Andy Malis is president of Baltimore-based MGH.
MDBIZ News features weekly expert advice to assist you in running your small business. Follow Maryland small business posts here.
Andy Malis is the president of Baltimore-based MGH, Inc., one of the region’s largest integrated marketing firms and the brains behind the creative promotion of Maryland mainstays, ranging from Old Bay seasoning to Ocean City.
MDBIZ News asked him about low-cost ideas for Maryland’s small business owners. Malis contributed the following:
Whether you’re an entrepreneur trying to get your company off the ground or a veteran businessperson looking to be as efficient as possible with your marketing spend, here are ten strategies that can help boost your business and maximize your advertising dollars.
1) Be the customer
Audit every piece of customer communication from your customers’ point of view. Today’s marketplace is cluttered like never before — from radio and TV, to direct mail and endless Web advertisements. Not to mention, shorter attention spans and time pressures add to the distraction. BUT, if your message is simple, focused and pertinent to your target audience, you will reach them.
2) Measure as much as possible
Most advertisers have no idea if their advertising is working. You may experience increased traffic and sales, but is it from your advertising? And if so, from what specifically? Develop ways to measure the effectiveness of your advertising by using targeted promotion codes, unique website addresses and different phone numbers — which all allow you to track customer response.
3) Ignore your competitors. Know your audience
Just because a company in your area — or even a competitor — is running a lot of radio advertising, for example, it doesn’t mean you should do the same. What if your core customer is a television viewer? Does your product need to be seen to be appreciated? What time of day is your customer watching TV, or what magazines are they reading? Are they a busy professional or a retiree? Know whom you’re talking to, and that will tell you how to reach them.
4) Be easily found
Seventy-seven percent of all Internet searches are just looking for your address, business hours or other basic contact information. Don’t hide it. Not everyone enters your website from your homepage, so make sure that information is on every page.
5) Don’t forget mobile
According to a recent study by Google, 61 percent of consumers say they’ll abandon your site immediately if it’s not mobile-friendly. Look at your website on your smartphone. Can you read it? If not, your potential customers can’t either. You could be losing out on revenue if you’re not creating a great mobile experience for users.
6) Relentlessly pursue the interested
Anyone who contacts you is gold. How are you following up? Use technology to stay in front of them. For example, you should be retargeting your website visitors. Retargeting is a form of online advertising that keeps your brand in front of bounced traffic after users leave your website. After a visitor has left your page, he or she will be served up your ads later on—keeping your business top of mind.
7) Actively manage your online reputation
A recent survey found that 72 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Google your business name followed by the word “reviews.” Read what comes up. Is it good? Bad? You must monitor what’s being said about your company and respond to complaints. First, make sure you company is registered with online directories such as Yelp, Google Places, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, and BBB. Second, start a program that asks your customers to post reviews. A one-star increase in Yelp reviews has been associated with a 4 to 9 percent increase in sales.
8) Get noticed
Implement high-impact tactics to get famous fast. Bigger and fewer is always better than lots of smaller. For example, one full-page ad will get you more than four quarter page ads. Most buying decisions are emotional, not rational. Don’t get lost in facts. Facts support the need your product or service is fulfilling.
9) Create happy customers and they’ll do your advertising for you
Play to the front row and make your raving fans “lunatics.” Go above and beyond in customer service and make sure that it permeates every touch point of the customer experience. Mystery shop your store to uncover any potential problems and create an environment that customers want to return to — and have their friends experience.
10) Smaller = Faster
If you’re competing with larger or national competitors, use your size to your advantage. Most national companies are notoriously bad at local marketing. Most large companies are slow to act. You can quickly respond to local market conditions and change your plans fast. You can OWN the local market and leave them in the dust.
Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. And above all, it shouldn’t break the bank. Successful advertising, whether on a big or small scale, is simply about reaching your customers with the right message in the right medium, and sometimes at the right time. Before implementing your next advertising campaign, take a step back and review which of these cost-effective advertising methods may make the most sense for your business.