Marketing on a tight budget

There has never been a better time to be a small business in Australia. With a total of 2.1 million businesses1 in Australia, there’s roughly one business for every 10 people in the country. Combined with the government’s recent investment announcements, it’s an exciting time to be running a small business.

But with all this interest comes an increase in competition. With competitors around every corner, it becomes tough to stand out in the crowd, especially with a small marketing budget. But if you know what you’re doing, staying ahead of the competition and publicising your product or service doesn’t have to cost a bomb to be effective.

We pulled together the best marketing brains in our business to provide our top six tips on how to market your business in this competitive environment.

An article by American Express.

1. Network

It may be one of the oldest tricks in the book, but it works for a reason. Getting out there and meeting people is one of the best and most cost-effective ways to build brand awareness. Networking events allow you to meet like-minded people – whether potential customers, suppliers or employees – and helps to put a face to your business. There’s nothing like a face to make sure people remember you, and to open up important communication channels.Networking doesn’t have to just be face-to-face. Online forums and blogs present great opportunities to network with other entrepreneurs and small business owners. You can also target potential clients online. Just remember that not every communication channel is an opportunity to pitch a sale. Keep your conversation authentic and value-adding.

2. Grow referrals

A growing business can’t afford to ignore the effectiveness of referrals. Call it gossip or simple human behaviour, but talking is the best way to spread good reviews and recommendations. Of course, that goes both ways; if a customer’s experience is bad, they’ll be even more likely to talk about it.A great way to bring in referrals is to offer a discount or an extra value service for people who refer other clients.Referrals don’t have to be word of mouth – you can always invite satisfied customers to share their story on Facebook or Twitter, or for permission to post their feedback on your website. These are all important business traffic drivers.

3. Open up your website

There are a surprisingly large number of small businesses that don’t have a website, or if they do, it is stale and out-of-date. Your website is usually your customer’s first interaction with your business, so make sure it represents you properly.Your website should be engaging, easy to navigate, and should keep visitors up to date with what’s going on in your business. Make sure your message is clear and simple (no one wants to read pages and pages worth of text), and if that means getting some help with copywriting – it will be money well spent.Make sure your website is also optimised so that search engines like Google and Bing can find you easily. Make your content discovery and viral sharing easy with tools like SEO plugin kits, easy social media buttons and basic analytic tools. If you want to take it a step further, targeted search engine advertising can be a great driver of traffic.

4. Be social

Having a social media presence isn’t optional anymore – it’s a basic tool for all businesses. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or a blog, it’s a fantastic (free) tool to build your network and share product information.You can also use social network management apps like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to schedule your messages, to make management easy. Integrating with Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see what resonates, and make adjustments in real-time.The trick with social media is to be authentic and to keep your audience at the heart of your message. The golden rule? Why would they care and why would they share? Make sure everything you post adds some type of value to your customers and prospects.

5. Embrace an expert

Who are the influential thought leaders in your industry? And what are the hot topics that are making people tick? Actively reach out to these individuals (perhaps they are bloggers, journalists or social media influencers) with topical, relevant information that relates to your business.With interesting insights at hand, they can review your product or service.. You can always add a sweetener to the deal, like a special offer for their readers. Follow up the review by sharing their content across your social media channels for extra credibility.

6. Use existing networks

When it comes to marketing your business, you don’t have to go it alone. There are a huge number of Australian platforms and initiatives available for small business owners to promote their businesses to eager customers. An example is American Express’ annual Shop Small initiative, where we rally communities and encourage the nation to shop at local businesses that are at the heart of our communities. With the ability to promote your business to American Express Card Members, you’ll be among some of the most forward-thinking small businesses in the country.

In 2014, Shop Small saw American Express Card Members shopping at small businesses over 3 million times2 during November. So by participating in initiatives like Shop Small, you’re opening up your doors to more business. See more at shopsmallaustralia.com

With these handy hints, you’ll be well on your way to attracting and retaining more customers, in order to build and grow your successful business.

Attracting and retaining customers is the number one priority for building and growing a successful business. As an American Express accepting merchant, you can access programs and tools to help keep them coming back, which means more profit and opportunities for you.

To activate your terminal and start accepting American Express today call 1300 363 614.

For more information or support regarding your existing American Express account, or to access a range of tools and programs visit americanexpress.com.au/powerhouse or call 1300 363 614.

References:

1 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8165.0

2 Shop Small statistics based on American Express internal data from the Shop Small campaign 2014.

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