Small Business Marketing Ideas? 5 Secret Places to Start!

Small business marketing ideas you’d think would be a dime a dozen yet it is the most frequently asked question that I get. Getting ideas are not the problem. What is hard on the brain is finding something that ten millions others haven’t thought of.

Here are 5 ideas that almost no one thinks about or has even heard of in some cases:

Google Zeitgeist:

  • The first thing that comes to mind is, “Huh?”. It is a German term which refers to “signs of the times”. Google uses it as a term to describe what the hottest searches are in any given moment. In other words, where are peoples’ minds? It is a great source of small business marketing ideas. Most of the time the top searches are on movie stars or sports figures that have done something they shouldn’t have and so forth. Keywording will be easy.
  • You can get great ideas from this and you know that the subject is already hot because the Zeitgeist list tells you so. What a great source of small business ideas! You don’t care about sports or movie figures? That’s alright. Sometimes the top search traffic is about the IRS or how to survive a multi day power outage. Come up with any product unique to the subject and you have an automatic hot market. (In the millions, usually)

Rentals:

You can use the list above to see which are the hottest movies or which new video game is getting all kinds of inquiries about it. Many small business marketing ideas will come as you write a product review or open a small web site, become an affiliate for a movie company, record label or game company and start selling. Again, you know the market is hot because search volumes are high. You can make it even hotter for your business using a good CPC campaign.

People are asking a lot about items on the zeitgeist. Most of them have their credit cards firmly clamped between their teeth. Make sure your little site, if you have one, is SEO’d properly and you’re off to the races!

What are your passions?:

  • This is an old, tried and true method of succeeding. It is one of the best small business marketing ideas ever. What are you really passionate about? Are you brought to tears when you hear of the plight of the Darfur rape victims? Famine and world hunger bring you to your knees? You maybe love radio controlled airplanes. Golf keeps you awake most nights. (I’m NOT implying that golfers or radio airplane enthusiasts don’t care about important issues!)
  • Whatever makes your heart pound, you can create a successful online venture for yourself. How can you make money, still feel good about yourself and have a clear conscience when dealing with things like world hunger? There are many ways and there is nothing wrong making a living funneling world attention and money on something that you love. Read the following idea and get information on affiliate programs.
  • Remember the good Samaritan of the bible? He could help the guy on the side of the road because he had money. You can do whatever you want with the money you make.

Create your own online bookstore:

  • No matter what your interest, you can create a tightly focused specialty bookstore. Places like Amazon.com and Chapters.ca and so forth all have affiliate programs. How can you help the starving people in Africa, lets say?
  • Design your bookstore to take your visitors to history books of Africa so they can learn how all this came about. Set up a part of your store on nutrition and what these people need. Set up another section on the heroes and saints of these people (who ever you see as hero. It’s your store, you decide.)
  • Love nature and want to do your share? Here are some small business marketing ideas that most people don’t realize can be created. Promote places like the Sierra Club on your site. Promote books on everything from bird watching to the ravaging of the planet. SEO the site properly and you will have oodles of traffic. Build your pages properly and you will have an immense positive impact on whatever stirs your stew. On the web, you can focus your business intensely like a laser on any small business marketing ideas you choose.

What do you know?:

  • If you are a plumber, create ebooks on plumbing repairs. Sell easy to make videos on how to fix a leak.
  • You love to knit? Give courses on knitting, sell specialty yarns and yes, make and sell your own easy to make videos.
  • You love to rebuild 1971 Mustangs? Just think of it… Mikes-famous-mustang-rebuilders.com!! Does this open a floodgate of small business marketing ideas for you?
  • You are a brain surgeon who loves to do research on nutrition to help brain cancer patients. Build a site, SEO it and run with it. Keep yourself happy, make money and improve the plight of some mighty unfortunate people.

I could go on forever, but I’m getting writers’ cramp. The internet is a river of gold. With that gold you can build your dream home, have the wardrobe of your dreams, do an incredible amount of good and what kind of price can you put on satisfaction with your life?

Make yourself a list of small business ideas and keep it handy where you can easily get at it to add, take away from or change what’s on there. Go with the premise that nothing is impossible because nothing is impossible.

5 Marketing Ideas Small Businesses Can Implement Now!

Small businesses often complain that a lack of budget restricts the opportunities to successfully market their businesses. Too often they confuse advertising with marketing and believe that placing an ad in the local newspaper will keep the customers coming in.

Below are five simple strategies that small businesses can implement TODAY. The cost to implement them is minimal if not free and they will do more to drive customers to your business than the majority of your current marketing activities. The list is by no means exhaustive, there are thousands of ideas out there but here are five to get you on your way.

1. Offer a guarantee

Guarantees often come in the form of money back guarantee. But by thinking laterally small businesses can provide guarantees that communicate their brand promise clearly and effectively. Guarantees also help to build trust, differentiate you from competitors and create a perception of a reduction in financial risk from the customer. Some examples include:

– Guarantee of product quality. “If your not completely satisfied with your haircut we will give you a full refund”
– Guarantee of service. “We will deliver your new bed tomorrow, guaranteed!”
– Guarantee of price. “We will beat any competitors advertised price by 10%”
– Guarantee of product range. “The largest range of lawnmowers in Sydney, guaranteed”
These are just some examples, the sky is really the limit but make sure your guarantee is strong and is consistent with your brand promise.

2. Create a simple special offer.

The best special offers are often the simplest. They can be as simple a offering a free item with every purchase or even a small gift for entering a store during a specific time. You can also cross promote with other retailers to drive customer traffic. Some ideas are:

If your targeting mothers aged 25-40 with your clothing store you could offer a free balloon (with your logo on it) to every child that comes into your store. It provides a positive experience for the mother and a useful point of distraction for the children so the mother can spend more time looking at (and buying) clothes. Offer a free coffee at a nearby coffee shop for every purchase over a certain value and provide products to the coffee shop for a reciprocal offer. Special offers don’t have to be expensive to, just try to make them valuable to your target audience and time sensitive to try and create a sense of urgency.

3. Start a loyalty program

When we think of loyalty programs we think of the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program or Woolworths Everyday Rewards amongst many others. The concept is the same in terms of generating customer loyalty but for small business they can be really simple. As an example, any coffee shop that does not have a “Buy 10 coffee’s and get one free” loyalty card available are losing revenue as we speak.

I’ve seen a coffee shop take this one step further and have a card file on the front counter where frequent coffee drinkers can leave their card. What a great idea! The card file ensures that their customers don’t forget to bring the card and that the card owner always returns to purchase the coffees. This idea can be applied across most small businesses including hairdressers, corner stores amongst many others. The key is to give your customers a reason to keep coming back to you and not your competitor.

4. Capture an email list of your best customers

Many local small businesses such as clothing stores, restaurants and hairdressers have a list of loyal customers that keep coming back time and time again. In many cases, the only contact small businesses have with these customers is when they return to the shop or salon. All small businesses should aim to capture a list of their best customers on the basis that they will be offered exclusive discounts and offers as part of being on the list. Wineries are particularly good at this where they offer exclusive vintages to their best customers. The winery is often able to sell through the vintage directly to the mailing list and the customer gets an exclusive wine that isn’t available at the local bottle shop. A win-win for both.

5. Host an exclusive event for loyal customers & friends

Loyal customers like your business already and by being loyal they are often the customers that generate positive conversations about your business. You need to make them feel special and give them an opportunity to introduce their friends to your business. Now that you’ve captured their email address, you can invite them and a friend to an exclusive event. Some thoughts are:

– An exclusive preview after trading hours of your stores new summer range of clothing with champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a 20% discount on all clothing. Exclusive only to those on your email list.
– You’ve just introduced a new type of manicure to the services you offer at your beauty salon. Invite your customers to an evening of free manicures and champagne to showcase the new service and say thanks for their continued loyalty.

Exclusive events are a great way to show your customers how much you value them and provide a great way to promote new offers within your business.

6. Under promise and over deliver

Yes it’s an oldy but still a goody. And to illustrate my point I only offered you five marketing ideas in the beginning but given you six. Over delivering does not have to cost you anything. It can really be anything that exceeds the expectations of your customers and creates a positive impression about your business. Some examples are:

– Tradesman that provide additional service over and above what was quoted.
– A discount given to loyal customers outside of sale periods.

The opportunities are endless. The benefits of over delivering are that it gives your loyal customers a reason to talk about your business. It also gives them a reason to recommend you to others and can stimulate referrals that lead to new customer relationships.

These six simple strategies are easy to implement and hopefully they have stimulated your creative juices to come up with ideas for your business. Let me know what you’ve come up with by leaving a comment.

Good luck!

Five Small Business Finance Tips

Owning a small business involves much more than coming up with and implementing a business idea. Small business owners quickly learn that a huge part of their role as the owner of a business means learning how to take care of the financials. Here are several tips for small business owners who want to learn the best practices for managing their business’ finances:

1) Bookkeeping

To the dismay of many business owners, the ancient art of bookkeeping isn’t going anywhere. Fortunately, bookkeeping has become much easier. Bookkeeping programs can make the process much easier, but there are still certain fundamental rules that business owners must take into account. Firstly, business owners must always keep a record of all of the invoices processed by their business as well as the expenses they have incurred, such as raw materials, salaries, and operating expenses. While there is no solid rule for how to keep track of earnings and expenses, what matters most is that you keep track of your finances in a consistent fashion and that everything is written down. This is arguably the most important part of owning a small business.

2) Don’t Over-Exaggerate Your Earnings

When working with investors, banks, or other financial lenders, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to exaggerate your business’ earnings. These lenders need to know how likely you are to repay the money they have lent you when making their decision about whether or not to lend it in the first place. Lying or exaggerating about your earnings will only harm you and the lender in the long run.

3) Make Sure All Of Your Funding is Backed by a Legal Contract

Regardless of where you are going to receive funding, you need to ensure that the terms of your financial agreements are written down on a contract. Unfortunately, things can become troublesome during the repayment process and it is therefore urgent that you and your lender lay out terms in the beginning that you must adhere to later on. This keeps both sides accountable and also ensures that both sides know exactly what they are getting into before the money starts circulating.

4) Cash Flow

A successful small business always maintains a sufficient amount of cash on hand to take care of daily operations and unexpected expenses. However, many businesses that have been successful in receiving funding find that the money they are lent covers already-existing expenses but doesn’t quite leave enough cash left over to keep on hand. This is why small business owners are familiar with the feeling of being stuck somewhere between outstanding invoices and bills that are past-due. One option for small business owners is to use a merchant cash advance. These types of business cash advances can provide small businesses with additional cash flow to meet these expenses or to grow their business, and they are repaid through future credit card receivables. This is an important option to consider for many small business owners who have been denied other forms of funding.

5) When to Process Credit Cards

The short answer: Now! Being cash-only is extremely inconvenient for most customers. While setting up a credit card processing system can be costly, your customers may find it more convenient to go to your competitor’s business once they learn that your business doesn’t process credit cards. Furthermore, using credit cards at your business functions as an instant line of credit and means less hassle and paperwork for your business. This can cut down on lengthy credit approval processes. Also, there are additional types of funding available for businesses who process credit card transactions as opposed to those who don’t.