I just returned from Florida and one of my Vero Beach pit stops is Mrs. Mac’s Fillin’ Station Restaurant. Their clever marketing strategy leaves customers standing in line to get a table. Yes, the food is plentiful and certainly lures in returning customers; but, it is the unique way they have chosen to market their business that sets them apart from the rest.
As you enter the restaurant an old Gulf gasoline pump lends itself to the eatery’s fifties nostalgia. Menus are made from recycled license plates and red mechanic shop towels are used as napkins. Oil cans or wrench hang from the pant loops of the farmer jean uniforms; and worker assumes an automotive name while they wait tables.
If you want to generate new sales and business in today’s market, you need to have a solid marketing plan in place. The old school thought of ‘build it/make it’ and they will come’ mindset is no longer a viable option for online sellers. A recent visit to a famous downtown street market in Charleston reminded me of this truth.
I watched customers walk the corridors lined with seller booths; most held little product appeal. However, there were a few booths that seemed to lure the masses into their marketing net with little effort.
I made mental notes on what made these vendors different from others.
- Their product was unique and not found on the shelves of major discount stores.
- Discount incentives were offered based on number of items purchased.
- Product samples were included with every purchase.
- The seller gave special attention to how the product was packaged and displayed.
- Business cards and pertinent contact information was on display.
- Product labels looked professional.
- The seller engaged with each customer and made them feel special.
- Someone was available to assist every customer before they lost interest and walked away.
We live in a world driven by technology and taking product to market requires more than a web site, storefront or vendor booth. Knowledge of social media venues has become critical to the success of every business. Competition, in the past, was limited to regional or local businesses. But the birth of the internet changed all that; our competition is now global and this isn’t about to change
The rapid pace of technological development will continue to be a challenge to all of us; even more so for small businesses and entrepreneurs who tend to be understaffed and lack the funds for a marketing budget.
Here are six ways to market your product online with a shoestring budget:
- Build customer relationships through social media programs. Take a look at what your competitors are doing socially. Understand, however, social media is not a one-stop marketing strategy and it does not generate overnight sales. Dedicate one hour a day to maintain your social media presence.
- Establish a blog and post often. It helps to establish you as an expert in your field. Include a “share this” button at the bottom of each post for easy distribution. I use WordPress to blog and find it easy to use; it’s free to download and offer fully-customizable themed templates for under $100.
- Post relevant and helpful content on your web site or seller pages that will keep customers returning to your site. Not every post should be related to making a sale. Instead, post information that can be linked to other sites which will boost your SEO rankings.
- Give customers a reason to trust your company. Post customer comments about your products and service. Provide contact information including both an email address and phone number. Check voice and emails several times a day. Use your social media accounts to keep an eye out for problems with your product or service and step in with help.
- Target your online audience with the use SEO key words, relevant web page titles and major search engine registrations.
- Identify and target your ideal selling audience. Consider a narrower marketing niche so you can better present yourself as an expert and stand apart from the crowd. As you gather your database of customers, treat it like gold because it is the primary vehicle to communicate your marketing message.
Concentrate your marketing time and energy based on the Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. Consider that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. So, for maximum results you should utilize 80% of your marketing budget and time on retaining and expanding the sales of the top 20% of your customer base. Implement loyalty programs to show appreciation. This might include free samples; buy one get one free, discount coupons or referral rewards.
Make integrity the core ingredient of your business and you will succeed in marketing on a shoestring budget. Integrity doesn’t cost a thing, but without it, it will cost you everything.
Denise Marks is a published freelance writer, children’s author, entrepreneur and CEO of Mold Market. Her stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul books and entrepreneurial magazines. As the owner of GoPlanetEarth.com and MoldMarket.com, Denise has over 16 years’ experience in the soap making business.