Most small businesses get by without putting very much deliberate thought into marketing. A lot of business owners will proudly proclaim that they don’t do any marketing; they get all of their business from referrals. This is definitely something to be proud of since it means they have built a business and have happy customers. That’s a huge accomplishment.
On the other hand, it’s likely they are severely limiting their growth potential. Most small businesses can only grow so big by relying on a passive flow of customers from referrals. When times get tough, this strategy is especially debilitating because it doesn’t offer a lot of avenues for proactively bringing in new customers. A good marketing strategy will help your business grow and it can make your business recession-resistant, if not recession-proof. It’s also empowering because you are taking deliberate, proactive steps towards reaching your business goals.
The thing is, you actually already ARE marketing your business in a variety of ways, even if you aren’t doing it intentionally. The shirt that you choose to wear to work, the car that you drive to a client’s business or the way you keep your reception area are all forms of marketing. They create an impression in the minds of your customers and prospects. Are they creating the impression you want?
This is the essence of “branding”. What impression does your business create in the minds of its customers?
If you aren’t creating an impression proactively, then it will occur by default. Everyone is going to form an impression of your business, it’s just a question of how actively you are participating in the creation of that impression. Unfortunately, default impressions are often not the best impression you could create because they are usually made up of unconscious or low effort decisions. For example, you wore a casual shirt to work one day because you didn’t think you had any meetings scheduled for that day. Too bad that was the day that a big new prospect decided to make an impromptu visit! Or, you’ve left your website the way it is for 3 years because you just haven’t found the time (or money) to update it. How many prospective customers stopped by your website during that time and got a less than favorable impression of your company?
Building a great brand starts with deciding what impression you want to create and then filtering everything you do in your business and everything that your customers or prospects see or hear about your business through that impression. Give deliberate thought to all of it and make changes where it makes sense to do so. Change your sign. Clean up the reception area. Create a uniform dress policy. After that, the question is “what else can you do?”. Does it make sense to advertise in some way? Do you need new business cards or a logo? Is your website sorely in need of help?
It’s not always clear what will create the most bang for your buck when it comes to marketing your business. Like so much of business, it can be trial and error. A good marketing person will be able to advise you on things that have worked for other businesses like yours. This should give you a head start and perhaps help you avoid common pitfalls. But ultimately, you will have to take some risks and spend some money to see what really works for your business. If you do, you will eventually develop a strategy that enables you to acquire new customers at a cost that is less than what you earn from those customers. At that point you have a formula for growth.
May all of your pains in business being growing pains!