Effective Marketing Tips for Entrepreneurs

Mary Fisher speaking about marketing tips sm

15 Tips for Smart Business Owners

Mary Fisher frequently speaks to groups on a number of topics. This is a presentation she delivers with the Entrepreneur students at UNF.

1) Set up your business as if you are setting it up to sell in the future. Always start with the end in mind. Don’t name your business after yourself. I believe the sales price of the business is devalued when you are ready to sell it. Create a system. Develop an operations manual for running your business. It will include employee handbook,  how to update the phone system, financial reports for each week, message on hold recordings, marketing plan, business plan. Set this up as if it were going to franchise your business, not only for the sale of your business, but just in case you have an accident and are unable to come to work for a month, which is exactly what happened to me.

2) Create a simple marketing plan and calendar. Work with an expert if you can. If you cannot afford to hire a professional to do a marketing plan for you, then sit down and do one for yourself. You can find a marketing template online: https://coschedule.com/blog/marketing-plan-samples-and-templates/ Professionals will be able to show you the most cost-effective use of your marketing dollars. They have already tested each one and know what works. The key is to effectively communicate the benefits of your products and services. Explore every avenue – advertising, public relations, brochures, social media, YouTube videos, postcards, website, digital advertising including Google PPC campaigns. Look at your calendar, determine the slow times (and put that in your electronic calendar) and market to fill those slow times at least a month in advance. Fill every week with some type of marketing effort. Not only new businesses need a marketing plan, also established businesses. Let me tell you, the years I did not do a marketing plan, I just floundered around without any real goals. (It is like getting starting with your workday without a to-do list). Remember, you don’t have to do everything in the plan all at once and, in many cases, you can implement some of the tactics yourself, at no cost. Make sure you ask your prospects and clients how they found you. Sometimes it is a number of things. They may have met you at networking, saw your ad in the Business Journal and then went to your website.  Then you will know what is working in your marketing plan and what is not. The truth is, they will probably only tell you that it was a Google search.

3) Set up a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. I use Zoho. It is customizable and you can put your prospects and customers in there. You can categorize the customers by what industry they are in, and by how they found you. You’ll put in all the pertinent information, like: contact information, when you emailed them last, or sent them a direct mail piece, when you sent them the estimate, what they purchased, who referred them to you. And you export this list as mailing labels for your postcards. When you get ready to sell your business, the prospective buyers for your business will put a great deal of emphasis on your database of customers and prospects and all of their information.

4) What is your value proposition statement and why should someone buy from you over your competition? This is one of the hardest questions to answer. Many business owners try so hard to be like the competition, instead of distinguishing your business from the competition.  In my industry, most agencies have sales people that work with the clients. In my firm, our creative talent works directly with the clients, creating no loss of communication. They can probably buy your product or service on the internet cheaper. So, why should they buy from you?  In my case, a prospect can certainly buy a cheaper website design online from India, but it will not have the marketing expertise behind it. The cheap labor in another country will not know the local competition. They will not know how to write the website so it ranks better in this area. And if your website doesn’t rank well in Jacksonville, what is the point of having one?

5) Focus on your niche market, instead of every market. Look at your client base and determine your perfect customer. People like to buy from specialty providers. You can have several niche markets. Perhaps you work with people in the healthcare industry, or small businesses, or women-owned businesses, or multi-cultural businesses. We currently have 5 different postcards, 2 different brochures and 2 different business cards that target different audiences or products. The business cards have different color backs so I can tell the difference. I hear people say, I hired you because you specialize in my industry.

6) Business card, logo design. You never have a second chance to make a good first impression. Remember your logo design is part of your intellectual property.  It is part of the value of your business when you get ready to sell it. Don’t hire an offshore company that may create logos that cannot be trademarked because they are so similar to another logo, or because they used clip art. Have your business card designed that is unique. Use the back of the card to list what you do.  Print a business card for every employee. It makes them feel important and they will give them out to friends and spread your business name around. Our business cards are square and are on a very heavy stock that people remember.  We had a new chiropractor client who showed us her business card. Her business card looked exactly the same as the business card of  hairdresser we knew. And they were both at the same networking meeting  (WBO) passing out cards. Both business cards were done by Vista Print with one of their templates.  So, be careful, this can happen.

7) Website. Make sure you own your domain name and your website. Some of the less expensive website companies will actually own your domain name and all of the assets of the website.  If you try to move your website to a different hosting, or get access to the root of the site, you may not be able to. Many small business owners have learned this the hard way.  For instance, we had a client whose site was done by the phone company. They did not pay a lot for it upfront, but paid a monthly fee…indefinitely. When they wanted to move the site to different hosting, they could not. And indeed, they did not own their domain name. And no other ad agency could update the site for them. Also, have your website developed so you can update it yourself. The more copy-rich updates you make, the higher it will rank. Add downloadable white papers to your site (for instance: 10 mistakes people make when looking for a nursing home) and capture email addresses to send email blasts to.  Make sure your website has some good Search Engine Optimization (for Google ranking). After all, if your website is not ranking well on Google, what is the point in having one?  You will need a professional to help you with this piece.  Google doesn’t publish the rule book on how to make your website rank well. After all Google makes its money on pay-per-click ads.  They want you to have to pay them each time someone clicks on your ad. This can supplement your strategy, but your focus should be on ranking organically, without paying Google. Don’t hire someone from another country to do this. They don’t know the relevant cities, cultures, regions, keyword phrases for our area.

8) Advertise. You may need to touch your prospects about 8 times before they buy from you. Advertise consistently and in the right places. If your clients are builders, advertise in the builder magazines (either print or online), attend the groups builders belong to.  We run our healthcare ad in the healthcare section of the Jacksonville Business Journal. We will also run it in the Top Docs issue of Jacksonville Magazine. 

9) Social media. Establish social media accounts for your business: Facebook, Google My Business (which is also Google maps), Linkedin, YouTube, Twitter, even Instagram and Pinterest if it works for your business.  While Facebook is very important, Google maps is most important. It is now ranking on an internet search before the organic website listings. And on your phones as well. Be sure to put your website on each source. It will help your search engine ranking. Reach out and touch old customers and friends through these sources. Ask a colleague to “make an introduction” through LinkedIn. Ask clients to post a recommendation for you or your business on Facebook and Linkedin. Post a YouTube video and link it to your website (super important for your Google rankings). Did you know you can make money on your YouTube videos if it gets a lot of visitors? Run some Facebook ads. It used to be that if you had a business Facebook account and had 100 people who liked it, that most of those people would see those posts. But Facebook has changed. Now only 2% of the people will see your posts. So, do some Facebook ads. Facebook is affordable and you can target people you think may be interested: for instance, men, ages 25-50, lives in Jacksonville (or within a zip code) and interested in anything that pertains to your business, like gardening, finance, etc). And you can choose to pay Facebook only when the viewer clicks on your ad. You will want to get some Facebook ad training. Its not as easy as it once was. You can write a post on Facebook and boost it for $25. It will be seen by 1000s more people than just the people who like your business on Facebook. And the ad will be displayed to their friends, and to their friends’ friends. Did you know that Facebook is “listening” to your conversations? And it is using that information to data mine. Then they can serve up ads to you they think is pertinent to. I saw it happen to me. Then they talked about it on WJXT. Facebook will not confirm nor deny this. But in the iPhone operating systems, you can see facebook has a microphone that is on. You can turn it off. I like it on, then I can monitor what it is showing me.  Amazon devices are also listening. What about your Xfinity remote?

10) Send a press release or article to the media (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio). They won’t pay you, but it will bring credibility to your business.Position yourself as an expert. The news media is begging for stories. Look in the newspaper and magazines and determine which writer is suited for your type of story. If you are not a writer, rough out a story and have a professional writer or public relations professional finish the work for you. And even consider running a paid column (advertorial) in the paper, if you need to. A story in a publication has more credibility than a display ad.  Also send this press release/article to your clients. And add it to your website and social media. If you have new hires or have won some awards you can send it to the Times Union and they will post a short mention at no cost on the Career Track page. Send those submissions to Julie Kanner: jkanner@jacksonville.com. The Business Journal will also post it in their People on The Move section, but they are charging $250 to do it, and $500 for featured listing: Submit to http://bizj.us/1pb77r.

11) Pay a commission for professional referrals. Consider paying a commission to related businesses for referrals. A 5-10% commission is a good incentive. I personally pay a 10% commission to people in related businesses. So, if a marketing, printing, public relations, sign business professional sends me a new client, I send them a 10% commission on every job, for the life of the business.  For referrals for people who do not want a commission, I send a gift, like custom notecards or a cross pen.

12) Sales and public speaking. We never graduated from college and thinking we would be a salesperson.  Like it or not, we are all salespeople. And you had better get good at it. Get a little training on sales and on public speaking. The two go hand-in-hand.  Speaking is selling. There are a number of good audio books available on sales. https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/best-audiobooks. The most valuable lesson I have learned, is  to pause when you speak, to give the listener time to digest your message. Try not to overwhelm with too much information and professional jargon. Also remember  to ask for the business.  You don’t have to close the business, but let the prospect know you would like to work with them.

13) Communicate with your existing client base, especially when your workflow is slow. Find out how they’re doing and ask what you can do to help them stay on course. Ask for referrals. Send them a postcard or note reminding them of all of your services. Touch base with them via phone, email, direct mail (postcards, brochures).  You’ll be surprised to find out how many of them will say, “I was just about to call you.” Or “I knew you did Landscaping, but I didn’t know you did hardscaping.”

14) Choose a mentor, hire a professional business coach. Find an individual that can help you. Choose someone successful, someone well connected. Ask for their help. My mentor helped me do more in the television and radio arena than I had done before. I chose a mentor that helped me close a deal on my largest account. I also paid her a commission on any jobs she brought me. Later, when she lost her job, I hired her. And I have worked with many business coaches over the years. I worked with a sales coach, a coach that helped with employee motivation and problems, a coach that specializes in work/life balance, a coach that helped me with goal setting and setting up my customer relationship management system. I have also worked with coaches and groups that specialize in my industry. And of course, there is the SBDC (Small Business Development Center at UNF). I personally enjoy mentoring/coaching many college students and new entrepreneurs. We allow students, recent graduates, to come in and shadow with us. After all,  the more I teach, the more I learn.

15) Ask for a testimonial from your clients, if they are happy with your work. Send them a link to Google maps reviews or Yelp.  Focus on the personal contact.  Here is a sample testimonial/review request  I wrote for a client: Dear ____________________Thank you for your recent project with XXXX company. We strive to make sure your project is perfect in every way. If you have had a good experience with XXXX company, would you mind giving us an excellent review on Google Maps (you will need a gmail email address): Paste the direct Google Maps Link Hereor please give us an excellent review on Yelp: Paste the direct Google Maps Link Here. If your experience was not satisfactory, would you mind emailing us back or calling us at __________________ and letting us know how we can improve?Thank you so much for your business and your time to do a review for us. President, XXXX companyRecently I have heard several prospects say they called me because I  had quite a few good reviews on Google maps, Yelp, or Facebook.  It can be a differentiator. Some of the review sites are now not showing the old reviews. So, continue to get more good reviews. Make sure you have current ones. The more reviews you have on Google Maps, the higher your Google map listing will rank. 

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