While online marketing is efficient, cheap, and allows you to expand your reach, there’s still a lot of value to good old-fashioned grassroots marketing campaigns. Of course, the first step in any successful advertising or promotional campaign is to understand who your audience is, how they shop, and where to reach them.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Part of any comprehensive business plan, a marketing plan helps you zero in on your target demographic, assess competition in the marketplace, and research the best strategies for reaching your particular audience. It will also allow you to put a firm budget in place, and determine the best way to use it. With any tools you use, have a tracking system in place, whether it’s measuring visitor counts on your website or asking customers, “how did you hear about us?”
DIY or Hire Pros?
When it comes to developing basic marketing materials, there’s a lot you can do on your own with the help of software design programs. Alternatively, you can hire an advertising firm to help you develop a brand strategy. A brand strategy isn’t just about selling, it’s about creating a consistent image of your company in the public eye. Give some thought as to what you have the capability to do on your own, and do well, and where it’s wiser to invest in professional-grade support.
Many consumers still like having something tangible they can hold in their hands. Fliers, leaflets, slick sheets, and brochures are great to hand out at trade shows, conferences, and in-person events. These formats are easy and inexpensive to produce, and you can easily repurpose them to be mailers or direct mail pieces. Many customers still clip coupons, so if you want to offer a discount, a printed piece is a great way to do it. Make sure materials are colorful, easy-to-read, and follow your marketing brand guidelines.
Many coffee houses, restaurants, and community centers still have bulletin boards where people can post ads, business cards, and other materials. These are especially useful when they are positioned near a checkout or restroom where people have nothing but time to kill. You’ll need something eye-catching and attention-grabbing. Short, sweet slogans that elicit an emotional response or make someone laugh are good bets. The same goes for ad content on billboards and even telephone poles. Make sure whatever you do is reflective of your brand, so people will start recognizing your name and image.
Vinyl Stickers and “Tech Tattoos”
Even though stickers might seem pretty low-tech, check out any Hydro Flask, laptop case, or skateboard and you’ll see they have staying power, and a great production price! You’ll need a funky design or catchy phrase, but it’s another low-cost way to get your name into the public eye. T-shirts, hoodies, and ballcaps are other great ways to turn your customers into walking billboards for your company. You can even make money off the sale of these items - a win-win all around!
Sponsorship marketing goes beyond buying logoed uniforms for the local Little League team - although that’s still a viable community support initiative that can pay dividends. Consider sponsoring trade shows and high-profile industry events. You may be able to negotiate a speaking opportunity, an exhibit booth, or even to pass out marketing materials and logoed SWAG. It serves the purpose of direct marketing, while also boosting your image in your particular line of business.
Social Media and Email
While everyone is on social media these days, being visible and engaging can go a long way in advancing your marketing efforts. Consider paid social media campaigns, or post video links, photos, and customer testimonials. Engage via email and send out coupons and links to new products or services. Always link back to your website, which should be robust, interactive, and engaging. If you don’t have a shopping cart with numerous ways for people to pay you, consider getting one as a way to stay competitive.
According to Business News Daily, another grassroots way to build your business is to get personally involved in industry associations and chambers of commerce, attend workshops, and volunteer to speak on panels and in discussion groups. You can usually distribute your own marketing material at these events, and you’ll establish yourself as an expert in your field, which is a great way to encourage business-to-business connections.
When to Change Your Strategy
When you’re trying out different advertising mediums - which is a wise move to make when you first dive in - Bid Creative says you’ll want to track their performance, tweaking your marketing strategy to spend more money and effort on what works, and less on what doesn’t. You might want to survey customers and access data analytics around traffic to get a feel for what’s pulling most effectively. Give a marketing plan a good three months in action before you decide if a concept is working or not.
What NOT to Do
Businesses of all sizes often rush to slash marketing budgets when revenue drops, but that’s a counterproductive move. When numbers decline, it’s time to get savvy with your advertising approach and use your money wisely - not pull back. Consider hiring freelancers or independent contractors who are pros in their field, but cost considerably less than a full-service ad firm. This is the time to step up and innovate.
Marketing is an art rather than a science, and it sometimes takes a little while to get the perfect formula in place. Even then, it’s wise to evaluate your marketing strategy on a biannual basis to ensure you’re making the most of your budget and getting the best return on your investment.
This article was written by Katie Conroy. Katie Conroy is the creator of Advice Mine. She enjoys writing about lifestyle topics and created the website to share advice she has learned through experience, education and research.