Small business owners are hungry for the very next customer to walk into their store. Every customer is important, and if treated correctly, good customers refer more customers thanks to their positive experience. Big corporations rely on winning customers, too, but the volume of potential customers walking through their doors every day lessens the impact of not closing every sale.
Big companies have entire departments dedicated to marketing their products. They craft press releases and pitch products to media outlets. How can the small business owner -- who already wears the hats of owner, top salesman, and bookkeeper -- maximize his limited marketing dollars and time?
Use Social Media to Drive Customer Interaction
To maximize your time and money spent on marketing, look to the internet. There are a wide variety of tools that potential customers use to find a business like yours. You need to be able to stand out from the crowd to earn the trust of your customers. Here are a few strategies to help you maximize the impact to your bottom line.
Offer an Outrageous or Daily Deal
Groupon, LivingSocial, and DealChicken are just a few daily deal websites that offer drastically reduced deals to customers. Companies are tempted to use these services thanks to the huge influx of new customers that are willing to try out the product at a huge discount. Be careful using this strategy - the cost of doing a daily deal is astounding. Typical deals are 50% off the regular price, with the marketing company getting an additional 50% of what's left. That adds up to 25% of the revenue you would normally receive from a new customer. But companies are willing to try this if the deal is break-even or slightly unprofitable thanks to the huge rush of new customers.
Don't want to risk a huge loss with a Groupon deal? Consider offering a daily or weekly deal on your website. You could offer the same 50% off on that product or service and still net more revenue than you would with a daily deal website.
Respond to Reviews
One of the fastest indicator of a savvy business owner to a customer is responding to reviews online. Reviews are seemingly posted everywhere, but some major review sites have smart phone apps such as urbanspoon and Yelp!. You should respond both to positive (to thank them and welcome them back with a discount) and negative reviews (to apologize and try to make it right) whenever possible. If a new customer pulls up your profile on the review website and sees an engaged owner, they may be more drawn to try you out. And don't forget to leave reminders at your cash register or exit for customers to review their experience online.
Have Social Links on Your Website
Just as you should leave reminders for customers to review you on their way out the door, you should make it easy for them to share their experience online. Setting up a Facebook page and Twitter account is relatively easy; the main problem is finding time to monitor and engage with customers there. Don't let social media sites sap all of your time and energy, but even spending 15-30 minutes per day responding and posting to these two main sites can reap rewards.
Reap Word of Mouth Revenue
The three strategies above are all focused on generating positive word of mouth marketnig. Getting your customers to talk up your business and refer their friends to you is the best type of marketing you could ever ask for. When a friend refers someone to your business, the likelihood they end up trying it out is much higher than a print or radio ad. So engage with your customers, get them talking about you, deliver a quality product or service, and nudge them in the direction of talking you up.