traits) aspect to your audience insight. Is there a potential market among people with a particular lifestyle or demographic, such as high-earners or young professionals?
Think of this process as a funnel; at the top you have the broader segments, such as gender and age. Each segment thereafter is more detailed and focused, such as where they live, their values and personal attitudes. This will help you to build up a detailed picture of who you are targeting and give an idea of how to reach them.
For example, if you are an IT contractor your target audience is likely to be businesses that have a knowledge gap in their workforce. According to the Nixon Williams Contractor Survey, 85% of contractors in the UK are male, so your advertising efforts are more likely to be male-focused.
Now think about the kind of businesses that might require your services; what do you offer that is most in demand? For IT contractors, this could be website and online support or back-end system development.
Once you have a target clientele in mind, the next step is to think about how you are going to reach them. With any client communication, it’s important to think about what type of client they are, whether they are existing customers, new prospects or a previous client. By segmenting your customers this way you can target your offers appropriately, whether you are trying to lure back lapsed customers or attract brand new ones.
There are a host of channels you can use in order to reach your audience, from social media to email marketing. You simply need to find out which channels your prospects use the most.
When it comes to marketing copy, you need to show the client what your services can do to solve a problem they have. This is where you can often tailor your message to different customer segments, including business and consumer clients.
Your marketing messages should be in line with your branding strategy; they need to be direct and easy to remember. A great example is Apple’s "Think Different" tagline; it's short, concise, to the point and, most of all, memorable.
If you are an IT contractor, there are lots of other ways to ensure that you are marketing yourself effectively. For example:
Practice makes perfect; keep refining this process until you have a strategy that works for you. Above all, keep gathering knowledge on your clients' preferences, including how they receive their news.
On-going research on your target market will help you determine who is more likely to buy as well as the type of marketing methods they will respond to.
Copyright © 2016 Rachel Smith, technical writer at Nixon Williams' Vantage Online Accounting.
2015 seems to have flown by; we've certainly been busy here at Donut HQ covering small business news, publishing expert blogs and adding to our ever-expanding library of marketing resources for small business owners.
We know you've been busy too - when you run your own business it can feel as if there are never enough hours in the day. So if you are pushed for time but you want to read the best marketing advice and inspiration for small firms, check out our pick of the top ten blogs of 2016 (below).
We're planning lots more content in 2016, including a raft of new articles on ecommerce coming in the spring. So do come back in 2016 for more news, views and advice.
In the meantime, we'd like to thank all of you for supporting Marketing Donut - it's your insights, comments, blogs and tweets that make the Donuts such a fantastic resource for UK small businesses. We'd especially like to thank all our experts and bloggers that have generously shared their knowledge with us.
And, of course, thanks to you all for visiting, reading our content and sharing it. If there's anything you'd like to see in the future, please let us know.
We'll be back on 4 January with more news, articles, blogs, tweets, offers and advice - everything you need to help you run your business better.
Have a great Christmas and a fun new year!
The Marketing Donut team
Mike Southon: How to grow your business when you've hit a brick wall
Emma Pauw: Mastering the art of social listening
Shweta Jhajharia: How to qualify leads in just ten minutes
Eric Moeller: 18 ways to talk to your customers on social media
Ashley Carr: How to get journalists on side
Grant Leboff: How to make your customers the heroes on social media
And what's interesting is that the pop-up shop in particular is providing a significant boost to the UK economy, contributing £2.3bn a year and with revenues growing by 12.3% last year in this sector.
The UK is currently home to more than 10,000 pop-ups and the report reveals that it's not just start-ups that are interested in the pop-up concept; many established businesses are also keen to open up a pop-up extension of their current business.
Pop-up stores are a flexible add-on to a fixed retail space. They can serve as an extra outlet for your best-selling products or a short-term retail space allowing you to connect with new audiences and test out new products in new areas.
For a growing business, this is a prime opportunity and, as this latest research shows, there's no need to miss out on the pop-up trend just because you already have an established business.
If you want to grow your small business, testing the market with a pop-up extension is a great way to start. But there are two key things to consider before doing so:
Pop-up businesses cannot rely on a cash point machine being nearby. Consumers now pay by card more than they have ever done before; they will expect to be able to pay by card, so don't lose business by only accepting cash
All retail businesses, pop-ups included, need to invest in an electronic point of sale terminal (ePOS) and card machine. Not only is this more convenient to your customer but this will also limit the liability that comes with storing cash at your temporary premises or in a vehicle overnight.
It's important to manage a pop-up with the same proficiency and standard of customer service as you would with a permanent, established business. Aim to capture as much data as possible and analyse it; learn what works and what doesn't and tweak your business strategy accordingly.
Wherever you are selling your goods, you should be able to ascertain when to offer discounts and how to target them and be able to track inventory to make sure you always have the right stock. This doesn't have to be difficult; you'll find plenty of low-cost business apps available via the cloud that you can access from anywhere.
Running a pop-up on a short or long-term business will no doubt be a valuable learning experience. We recently ran a survey across 1,000 UK small business owners and found that that one third of respondents set up their own business because they wanted something more "exciting" than a normal day job - the pop-up phenomenon offers just that.
Copyright © 2015 Raj Sond, general manager of First Data Merchant Solutions.
In a world where we are becoming increasingly isolated and where chats on social media are taking the place of face-to-face conversations, the search for a human connection is increasingly important.
It's that feeling of being connected to someone or something that makes things matter and gives us a sense of belonging. So, when a business - big or small - chooses to work with a charity (or a number of charities), it is taking a positive step in building that "connectedness".
People are much more likely to feel a connection to a specific cause than they are to a commercial enterprise. So, when a business starts working alongside a charity, it is portraying itself in a much more human and personable manner, which can only be a great thing - and there are various reasons why:
If a business is looking to grow (and what business isn't?), bringing onboard a charity can be a great move. As soon as that business links up with a specific charity, it will be adding to its audience of potential customers or clients. Of course, it works both ways and the charity will benefit from an increased target audience too.
Furthermore, when a business chooses to team up with a number of different charities, as is the case with Instantprint and its Christmas card campaign, even more potential audience avenues are opened up.
When a business links up with a charity, the benefits of such a partnership aren't just felt on the outside. Yes, it's going to be beneficial for the business to be seen as a supporter of charitable causes, but it can make a real difference to the inner workings of the company too.
For instance, getting employees involved in fundraising for your chosen charity won't only raise vital funds, it will also help to build relationship between individuals within the company. Teams can bond, members of staff can get to know each other better and the sense of "doing something good" can only help to boost staff morale.
The number of businesses and charities taking the decision to partner up is certainly on the rise, and perhaps a cynic's view of this could be down to the fact that when a business gives to charity it is entitled to certain tax relief from the UK Government. However, while this can certainly help to lower the amount of tax paid, it can hardly be looked upon as an easy way to cut the tax bill, and certainly won't be saving bucket loads of cash as the money you may have given to the tax man will have instead gone to charity.
Despite all of the different benefits a business can enjoy when it teams up with a charity, the main one has to be that feeling of "doing something good". According to research, giving to charity makes us feel better - happier even - and what better reason is there than that?
Copyright © 2015 Amy Woodcock.