Top 100+ business and marketing ideas...
OK, let's start at the begining...
Define the fundamentals of your business
Good ethics and sound philosophy enable people to come to the right ‘good’ decision when purchasing from your business, conciously or subconciously. Your ethics don’t need to be complicated. The basis of good corporate ethics are: be good, be friendly and be open, this will put you ahead of the competion, for now at least. Get your philosophy right and everything will naturally fall into place, the basis of your processes, company attitude, client relationship and trading balance sheet.
Define your target market for your product or services
Who are they? What do they want? Do they know they want it? Do they need it?
Learn about your market
How do they think, how do they behave and how do they interact with similar businesses.
Define your USP
Know the benefits of your product to your market, more comoly known as your Ultimate Selling Point, in this case you will have two, your products USP and your company’s USP.
Create marketing plans based around the interaction between you and your market. Set your budgets and stick to them! What do you want to acheive? What steps do you need to get there? Which services will you require?
Execute your marketing plans with the appropriate mediums required to reach your target audience.
Capture your customers and look after them to keep them coming back.
You need to gain customer confidence and trust as customer indecision, mistrust, indifference or confusion are among the top sales killers in business. It’s up to you to project an image of experience, quality, dependability and excellent customer service to your prospective customers in order to win their confidence.
If you haven’t clearly communicated the advantages and solid reasons for them to do business with you, then they’ll be hesitant to commit and the sale will go to your competitor.
Penetrate awareness in your target audience by using an integrated marketing strategy, i.e. the more ways the public hears about you the better your chances are for achieving brand recognition, credibility and improving your market share. Effective marketing strategies mean exposing your target audience to your name and your USP as frequently as possible, in as many ways as possible and as cost-effectively as possible.
Ignore the competition
Be confident in your vision and don’t assume that you’re competitors know what they’re doing. Just because they are advertising in a particular area doesn’t mean that it works. Don’t follow them, follow your instincts and ideas. Pick and choose carefully what you copy from competitors.
Not having a clear strategy is the first step towards failure. Sporadic advertising along with portraying mixed messages is the wrong way to do it. Customers rarely take action the first time they see something advertised, so have a clear advertising strategy & keep it consistent. Carefully select your advertising message at the beginning and systematically repeat it.
Advertise when you DON’T need customers
Advertising is an ongoing activity, businesses that do something regularly tend to perform better than those that do something brilliant now and again.
Don’t try to save money where it shows. A basic website says that you’re a business strapped for cash. Black & white flyers say ‘don’t take us seriously’. When your customers see your product, website or marketing material, spend what it takes to get everything looking the best it can be.
Try some fun guerrilla marketing
Leave sandcastles on the pavements with little flags promoting your summer sale. Or beam your logo into the clouds at night. Just be careful not to go too far. Do something to attract attention both from the public and the media. It should be related to your business in some way.
Everyone loves something for free, there is nothing better, catch attention by giving away relevant offerings, it could be:
• Product demos
Creating an informative seminar and inviting your target audience is an excellent way to educate the market and promote your companies proposition. This method works especially well in the business-2-business market and where educating customers is needed, for example when marketing new technologies or services.
Free pens with your logo on are very dull, stretch your mind an come up with something inventive. Try something unique, an example would be an underwear company sending out huge 5ft pants, it’s different and people will talk about it.
Launch a competition
It’s cheap for you to give your services or products away. Plug the competition on the relevant media that your potential customer use and on your website. If you are business serving the public, then get friendly with local radio DJs by sending them free stuff relating to your business and get on-air mentions.
Send out a press releases
All newspapers and magazines need press releases to help fill their pages. Sometimes even local TV and Radio content might be open to PR. Press releases with a good stories could get you valuable free publicity in your target media, boosting your reputation and generating sales leads. Press releases are a marketing essential. Press publicity is free. For a little thought you can easily achieve the equivalent of thousands of pounds worth of display advertising per year at no cost. Press release publicity carries more credibility than paid-for advertising.
Dramatically improve the publication of your press release by supporting it with photographs.
Also, if you plan to pay for advertising in a publication always ask if you can have some editorial coverage as condition of placing your advertisment. Many publications will agree and you’ll have some free editorial to support the advert. Some publications combine the two and sell ‘advertorial’ feature space, which purports to be news but is really a large paid-for advert.
Portray people in your adverts using your product or service, potential customers respond better to illustrations or photos showing the product in use, rather than just a product picture. Run your ads more than once! Have you heard your boss moan that he ran an ad once and it did nothing. In B-2-B marketing an ad must be run 3 to 7 times before it has any effect. If you don’t ever repeat your advertising you’ll always struggle to get a decent response.
Full-page adverts attract one-third more readers than a half-page ads and a two-page spread attracts about a quarter more than the one-page ad. But if you have a limited advertising budget, create smaller ads to run more frequently. Most people don’t respond to ads the first time they see them.
Postcards are affordable ways to get products and services in front new customers. Send postcards as they are cheap and can be seen by everyone who handles the mail.
Try new ideas
Ask your advertising or marketing agency to come up with some new ideas to implement across the integrated market communications channels.
Find out what is working?
When you get a new customer, ask how they heard of you and why they chose to give you a try?
Creating business oportunities...
Speech for an elavator ride!
What on earth? An elevator speach is a short pitch that only takes time it takes you and some other poor chap to go up in a lift. It needs to be short and one that will stir interest of whomever hears it. NB. Not just for lifts.
Wherever potential customers meet, be there. Good networking is about creating contacts not searching out deals… these will come later when contacts develop into relationships. Work at it and be seen. Talk with everyone you meet about your business. You’d be surprised how many others are looking for people to help them increase their business.
Get networked up!
Get involved with local networking and business groups, trade organisations, try networking with other business professionals at:
• Industry Exhibitions
• Local Chamber of Commerce
• Networking Organizations
• Trade Exhibitions
• Trade Associations
Do a talk at an event
Once you have joined a network or group, why not offer to do a free talk on your specialism and services. Imagine all of those willing ears.
Enter your companies services or products into awards for maximum exposure, there are many awards out there, from small local awards to big multi-national ones. Trophies aside, it’s great PR.
Grab your partner
Get a strategic partnership going with a client or colleague and cross promote your products and services into a bundle.
An increasing number of networking communities are now found on the internet. Explore these opportunities, but bear in mind there are lot of time wasting business wanabees there. The best of all is linkedin, avoid e-academy at all costs.
Once you have them, keep them...
Based upon what has been said before, be friendly, be open, be honest and build relationships with your clients and they will be loyal to you. Be personal, tell the story of your company, even the big multinationals benefit from the stories of their founders. Look at the Virgin empire or Sir Alan Sugar – they add personality to their company. Try to build your company around you; people like buying from a friendly face rather than an institution.
Why not try a few of these ideas:
• Be personally available to your clients
• Try to form working relationships with them
• Let your clients know you appreciate them, send them a handwritten thank you
• Remember personal details about clients & send them cards, hand written of course
• Follow up all existing customers to see if they need anything and are happy
• Ask your clients how you can serve them better, listen and act on their replies
• Participate in a trade show, get a booth or at least attend events and talk to people
• Throw parties or events for some your best clients, but keep it small to network
• Send personalised brochures on a new product/service before general released
• Send updates on industry news that may be beneficial to your clients
• Give a special client your business card with your home number on the back
Above all, give outstanding customer service
Nothing is more effective than positive ‘word of mouth’ from your customers. Customer service is the largest tool in your organisation. Make it core to your business. Shape your staff to represent your business in the right way - friendly, aproachable, personable and willing to go that extra yard.
People judge your business on the first line of contact, the people in your workforce
Try to achieve what the others can’t or won’t
Analyse the competition & select areas that you think customers want but no-one does. This will be tricky to perform but will be worthwhile. Why not have a chat with your existing customers and find out what what they really want or need.
For businesses on the high street such as shops/cafes etc…
Cross promote your products with another businesses product. Get creative with this one, a good example would be an optician joining forces with a book shop. Put large print flyers in books that say, ‘Having trouble reading this copy? Come and see us’ and small print notes in the new glasses case that read ‘Put your new glasses to good use...’
Run topical themes
Create themes that hook onto events or seasons. In winter, give away branded hot chocolate in the street to keep shoppers warm. In summer, build a beach in your reception. Watch out for ‘event’ movies like Star Wars and coin in on their massive marketing spend, integrate the themes to your business offering in a creative manner.
Repeat discount cards
This are the cheapest way to reward loyal customers and get them shopping with you again. Ensure your tokens aren’t easily forged and loyalty stamp is locked away.
Use promotional people
Hire good promo staff at minimum wage to hand out flyers and spread your business message. Dress them well, make sure they know your business inside out and ensure they are well motivated by bonuses to keep them from dumping the flyers and bunking off!
Sell gift vouchers
Most people like picking their own presents; if you sell consumer products, make sure you sell vouchers. The best news is that £1billion of vouchers are never spent.
Pick up the litter / clean up your image
Clear your desk, premises, website, anything. A spring clean gets rid of the clutter and brings new freshness. Customers will notice.
The basics of helping you in the big world wide web
The basis of trying to get your website to the top of search engines is content, keep your website up-to-date with new content and add new content regularly. You don’t need lots of specialist knowledge about search engine marketing. Just keep adding new pages with fresh content on your business topic. Make a commitment to adding one new page a week and you will be surprised by how much extra traffic you get after a few months.
Using online directories is one of the most popular ways to search for businesses and is ideal for advertising a local business.
Pay per click advertising PPC
Pay per click advertising is highly targeted. You can choose to only have your ads displayed to those people searching within a specified area. Use a Google Partner.
If you are selling products at a good price, why not list them on price comparrison websites like PriceGrabber, Kelkoo and Google Product Search. All will get your product a good listing on Google.
Get on Google Maps
Get a free listing on Google Maps, if you haven’t already noticed, when you search for anything tangible, Google brings up a map on page one with local suppliers, you could be here.
People like freebies
Give as much as you can free from your website - decent information and downloads of trial software. images, music, anything that you have the rights too.
Start a blog
Blogging is an easy way of updating your content to engage existing audiences as well as attracting new customers. Get your designer to integrate one into your website. Blogs do take time and make sure the articles you do are well thought out. Blogs are an easy way to keep information up-to-date - all search engines like updated content, so update your website frequently (weekly) even if it’s just tiny changes.
Offer what people are interested in - not what you want to push
Keep it simple, keep it clean, people want to find information quickly with no-nonsense. Complex websites will just put people off. Make your website easy to use and to convey your important messages. Aim for simplicity with easy to use functions.
Keep your web site open
Remove registration and password protected areas until right at the last point before purchase, yes you want to capture data for future online marketing, but don’t block them before they have had a chance to look around.
Yes other sites linking to yours will improve your search engine ranking position (SERPs), so reciprocal links are okay, but you are better off spending that link finding/building time filling your website with good content that other sites will find and want to link to. Reciprocal linking is over-rated optimisation tactic, creating good content creates relevant high quality link generating potential.
Have fun and never lose your enthusiasm...
The most important thing you can do is stand out
Know who your customers are before you sell
Describe the person most likely to want or need your product and ask yourself why should they want to buy my product? The answer will help you know how to target the product to the correct customer base.
You can’t sell an undefined product or service, get it positioned correctly
Purchasing is an emotional decision
Instil prospects with good feelings about you, your company, the business relationship and how you can improve their lives and/or solve a problem for them.
Sincere enthusiasm is contagious
Your words are important, but your nonverbal communication – tone of voice, facial expression, eye contact and overall responsiveness will have an impact on how you influence and persuade your prospective customers. If you deeply believe in your products, services and company then your prospects will pick up on that passionate attitude and feel confident and optimistic about doing business with you.
Listen during your sales pitch
When selling, check with a question every minute or so to see if they are listening or understanding your pitch, you can adjust as you go along and of course, you can’t sell if they are not listening to you. Also, pay attention to new customers when they ask about service, exchanges, return policies, etc. They may be telling you about an unpleasant experience they had with a previous company, you can note this and make sure this doesn’t happen during your service.
Have a catalogue
The classic way to let consumers view your products and create interest. Web sites and digital print keep costs lower.
Personify your literature
You can do this by using photos of you or your staff on promotional items, make sure it’s not cheesy though. Quotes from a photographed person conveys friendliness and builds trust.
Answer the the damn phone
Give your staff freedom to be themselves and experiment when they answer the phone (but not too odd a way though or one that puts callers off). They’ll enjoy being themselves and your customers will remember the personable nature of your firm.
Never have the answerphone on during working hours. After working hours, use your answerphone message as a tool. Replace ‘we’re not here, leave a message’ to something more useful and let them know you will call them back the next morning at 9.15 exactly.
Every client gets 2 business cards
Happy clients will circulate extra cards to friends and colleagues.
Start early at trade shows
Start networking the night before at the hotel or venue, leave branded freebies and hang ‘please do disturb adverts’ on guests doors. Maybe arrange a mini stand in the hotel foyer. You will stand out & be in the forefront of minds at the show the next day.
If there are accreditation schemes or professional bodies for your specialism, join them. It might take a little extra effort to reach their standards but it will help your business for years to come.
Use testimonials and get on the case
Potential clients are more confident after reading about other customers good experiences. As well as testimonials, use case studies to show your expertise in detailed past examples.
Give a guarantee
If you believe in your product or service, guarantee it. Offer a money back if they’re not 100% satisfied. Yes, a few people will abuse it but you’ll attract more business to start with.
Upsell when possible
Stack similar products or services together and promote them (a simple example is a tie with a shirt). When customers buy from you they have started a relationship with you and are more likely to buy something else. Cultivate this bond.
Try focusing on alternative markets
For every trend there is at least one counter trend. It’s sometimes better to focus on the smaller counter market that nobody is serving because they’re all off chasing the bigger market.
Moan, moan, moan!
Make it easy for clients to give feedback or complain about your business to you. Call them after a sale, send a post card to see if everything was ok and how it went. It’s better to hear opinions and correct complaints rather than receive bad word of mouth. Surveys have found that nine out of ten people do not complain when they feel dissatisfied. But every one will tell at least a couple of their friends or relations. It is important these claims are dealt with by putting the complainer at ease with an explanation and reassurance. This will reduce the chances of them complaining to someone else.
Monitor exactly how many unhappy customers you have and what the causes are, and take appropriate corrective action to stop it happening again. Many organisations waste their most useful complaints and feedback, they are gold-dust. Encourage it and use it wisely. Your customers will feel better about the service you provide as a result and the fact that they are able to complain (even if they don’t) will make them happier.
Finally, just say ‘Thank You’
If you sell to small businesses, it will probably be the decision maker who does the paperwork. Why not write a quick thank you for their business on the invoice. And, if your suppliers & clients are happy with your company’s service them I’m sure their friends would too, mention there is a £50+ thank you voucher for referring new clients.