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Marketing strategy without a marketing budget

I recently had a consultation with a potential client as to how our company can add value to his business. I asked him what his goals are and he immediately answered that he wants to be rich and that he believes that his business can  make more money. I told him that we can help his business increase its revenue, and asked numerous questions about his business and customers. From our consultation, I pointed out areas in his business which he wasn’t making use of, that had potential revenue.

In the current economic climate, most businesses are looking at how they can increase their revenue with little cost. A number of small businesses have little or no marketing budget so they have to look for non-traditional ways of increasing revenue. In addition, others don’t know where to start nor have the time needed to look for creative marketing avenues.

During business consultations with clients, I always ask questions about their business, their clients, the structure and the services they offer. Every suggestion I offer is tailored to the type of business that they have; however, their concerns are always the same – they all want to increase revenue, to increase customers and the services they offer.
The main theme I have found is that after their customers have purchased their product/services, a number of businesses don’t seem to know how to make use of the customers that they have.

I have therefore summarised below what I believe are some of the most important aspects of increasing a business revenue and services with little cost.

Know Your Customers

For the most part, businesses offer products and services that add value to their customers lives in one way or the other and as such their customers remain fairly loyal. However some small business owners don’t seem to know or fully make use of the value that the customers can bring to their business.

First of all, as a business owner you must know who your customers are, irrespective of whether they are individuals or businesses. You should know exactly how many customers you have, what they do, where they’re based, how they spend and possibly why they spend.

You may feel that this information too much and isn’t needed but it can help you improve your business, ultimately enabling you to provide a better and additional service to your clients resulting in increased revenue.

If there is one thing you should take from this article, it’s that ‘the best source of additional business is the existing customer base of a business and every business must learn how to utilise their customer base’.

If you have all the above information about your customers then you can find out any additional services/products that they may want or need.

Customer Service

In addition to knowing your customers, you absolutely must provide excellent customer service. I cannot emphasise this enough, no matter how great your service is, how much information you have on your customers, if your customer service is poor or even average, your revenue will be poor or below average.

Personally, I’ve stopped going to shops where their staff have been rude or even indifferent to me; even when these places have been cheaper or closer to me than their competitors. I’ve chosen not to spend my money in these places; in addition, I’ve told friends about my experiences and some have also stopped shopping in these places. This is the power that customers have over businesses.

On the other hand, I’ve consistently gone to shops, salons and restaurants where the staff have been helpful, attentive and have politely offered additional services to me (rather than shoved it down my throat); even when their products have been more expensive. I’ve told friends and family about how wonderful these establishments are; telling them that the price is worth the service/product that they receive.

It should be mentioned that customer service is not only how you treat your customers but also the appearance and quality of your product/service, irrespective of whether it’s a tangible product or an ecommerce one, like a website; your product/service must look very good and provide value to your targeted market.

The things mentioned here are obvious – everyone likes to feel valued and if a business continually makes their customers feel valued, then the customers are less likely to go to their competitors and more likely to refer other people to their business. However, the reality is that these things are very easy to overlook when you are faced with the daily reality of running your business.

Referrals

Referrals are the best and cheapest way to spread an awareness of your business and increase revenue. Your customers are the ones who are best placed to refer people to your business; but this won’t happen if your customer knowledge and service is poor and if you don’t frequently keep in touch with your customers.

A business can get lots of free PR from customers by offering a great service and staying in touch with their current customers and re-activating any old customers, whether it’s by email, mail shots, text, etc. The best way to get referrals from your customers is similar to the best way to get anything – ASK.

Ask your customers whether they are happy and satisfied with the products/services that you have offered and if they are, ask them whether they know two or three people who they think might be interested in your services; it’s that simple. I know some business owners who are hesitant about asking their customers for referrals; however, it’s doesn’t seem wise to spend money on marketing if you don’t have in place a working referral system for your business; a referral system should be part of your marketing strategy.

I always advise my clients to consistently ask for feedback and referrals. Customer feedback is all about making sure that the customer is completely satisfied with your product/service and looking for ways to improve your business. Once the customer sees that the business genuinely wants to provide a better service as a result of the feedback, the customer is more likely to oblige and possibly refer your business to others as a business that continually wants to improve its services for its customers.

You may even take things further by offering a discount, gift or free service (depending on your type of business) to customers if they refer your business to a certain number of people, who then become customers; you will also need to offer a similar value of discount, gift or free service to the new customers. Bigger businesses do this type of marketing all the time; they offer a customer a certain amount of discount or gift if the customer introduces a friend to their business.

This ideally should be something that will be of value to the new customer and at the same time doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg, after all the aim is to increase your revenue.

Alliance

Another reason why it’s always profitable to know your customers is so that you can offer additional services that will not only be of value to them but will also increase your revenue.

For example, if you have a hair salon that’s mostly frequented by women with young children and elderly women, you can offer a service whereby you arrange to do their grocery shopping whilst they’re in the salon. It’s likely that such a service will be popular on a Saturday when most women get their hair done and do their weekly/monthly food shopping as it’s normally one of the busiest days of the week in most salons and shops. I’m sure a number of women would be interested and appreciative of such a service to avoid any long delays between personal errands.

You don’t have to provide such a service yourself; you may decide to form an alliance with a local reputable grocer or delivery service to provide this for your customers. This could also be a way to reach out to new customers via your local grocer – you introduce your customers to his (or her) business and they introduce new customers to your business; with the consent of each customer.

This type of additional service will work only if you know your customers and have developed a relationship with them. It’s a service that can help provide additional revenue for your business and one that provides value to your customers; as such they’ll be happy to refer your business to others.

There are more things you can do to increase your revenue; however, I believe that the suggestions described above are simple and cheap enough for you to incorporate them into your business and start doing them today with little or no additional cost which, in my opinion, is very important in these challenging economic times.
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About the Author: Shisha Dublin-Green is a Director at Ashcroft Templeton Consulting, www.ashcrofttempleton.com, a Business Support and Lifestyle Management Consultancy.

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About Shisha Dublin-Green

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