Growing up in family business (a local motel), I learned quickly that in lean times you need to develop new strategies to keep the business going. In my teen years, when things were slow in our industry, I spent my days at the Tourist Information Centre handing out special offer brochures and directions to our family business. This simple but effective marketing strategy was key to increasing occupancy, keeping the business going and paying bills so we survived to open another day.
When running a business, it is easy to get bogged down in the day to day. To help make your business as profitable and successful as it can be, regularly take time out of the daily operations for planning and developing growth strategies. Here are some considerations for your analysis:
What is going on in my area, my industry, and with my suppliers and clients? Are there changes impacting my business positively or negatively?
What times of year, month, week, or day are my sales or revenue at their highest? Which times are slowest?
What are my competitors doing? How am I different to them? What value do I provide clients that is above and beyond that of my competitors?
Who are my most loyal clients? What is unique about them? How can I sell even more to them? Is there a niche market I could be capitalising on?
What is it that I offer that is most compelling? How can I leverage it further, or complement it?
Once you have gathered a range of insights, think about how you can best build on them. Let’s start with environment and work our way through to give you 10 tips to start marketing your business.
1. Start a business website to increase your ability to attract new clients, relying less on local clientele. The most recent MYOB Business Monitor research found SMEs with a website were 60 per cent more likely to see a revenue increase in the past 12 months and have more sales than usual in their three-month pipeline. You don’t need to be a web designer to get a website up and running (e.g. MYOB Atlas is a great website building tool that helps you do it easily). Just be sure that when you start your website you optimise it to get found online.
2. Plan offers to attract new clients moving into the area or those who haven’t tried you yet. A first-time client offer on a sign in a window, a flyer in local mailboxes, an article on a popular website, a promoted post on Facebook or a targeted letter may be all it takes to get them walking in the door.
3. Loyalty offers are great if you have a local office that is moving or if you have new competitors opening up in the area. Develop a loyalty offer to incentivise those clients to make the trip back or to keep those clients coming in that may otherwise try one of your competitors. Those that seem to work best are achievable, for example buy five and get the sixth one free.
4. Develop seasonal offerings that help move stock, or drive your client numbers up at your slower times of year. For example, a beauty salon that finds its sales drop in winter could run a big Mother’s Day voucher promotion.
5. Work out when your slow days or times of day occur, and have a happy hour offering, or a half price session on the day that things are slowest. Think of it as a trial opportunity. It may attract new clients that hadn’t considered you before, and if they have a great experience they will come back and happily pay full price.
6. Look at what your competitors are doing and create an offer that is more appealing to make sure you win the client to your business. Perhaps even purchase the product to see what their client lifecycle is like.
7. Reward your loyal clients. Collect their details and send them offers that will keep them coming in time and time again. It will make them feel special, and they will like you more for it.
8. Build a list of new clients. Have a weekly or monthly prize draw that requires clients to give you their details. If there is a chance for them to benefit, they will give you details and you can then send them offers to come in and use your services when times are slower for you.
9. Bundle an offer. You would be surprised how many times people will decide to purchase something because you have made it easier for them. Strawberries and chocolate are a great example. Some people may like them together but not separately, so they never buy them. Do a special price offer to put two items together and you have suddenly sold twice as many items.
10. Establish ‘loss leaders’ to get people in the door – a classic marketing strategy. Find your most appealing and unique offering – something they can’t get from your competition. Price it to break even and promote it to get people trying your services. If you please them, they will likely become a loyal client and be back to buy again and again at a higher price.
11. Yes I did say 10 top tips, but… always sneak the last one in to increase your offering. Leverage social media to get your clients coming back to you and use it to promote all of the strategies above. Tweet it out or post it on Facebook. You’d be surprised how many of your clients will see an offer on social networks and suddenly, at little or no cost to you, you have increased your sales even more. Make sure you let your clients know you are going to send them offers, so they keep a look out.
From here it is over to you. Good luck and may there be happy business growth ahead for your family business.
Caroline Ruddick is MYOB's general manager of marketing.