If you’re intimidated by the idea of devising a new marketing plan, or even revising an existing one, you’re not alone. It can be a daunting task to create an effective branding solution for your company, particularly if you have little to no experience doing so. What’s more, marketing can be expensive, and frankly, there’s no surefire guarantee that it’s even going to work.
Fortunately, getting your name out there among prospective clients doesn’t require a Madison Avenue skillset or huge bank account. Successful marketing can be done on a smaller scale, and just requires a bit of initiative and savvy. Here are several tips to consider for marketing on a budget.
Community involvement Marketing doesn’t always mean billboards, TV spots, or direct mail. Taking part in local events and community activities is a great way to foster a new and loyal client base, as most people want to do business with someone familiar and close by.
Make yourself known to the community by sponsoring area events. Perhaps your town has a Firecracker 5K run during the summer. During the holidays, you could offer up a vehicle for an evening for a quick holiday lights tour around the town. Or maybe you can lend your company’s name to a Little League or tot soccer team.
Speaking of kids, they love swag. My kitchen cabinets are loaded with freebee water bottles from local businesses that my kids have brought home from school fairs and street festivals.
Get referrals According to John Rampton, a VIP contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine, “referrals are the most effective, and cost-effective, way to generate new business.” However, many business owners feel uncomfortable asking their clients for them. Fortunately, there are several ways to get that positive feedback without appearing awkward—or even desperate.
• Start with your best customers. Odds are, they’ll be happy to offer up a recommendation
• Request referrals through your email signature, via website submission form, or at the bottom of your invoices
• Give referrals for your client’s businesses or services, if applicable
• Offer small incentives like a gift card, coupons, or percentage off future work (which can also be done post-referral as a thank you)
• Direct customers to like your Facebook page/posts
Take advantage of social media In addition to the ubiquitous Facebook, both Instagram and Pinterest are valuable platforms to visually promote your brand. Most fortuitously, they’re free, and you can just use the camera on your phone.
Admittedly Instagram and Pinterest are fairly uncharted waters in our industry that seems to prefer the Zuckerberg approach. However, younger consumers, in particular, are preferential to using Instagram and Pinterest in ever-increasing numbers. As a primer, here’s what you should post:
• Glamour shots of your metal
• Action shots of your fleet in hip, cool locales or at special events
• Behind-the-scenes shots of your staff and chauffeurs
• Hashtags and geo-targeting
• Short videos about your services and/or specials
• Image testimonials from existing customers
• Customers’ images of them in your vehicles (with their permission, of course)
Seek out business awards Many local periodicals or trade publications offer business awards in a wide array of categories. Do a little homework and find out who sponsors these honors and apply in as many categories as you can. This type of award not only generates buzz for a business, but also provides winners with a badge or logo to use on their business cards or website for years to come. What’s more, if the contest has an awards ceremony, it’s a great networking opportunity.
Coupons are king While this might not be ideal for companies that handle corporate work, coupons are great for attracting retail customers. Let’s be honest, most people have tried a new product or service solely because they had a coupon for a few dollars off. Consider distributing them for use during your “slow periods” or toward recently launched revenue streams (e.g., wine or brewery tours).
Team-up with a local business Speaking of wine and brewery tours, a partnership with these trendy new businesses have the same potential as moneymakers for our industry as catering halls and wedding stores have had for generations. Look for new hotels or B&Bs popping up in your area, as well. Besides, having a partner helps defer any costs associated with advertising.
Write for industry publications Here’s one that’s near and dear to our hearts. Industry publications, including Chauffeur Driven, are generally on the lookout for new content and contributors. If you have a knack for writing, and feel you have a particular expertise to share with your peers, reach out and inquire about submission guidelines. If your piece gets published, hand out copies of your article or link to it on your website so that you can be seen by a larger audience.
Feeling that your prose isn’t up to snuff? Practice with a blog that you can post on your website or through Facebook. However, eschew the dry 150-word sales pitches, and, instead, be entertaining or funny.
Embrace the chill of cold calling/emailing Yeah, cold calling is kind of a drag, but believe it or not, Rampton says cold calling or emailing are still effective ways to obtain new business. Best of all, they don’t cost you anything but time.
Of course, there’s an art to cold calling; it requires a lot more than the ability to pick up the phone or send an email. Take some time to plan ahead and practice. Take note of the following:
• Before dialing, conduct some market research so that you’re only reaching out to your target audience
• Prepare an effective opening statement that includes a warm greeting, introduction, reference point (something you know about their business and/or their needs), the service you offer, and a transition into a conversation
• Prepare a script so that you can answer any questions with ease or expertise. But, for Pete’s sake, do not read directly from the page. Practice beforehand so it sounds natural, and use your script as a guide
• Always be pleasant to whoever picks up the phone or responds to your email
• Have a calendar in front of you to set up an appointment
• Be patient and persistent; the key is not giving up
Make Use of Free Resources “There are a lot of free services available that can benefit your business,” says Rampton. “So, why spend money when you don’t have to? It’s not being cheap. It’s being frugal.”
“There are a lot of free services available ... Why spend money when you don’t have to? It’s not being cheap. It’s being frugal.” – John Rampton, Entrepreneur Magazine contributorWith so much marketing done through online platforms and channels, there is a huge array of free tools to be found on the web. The good news is that these free resources are just as good as ones that require subscription fees. For instance, Buffer is a free site that lets you schedule social media posts across all your platforms; Google Analytics lets you track your web traffic in real-time; Charlie is a customer relations manager that provides easy research into your potential clients; and Canva lets you edit and resize photos to post on Instagram, et. al.
And, yes, each of these resources won’t cost you a cent to use—what are you waiting for?
While not everyone has a dedicated marketing team or deep pockets for a flashy campaign, creativity and initiative don’t cost a thing.