Do you ever feel like some small businesses just have some kind of four-leaf clover in their pockets?
Some small businesses really are meant for greatness, while others are just really great at marketing. For example, I learned recently that Ahi Tuna is the lowest quality grade of tuna that you can order at a sushi place. Fortunately for sushi joints, Ahi Tuna is well marketed, making sushi-lovers squeal over Ahi Tuna rolls rather than their quietly prestigious Blue Fin Tuna counterparts.
For today, start acting like the Ahi Tuna.
Tip #1. Become wildly successful in your mind
I once told a room full of marketers that marketing is like becoming the Medicine Man of your business. They laughed, because it was true and we all know it. If you act like something is selling like hotcakes, then eventually it will sell like hotcakes. While it’s important to maintain a level of personal interaction with your customers, it will not do you any favors to tell people that the most beautiful lamps in your shop have been collecting dust for five years.
If they really are the most beautiful lamps in your shop, then you’ll want to reword your dialog to emphasize the fact that the lamps they’ve been gawking at may not be in stock for long. Hey, if they’ve been on the shelves for five years, you may very well have the last ones available! Additionally, if you offer any handmade goods or even services, it’s recommended that you raise your prices, as customers relate price to value. Sad, but true.
Tip #2. Make business cards and bring them everywhere
Small boutique jewelry and clothing stores can gain a lot from this technique. For example, just last weekend I was at a local festival. At the festival, I saw a girl with a beautiful feather headband. Scurrying over to get a closer look, I had to just go ahead and ask her where she got it. Guess what happened next? She handed me her business card, which had an address for her storefront, and a link to her online store. And yes, I bought a headband.
Tip #3. Team up with other small businesses
It’s a crucial step in your marketing plan to make friends that can help you. Find as many ways as you can to build mutually beneficial business relationships.
A great example of this method is from Sally Bowers, an “Integrated Energy Therapist” at Blue Butterfly of Hope. She rents a room at a beauty and health center along with hairstylists, massage therapists, nail designers and the like. In an effort to promote her services, she offered a free energy session to everyone who worked at the center. In return, she’s gained a 50% increase in new customer referrals from these folks alone. On top of that, the colleagues that she worked on have told other people in their professional circles, who have not only become clients, but sent even more clients her way.
Another example is from Shannon Grant, a photographer who partnered with a wedding planner, makeup artist, model, florist, cake shop and other boutique wedding shops to create a full-on “inspiration shoot”. The photos from this shoot ended up being featured on a few well-recognized wedding blogs, providing free promotion for all of the businesses involved.
Tip #4. Leverage social media and connect with local influencers
I could pile case study after case study on top of you for this one, but you won’t be happy about it until you start using social media yourself. Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook can be your greatest means of free marketing.
For example, a friend of mine was recently looking to get the newly popular Feather Hair Extensions installed in her hair. After looking at numerous websites, she decided to click on a link to the Facebook profile of Split Ends Hair Salon. She was immediately able to see photos of customers with the hair extensions and read the flattering “thank-you’s” that customers had written on their wall. Needless to say, that’s where she made her appointment.
Tip #5. Host events and get togethers
No matter what type of small business you run, you can probably find a way to get people into your business one way or another. Bookstores can host book clubs, invite local authors and poets to come in and read, or partner with coffee shops to have a coffee + books social hour. Sports bars have unlimited opportunities to give people a reason to party during sporting events. Liquor stores can host wine and liquor tastings. Even boutique shops can host little jewelry or accessory parties in a Lia Sophia type of style. Here in Rhode Island, it’s not uncommon to find a gym that will offer Yoga on the beach and open to everyone. Natural Fitness in Narragansett has seen classes up to 40 people on any random morning.
The more work you put into anything, the more you will gain from it. Implementing any of these low-cost small business marketing ideas will take a little elbow grease and a change of habits, but you are certain to reap the rewards.