If you are a small business owner who is doing OK, but not really living the dream you envisaged when you first set your business up, then you are not alone.

Running a small business is one of the most challenging jobs there is.  It’s down to you to make all the decisions, and not just the ones you are good at, but the difficult ones too. It can often be lonely, and financially tough, but when a happy customer tells their friends to buy from you because they loved your product/service, the sweet reward is not just the money, it’s that magic feeling of being valued by customers for what you do, which beats any salaried job!

So how can we experience more of those magic moments that make running a small business a joy (as well as financially rewarding!)?

You are already good at what you do.  Whether you are a florist, beautician, accountant, restaurant owner… you’re making the most of your skills and providing a product or service that customers want/need.  However it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, if customers don’t know about it, how can they buy from you?

This is why it’s very important for small business owners to not only excel at what they DO, but also to excel at MARKETING what they do.  Which means excelling at FINDING and KEEPING customers.

There are thousands of ways for small businesses to market themselves.  Here are 3 strategies to get you started, and growing your small business straight away.

Small business growth strategy #1 – Commit to the Marketing habit

To be successful you need to commit to spending AT LEAST 90 minutes EVERY week on activities directly related to finding and keeping customers.  It sounds obvious, but attracting paying customers to your business is the single most important part of your job as a small business owner, but the chances are it’s not the first thing on your list for today, this week, or even this month.

Once you have acknowledged how vital this point is in determining the future success of your business, here are some ideas on how to effectively use the new slot of time you will be regularly devoting to Marketing:

  • Brainstorm and map out ideas to attract new customers and win back previous customers
  • Re-write your ‘elevator pitch’ ensuring it succinctly captures what you do, and also the positive results your customers experience after buying from you.  For example, instead of being a Marketing Consultant, I work with closely with clients to attract more customers, increase sales, and ultimately grow their businesses.  Once you have cracked your pitch, ensure the wording is reflected consistently in all your customer communications.
  • Plan seasonal marketing communications that make the most of key calendar dates relevant to your product/service
  • Devise time-bound offers and incentives to attract customers during quieter periods, or maximise the opportunities of busier periods by rewarding them for spending more than they normally would
  • Develop products or services that you can up-sell/cross-sell
  • Write sales copy for direct mail letters or emails, compile customer newsletters/case studies/blogs, use social media, book onto networking events…

Your focus on finding and keeping customers will keep you busy, but I guarantee you will want to spend more than 90 minutes a week on Marketing once you see the results of your hard work showing up as new business!

And if you can’t find those 90 minutes in your week, pay someone else to do this for you as it is critical to the future success of your business.

Small business growth strategy #2 – Learn from the competition

Most people have heard of the 80/20 rule.  It also applies in business: in any sector 80% of businesses will either be getting by or struggling, and only the top 20% will be successful.  However the most successful businesses aren’t usually doing anything unique, instead they are differentiating themselves by doing (& marketing) their businesses fantastically well.

Take a look at your competitors. Who is doing well? What are they doing well? Can you gain any ideas or inspiration from them to help you?  If you know of any very successful businesses in your sector, visit their websites, and see how they pitch themselves and communicate with customers. What can you learn from them?

This isn’t about copying, this is about seeking inspiration and learning from others.  It’s about adapting insights to suit your business, and it’s about getting better at attracting YOUR perfect customers (not somebody else’s).

Small business growth strategy #3 – Look at your pricing

Now this is a delicate subject, but the chances are you aren’t charging as much as you could be for your product or service. Unless you are selling high volumes of a commodity product, there is usually a good argument to charge higher prices, so that customers perceive the value of your offering.

This is particularly true for service providers.  For example, if a business coach were to charge low prices for their service, it is likely that their customers would not value the advice as much as they would if they had paid more for it.  Therefore with less invested, they would be less committed, and not get round to acting on the advice, so they wouldn’t experience any benefit.  The money spent would seem like it was wasted, even though it was a relatively small amount. Conversely, if the coach were to charge higher prices, their customers would be investing more in the service, be more committed, more likely to act on the advice, experience the benefits, and feel that the service was value for money (despite its higher price tag).  The more expensive service would be perceived as better value for money.

Another interesting point on pricing is that 20% of customers will pay more for a premium version of what’s on offer, if you give them the opportunity to do so.

Many companies do this successfully.  One such example is Legoland who offer a limited number of customers each day the opportunity to pay a premium, in addition to their entry ticket, for the Q-bot service to avoid queuing for rides.  These customers are clearly more profitable to Legoland than their core customers, but before Q-bot was invented, they would have just been paying the standard entry price as there would have been no option to pay more.

Legoland have gone a step further to maximise the opportunity to offer customers the option to pay more for a premium service. Q-bot has a tiered pricing structure that offers ‘standard’, ‘express’ and ‘ultimate’ options, with increasing price tags and benefits attached to each.

Invest some time thinking about what extra benefits your customers would value/pay more for, and how you could offer different price options to your customers, such as:

  • budget, standard, premium packages (with increasing benefits added to each level)
  • off-peak vs peak service
  • standard time turn-around vs high speed turn-around

The overall effect of offering premium options will result in 20% of your business generating a much higher profit for you than your core business, which is a very attractive prospect for any small business owner!

One more point on pricing, there are many customers who try to get you to discount your product or service. Rather than jumping to do this so you don’t lose the customer, pause to reflect.  It is often an early indication that they are not your ‘ideal customer’ and in time it will cost you more (usually in terms of time) to keep them than they are worth to you.  So as counter-intuitive as it may seem, it could make more sense to turn down the business at the out-set, rather than suffer the costs later.  If you do decide to lower your price to win a particular job, never agree to a discount without reducing something in the value of your offering as well (except if you are running a time-bound special offer).

I hope these strategies motivate you to review your approach to Marketing, and empower you to grow your business and realise the dream you set out with.  I wish you every success!

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If you’re a small business owner looking for help to achieve your goals and grow your sales through effective marketing, please get in touch.