Machine gun campaigns too pricey for SMBs.

From a marketing perspective, one of the most important components is to understand the demographics of your clients. You can’t be all things to all people so don’t try to be.

I often see businesses take a shotgun approach to their marketing and they spray their marketing efforts everywhere. This is ineffective and costly. Small businesses simply can’t afford to throw money away with wasted marketing efforts.

If you create the picture of your typical client – let’s call him Dan, an accountant in his mid-40s – you can start to ask yourself questions. You receive an offer from a radio station for incredibly cheap run-of-station ads from 9am to midday. The station plays mainly rap music.

The first thing you need to do is think of Dan and ask yourself if he will hear these ads. He probably doesn’t listen to rap music and he is working most days. He doesn’t have the radio on at work. No matter how cheap the advertising is, Dan will probably never hear it.

This is a process you can do with every piece of marketing you think about using. Once you work out your picture of Dan or Mary, you need to get inside their heads. What appeals to them? What ways can we market to them? Most importantly, are there some non-traditional methods that are minimal cost and maximum return.

One method that seems to work well across most age groups is texting. The stats reveal that 97 per cent of text messages are opened – most within four minutes. In fact 83 per cent are opened within the hour. We just can’t handle receiving a text and not knowing what it is. Many businesses – gyms; hairdressers; cafes; clothing stores and more are trying to tap into the SMS world.

Keep in mind that the ACMA says that you need the consent of mobile phone users before you can send text messages to them – but if you hold a competition and ask people to send a text to enter, it can be a convenient way to quickly build a database. There are a variety of ways you can accumulate these phone numbers and then a number of companies specialise in allowing you to use their services to send very cheap text messages.

This ties in with one of my other favourite concepts. The contest. They are great for creating buzz and interest – particularly in a new product. You can often have the product donated by one of your suppliers and if the prize is good enough, the local media will pick up on it. Even better if you can provide a prize that they can’t buy. Meet a celebrity backstage or have something customised for them.

I also have one of my businesses set up to send a birthday SMS to all of our clients on their special day. We invite them into the store to collect their free gift. Most people don’t take up the offer of a free gift (so it doesn’t cost a lot of money) but they like the recognition on their birthday. The ones that do come in to collect their free gift are often the ones who require additional items and so make a purchase. A low cost output and when there is an expense incurred for the business it usually has a quick ROI.

When I first started advertising a business I started many years ago, I took out small ads in the classifieds section of the newspaper. The size was small but the frequency was high. The cost per ad was low but I ran the ad every day. I was amazed at the number of people who made contact based on those ads. Remember that size isn’t the most important thing – frequency is.

Another item that I would advocate as a low-cost high-return strategy is to survey your client base – offering a prize drawn at random for participation. Now, surveying your client base doesn’t sound like a way to increase sales but it sends all the right messages. You care about what your clients think and you want to improve your offering. You also receive feedback that you can use to actually improve your offering.

Lastly you need to look professional. Uniform, professional business cards, cars with company logos, etc. all make you look more professional and helps to improve the image you portray. Some of these items cost next to nothing and last for a long period of time.

Probably the best method is having high quality products and delivering exceptional service – people will talk about your business so much that many marketing methods become irrelevant as the referrals will grow your business exponentially.

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