Promotion plays an important role in the growth of a business. Whether your business is a few weeks old or it has been in the game for years, promotion has to be at the center of your growth strategy. It is one of the best ways to send out the message and purpose of your brand, as well as introduce your products and services to potential customers. Ultimately, an effective promotion strategy will build your brand awareness, turn potential customers into paying customers, and increase sales revenue.
However, getting the promotion process right can be challenging, especially for small enterprises. Faced with limited budgets, many businesses are locked out of costly promotion mediums – like television and radio –, which also happen to be the most effective in reaching millions of potential customers. In light of this, this article presents various basic promotion techniques that entrepreneurs can use to increase their businesses’ bottom lines. Keep reading.
Branding is the use of colors and images to create a unique or stand-out visual identify of your business. Think of it as what you would like to spring into your customers’ minds every time your business name is mentioned. What, for instance, comes to your mind when someone says Starbucks? Of course, great cappuccino comes to mind, as does color green! What about McDonald’s? The golden arches no doubt. In short, a great logo not only builds brand identify, but also attracts customers and gives your outfit a professional look.
Your branding strategy requires thought and creativity, and begins long before your company opens its doors for business. Lou Imbriano, CEO of TrinityOne, Inc., advises business owners to begin by writing down the adjectives that best describe their brands. This should give you a rough idea on how to customize the design of company logo and wording of the slogan. For example, if you want to start a carpentry in such a world where environmental degradation is a concern for most people, eco-friendly should be one of your top adjectives. Therefore, settling on a green logo can help to promote your business as eco-friendly.
Since your logo will be on business cards, invoices, receipts, leaflets and a variety of other business documents and advertising materials, it is important to get it right. Hiring competent designers will ensure you end up with a clear and simple logo or trademark that effectively communicates the message of your company. Branding experts can also help you craft a slogan that represents the culture and personality of your business.
Word of Mouth
Businesses, like human beings, have reputations to protect. Once this reputation is damaged, it can be very difficult and costly to repair. Word of mouth is what people – both customers and employees – say about your business, person to person or on online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Positive word of mouth (WOM) can help to steer the growth of your business. According to a 2013 Trust in Advertising Survey conducted by Nielsen- a global information and measurement company- a whopping 84 percent of respondents noted that their shopping habits were most influenced by word of mouth recommendations by family and friends. On the other hand, negative WOM – which spreads like wildfire in today’s era of viral internet posts – can cause irreversible damage to your brand.
So, how do you ensure your business gets positive WOM all the time?
- Offer high quality products and customer services – This is by far the best way to ensure people share the best stories about your business. If your products are genuinely great and functional, your customers will share their positive experience with friends and family. If your customer-services department does an awesome job responding to customers’ queries promptly, you can count on them to spread a good message
- Treat your employees right – Growing your business isn’t just about acquiring more customers and earning insane profits: It is also about recruiting well and retaining good employees for a long time. To achieve this, create a good working condition for your current employees, and resolve internal disputes quickly and amicably. Happy employees will spread the good gospel of your brand, while disgruntled employees may embark on a smear campaign.
- Create an advertising plan that puts you in control of your message – Although the aim of advertising is to send out a message to as many potential customers as possible, you should devise a plan that enables you to target your message to these customers. For example, if your business sells accounting software, then you should consider placing advertisements in accounting magazines, where only your potential clients can receive the message. If you post such an ad on Facebook, you may not be able to control your audience and, consequently, the conversation that will ensue.
- Be welcoming – Make it easy for your customers to share their feedback with you. Open and maintain online channels where they can drop their feedback or share their experiences, good and bad. It is by monitoring such feedback that you can know what you are doing right or where you are losing it. If you block out your customers, they will have no option but to share their frustrations with their families and friends, offline and online.
Promotion doesn’t stop at marketing your brand or company in general. Once the market is aware your company exists, shift your focus to promoting your products and services. Tell potential customers what benefits they can gain from using your products, instead of a competitor’s.
Here is how to go about product promotion:
- Choose quick-selling products – A common marketplace mistake entrepreneurs make is selling products that lack sufficient demand. Without enough demand, you won’t earn the sales revenue you need to grow the business. As such, it is essential to deal in products that people want to buy. Gather market information by evaluating sales reports published by industry associations and other bodies. This will enable you to know the kind of products and services that are flying off the shelves. With the product or service identified, embark on differentiating it, so that customers can find it more attractive than those already selling in the market.
- Timing is everything – Sure, your product may be innovative and ground-breaking, but if the market isn’t ready for it at the time of launch, your innovative efforts won’t translate into commercial value. Study the market to determine which products do well at certain times of the year. For example, if you are in the business of brewing and selling beverages, you may want to know that Starbucks offers pumpkin spice latte during the autumn period because it’s a seasonal favorite. If you run a fashion store, you obviously should know that when autumn gives way to winter, it’s time to fill your stock with faux fur coats, bomber jackets and other outfits for beating the ice and freezing cold.
- Be creative with in-store displays – After agreeing on the dates to launch your products and acquiring enough stock, start to organize the store. Although in-store displays are influenced by the nature of the products, focus on creating an attention-catching storefront display and a welcoming in-store atmosphere. Whether you sell antiques, coffee, books or high-end apparel, be sure to space out your store. You don’t want customers bumping into each other when shopping!
- Get intensive – With your store opening for business, embark on intensively promoting your products on promotion platforms like leaflets, social media, telemarketing and billboards. PR is also a great promotion tool.
Leaflets – Leaflet advertising involves designing attention-grabbing leaflets that market your products and services. You can employ sales agents to distribute the leaflets, or place them at points where customers can pick them within the business premises.
Public relations – You can use PR as a tactic to promote your products. Before a product launch, for instance, send a press release to local radio and television stations. If the stations feel your event is newsworthy, you may as well get free coverage!
Telemarketing – This involves making direct sales calls to potential clients over the phone or web conferencing platforms. If you can assemble a team of salespeople with superb selling skills, telemarketing can work for you.
Social media – Dubbed the modern day frontier for marketing, social media is a perfect fit for digital businesses. Even traditional businesses are quickly starting to incorporate social media into their advertising strategies. Utilized effectively, social media can be a great source of traffic to your e-commerce website.
Billboard – Depending on your city, billboard advertising can be quite costly. It is, however, ideal when you want to introduce your products and services in a new geographical region.
Managing the Advertising Budget
Exercising prudent management of the advertising budget is crucial to ensuring continuity of your advertising strategy. Although the size of advertising budget depends on factors such as growth stage and size of the entity, experts at the U.S. Small Business Administration recommend that it should be between 7-8 percent of total revenues. Use your annual sales revenue forecasts to determine how much money you should spend on advertising, or enquire from experienced business owners in your industry. Next, identify the advertising platforms that can best enable you to reach your target audience. Don’t, exhaust your budget by concentrate the ads over a short period of time. As a starting business, it is better to spread them out throughout the year, because it enables you to keep building brand awareness.
Finally, growing a business goes beyond mastering the art (or science) of brand and product promotion. You must also monitor market trends and changing customer needs, and ensure your business successfully adapts its offerings in response to the market.