As a start-up business, chances are that one particular resource is very scarce: Money. Applying the basic rules of Social Marketing, on the Internet but also in the real World, does not cost a lot of money, is a common sense approach and yields very good results.
As a matter of fact, I dare to say that every small business that actually survived their first three years, has gotten most of the Social Marketing right. Those who don’t, will likely disappear.
What qualifies me to talk about Social Marketing and small business start-ups? Well, I have been there, walked the walk and as the owner of a website design and online marketing firm, have proven myself in a highly contested market for over 11 years.
1. Word of Mouth Rules
2. People Like to Do Business With People They Like
3. Create Win-Win Situations
4. Stay on Message
5. Treat All Clients The Same
You can throw all the money you want at any form of advertising or marketing campaign but you can't beat the positive effect of Word of Mouth or compensate for the negative effects of bad reputation. Before you do anything else: Serve the customers you have well and they will be very happy to talk positively about your business.
New customers will walk up to your door steps, pre-sold, already trusting you and eager to spend their money with you. Make the positive effects of Word of Mouth work for you. Ask your customers for a review of your services and post it on your website. New visitors to your website love to read testimonials and reviews because they want to feel you out. If they trust you from what they can see, they are more likely to contact you and become a paying customer.
In order for people to like you and your business, they have to get to know you first. Introducing yourself to potential customers in an organized manner is commonly referred to as networking. Networking may be time consuming but here is the good news: For the most part networking is not very expensive. Most business communities offer plenty of great networking opportunities. It is up to you to seek them out and find out which ones work best for you. Here are a few tips:
Use your website to talk about your networking efforts, your volunteering and your pro bono work. Potential customers want to know that you are well rooted in your community and not an outcast. If they see that you are likable, they will also like you.
Nothing will generate more goodwill towards you and your business than your honest efforts to create win-win situations for you and your clients. Are you planning to go on a business show? Ask a good client of yours to partner up with you and share a booth if the offerings of the two businesses complement each other. It doesn’t costs you anything, or even reduces your own costs, but your client will be delighted that you have thought of them and included them in your plans. Share a networking event with a client: You get the food, they pick up the drinks. You get the idea. Win-win situations are great. Be perceived as someone who is easy to do business with, who is good-willed and looks for benefits not just for yourself but for everybody concerned. Soon you will enjoy an excellent reputation and people will talk positively of you. This is when the positive effects of Word of Mouth starts to kick in.
People will observe you and see if you will qualify as a trustworthy expert in your field. When they have arrived at the point where your prospects’ trust exceeds their scepticism, they are willing to give you and your services a shot.
Work hard to reach the expert stage. It won’t happen overnight, but if you stay on message, if your marketing efforts are consistent, believable and trustworthy, you will get to reap in the benefits. However, you should avoid sending mixed and contradicting messages or jeopardize your expert status by throwing out random things and hope something will stick.
Don't you hate it: You had that contract with that telecom company and they treated you so poorly that you went with the competition when your contract expired? Now that you are gone, you are on their marketing list and you get phone calls and letters day in and day out: "We want you back. We offer you a hefty rebate and free this and that."
Well, they should have treated you right in the first place when you were their customer and paid for their expensive service through your bloody nose. Don't make the same mistake: Treat your customers well while they are being loyal to your business. Customers hate nothing more than having to pay more for the same product or service than somebody just did. Also, they hope being treated better than those that aren't your customers. If you want to give away freebees, include your paying customers.
To wrap it up: My five basic rules are a common-sense approach towards Social Marketing for small businesses, especially for those that don't have a ton of money. Treat people well, and you will be noticed and treated back equally well. Stick to your guns and make your dream become true!
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