On a weekly basis, both ramarketing and I (through my personal network) are approached by small business owners looking for some advice on how they can market their companies to help reach their goals. The sad reality is both my business and I can’t help everyone these days as much as we’d like to. Nevertheless, our aim is always to point people in the right direction at the very least.

With this in mind and as because we’re celebrating our fifth birthday, I thought I’d write a mini-series of marketing tips for small businesses to hopefully give those interested a few ideas and tactics to get you on the right track, you know, my gift to you.  And if any of these ideas work for you, then you know where my agency is when you need some serious help!

 1. Family and friends.

There’s a school of thought that I commonly see in the Indian community that’s all about keeping your business matters a secret. If you work as a secret agent then fair enough but in reality, most don’t. The result is huge missed opportunities, not directly with your family and friends, but the people they know, and the people they know etc, etc.

So, first and foremost, utilise your network online and offline. Tell your family and friends to tell their family, friends and colleagues about what you do and how what you do benefits people. Whether it’s a small coffee shop, a consultancy business or a global manufacturing firm, it’s a worthwhile exercise and opportunities can literally come from anywhere.

Word of mouth is the most powerful tool you can have. You can’t control it but you can influence it. It can literally makes or break a small businesses.  At ramarketing, over 75% of the business we do today originated at some point with a simple referral because people know what I do. It’s honestly not that complicated.

2. Be professional and consistent.

Regardless of what your business does, make sure you do the basics right to ensure you look professional consistent across everything. Make sure you look and feel the same across every touch-point a customer may engage with you on. Social media, phone, web, email, leave no stone un-branded. And for good sake, do not use your hilarious mortaljenny@hotmail.com type email address for your business.

If you’re say a high-end brand, make sure your signage, uniforms, service levels reflect that. Only recently, I was enticed (via signage and direct mail) to a really posh looking new sandwich shop. However, when I went in, the tables were dirty, all the produce were in those awful white plastic containers and they did not accept cards (bearing in mind I was buying for three). I walked out, massively disappointed and will probably never go back.

The best example of a big brand that does this right time and time again is good old John Lewis. In-turn, they can charge what they like and people will pay it as they trust and rely on the brand name. On the flipside of the coin is Ryanair, where everything is cheap and cheerful, but again, they are consistent.

 3. Customers rule.

OK, so this is a bit basic and clichéd but the fact is, it’s so much easier to get more business through your existing customers than to have to acquire new ones. With this is mind, really get to understand your customers by doing some research (this can be as simple as a paper or online survey). Ask what they like, what they don’t like, what they want and then reflect your offering to ensure it’s in-line with the customers you are targeting.

Simple loyalty cards, referral schemes and personalisation will show customers that you care but will also allow you to make the most of them. But above all, make sure you look after them and don’t take your eye of the ball in the relentless pursuit of new customers.

However, it’s important to stress that not every customer is the right customer, so don’t be afraid to say no. Whether they’re draining all your time, upsetting your staff or just are not the type of person you want representing your brand, tell them where to go… in the nicest possible way. Yes, this may lead to some negative word of mouth but it’s probably the exchange of what you will gain back from getting rid.

4. Be easy to find.

We’re living in the era of search where people seek their own solutions as opposed to just being sold stuff directly from companies, so whether you’re an online business or traditional retailer, be as ‘findable’ as possible.

Make sure you have a website (even a basic one), that you’re on Google’s local listings and in any local/industry directories. Last year I had an issue with my computer when working from home (no it did not involve deleting history) but I travelled 20 miles to get my computer fixed despite later finding out there was a computer shop literally on my doorstep. Having searched locally online, it did not appear and therefore did not get my business.

For growing businesses, make sure your website is well optimised, you are creating new content and have a strong social media presence. These all play important roles (currently) on getting you up the search rankings.

 5. Collect data. It might be boring but it’s your goldmine.

Ah, data. Not that exciting. However, knowing and understanding your market is so important to be then able to offer customers relevant products and services and not just push whatever their way.

Collect info about your customers and make sure they give you permission to then communicate with them going forward. Informative content, reminders, insights, offers etc, via phone, email, post, text, newsletter and direct mail will help keep your business top of mind when they are needing a product/service like the one you offer – they’ll think ‘who can do that?’ And assuming you did a good job in the first place, they should come knocking.

Make sure you don’t bombard people and keep info relevant and concise.  This comes back to knowing your customers and how they want to be contacted, how often and in what way. It still amazes me that small businesses like hairdressers or cake makers don’t send relevant, timely reminders – it’s so, so simple.

So there you have my first 5 tips. We’ll get working on 5 more for next month, but if there’s something in particular you’d like us to cover, let us know!