Marketing Your Business Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

affordable internet marketing pigIncreasing revenue is vital to sustaining a healthy business.  This means producing new customers and maintaining loyal ones.  So, how do you do this?  Marketing.  However, many businesses in the service industry feel that marketing is too expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

Below are 5 low-cost marketing ideas that can help your business stand out from the rest.

1. Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing can be an effective and low-cost way to retain customers.  It can include text messaging, QR codes, mobile coupons, and more. Whether advertising specials, texting customers about something new that you are selling, or inviting them to a store event, it’s a great way to produce loyal customers.  Mobile Marketing Review’s statistics show that there are 4 billion mobile phone users worldwide vs. 1.1 billion computer users. Mobile marketing response rates average 12 – 15%, as opposed to direct mail which average response rate is 2 – 3%.  Some companies are even seeing mobile marketing response rates over 60%!  Text messaging customers can also be used as a tool to conduct surveys and collect customer reviews.  According to studies by Nielson Mobile, 97% of mobile subscribers will read a text message within 15 minutes of receiving it, and 84% will respond within 1 hour.  If you want to utilize mobile marketing for your business, ensure that your customers opt-in first and want to receive coupons and information from you.  Customers can be asked to opt-in during purchases, when signing up for a loyalty program, or while partaking in raffles/contests.  Here are some examples on how to use text messaging as a marketing tool for your business.  Say you have a retail store and retain your customers’ birthday information on file.  Why not send a text a week before their birthday saying, “Need a new outfit for your birthday celebration?  We have a gift waiting here for you – 15% off your next purchase when you visit our store between now and your birthday.  To redeem your birthday discount, please mention this text.  Happy Birthday!”  For restaurants, use text marketing to send a message just before lunch time to customers stating, “Your lunch break is almost here.  Spend it with us and get 10% off your meal by mentioning this text.”  You can track response rates when customers redeem their deals by mentioning the texts to your staff.  What a great way to keep your business top of mind!

2. Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs such as reward cards are quite effective in developing loyal customers.  I love loyalty programs and admit that I fall into the consumer trap and join them quite often.  I have rewards cards for grocery stores, a local toy store, a sandwich shop, my kids’ hair salon, and a well-known restaurant.  I’m hooked!  I shop at these places often so I can redeem my rewards.  Loyalty programs are smart because the consumer’s purchases become an investment.  This investment binds customers to that business until they receive their reward.  When creating rewards, make sure they are worthwhile for both your customer and your business.  For example, buy 10 sandwiches, get 1 free, or buy $100 worth of merchandise, get 10% off your next purchase.  You will see that when customers join your loyalty program, they will become recurring customers.

3. Social Media

Marketing your business through social media channels, such as Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook, allow you to advertise specials and events, send out coupons, and provide news to your customers.  Social marketing also builds brand awareness to consumers searching online.  According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast, 66% of family dining restaurants, 74% of casual dining restaurants, and 84% of fine dining restaurants are devoting more time this year to social media marketing.  Even 56% of quick service restaurants and 77% of fast casual restaurants are devoting more time. NRA’s 2012 National Household Survey shows that 39% of adults are receptive to full service restaurants social marketing, and 30% are receptive to limited service restaurants social marketing.  These response rates show that social marketing is quite effective among consumers.  However, monitor your social media accounts on a consistent basis because of potential negative comments posted by customers.  Negative comments can easily be mitigated by responding to them immediately and showing you care and want to appease the unsatisfied customer.  Consider the negative comments as constructive criticism, and utilize them to improve on your business.  If you respond to the negative comment in a positive way (Don’t defend your business. Remember, the customer is always right!), the unsatisfied customer will most likely appreciate your thoughtfulness, and in return, may respond with a positive comment on your social media page.

4. Community Sponsorships

As you know, giving and receiving go hand in hand.  When your business becomes a commercial sponsor for a community event, not only does it create brand awareness within your community, but is also produces a “feel good” message toward your brand.  For example, if your business sponsors your community little league baseball team, your brand name can show on the children’s jerseys, as well as on banners at baseball games.  When choosing an event to sponsor, look for events that match your business so local consumers can easily associate your business to that event.  However, event sponsorships don’t have to match your business as long as it makes an impact on your target audience.  Either way, your business will trigger an association to that event that you sponsored and will create that “feel good” message toward your brand.

5.  Contests/Sweepstakes

Ever heard of the McDonald’s Monopoly game?  If you haven’t, you must be living under a rock.  The McDonald’s Monopoly game has been around since 1987 and is hugely successful year after year, increasing revenue during the game promotion month.  So, why is it hugely successful?  Sure, everyone wants to try to win the million dollar prize, but also because games are fun!

Whether you hold a contest or sweepstakes at your business, through social media, or with mobile texting, they are fun, exciting, and can attract many customers.  Some inexpensive restaurant-friendly contests/sweepstakes include holding drawings for a free meal for a family of 4 (this is a great way to collect contact information from your customers), a recipe contest, a blindfold tasting contest, or even ask customers to create a name for a new menu item or a drink.  The customer with the best name wins.  Remember, make the contests fun and creative.  Your customers will come back for more!

Have other inexpensive marketing ideas?  Please share them in the comments below.  We would love to hear them!

Jodi Sabol | Marketing Consultant | Red Book Connect


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