grow your business resizedWelcome to the first in a series of articles that will focus on growing your business. Each issue will explore a different area of business, from social networking and online marketing to customer service and maximising sales. This issue we take a look at marketing and advertising your business.

In any business, the ultimate goal is to increase revenue and the best way to do this is to increase awareness of your business to more customers. In today’s world there are a multitude of ways to promote your business and the good news is that not all formats will cost you money.

Know Your Customer

In order to reach potential and existing customers you must pinpoint who your customer is and understand their needs, wants and buying habits. The more you know about your customers the more effective your marketing and advertising efforts will be.

Knowing things like age, gender, marital status and occupation can help enormously when planning marketing campaigns. If you understand what methods of advertising your customer responds to you can tailor your marketing activity and ultimately persuade potential and existing customers to buy from you.

The best way to find out what your customer needs is by keeping in touch with them on a regular basis. This could be via email communication, telephone surveys, postal surveys or simply by talking to them when they are in store to find out what they are looking for and what they could be in the market for in the future, this could give you the edge over your competitors.

Invest In Promotion

You could have the best product or service in the world on offer but if no one knows about it then you are not going to maximise sales or revenue. Sit down at the start of each year and set a realistic figure that can be allocated for marketing activity, this should include all methods of marketing from online and print advertising to events and networking opportunities. This should allow you to set out an advertising strategy across the year, leaving some leeway for ad hoc campaigns and promotions that may arise throughout the year to promote new products or highlight special offers.

Having a consistent advertising strategy that runs throughout the year will keep you in the minds of your customers, ensuring that the next time they require a new product that you sell your company name will be the one they remember over your competitors.

It’s not always easy parting with money for advertising, as you cannot guarantee the return you will get from it. Factor in the number of sales you would need to recoup the advertising cost to ensure it is worthwhile before making any commitments. If it is advertising you are confident you get a return from then why not look at booking multiple adverts for the year as this will generally lower the cost per advert for you.

Utilising Free Opportunities Social networking has opened up a whole new world for customers and businesses alike. Today you will find that most businesses, no matter what size, have a facebook page and a twitter account at least. These free marketing tools are a great way to connect with your customers on a daily basis. Upload photos of new stock, promote special offers, run exclusive competitions for your fans or followers or simply tweet about the weather in your area – everything you do will be picked up by your followers. The more you put into social networking, the more you will get out of it, it is something that will take up some time but if you invest that time you will reap the rewards. Having apps for facebook or twitter on your smartphone or tablet means you can have constant access to it, so when you have a spare minute you can simply send a quick tweet to keep in touch with your customers at any time of the day.

Top Social Networking Sites

Facebook – The most popular social networking site with an estimated 1.3billion active users per month. Great way to engage with customers and run exclusive competitions and offers. It takes a bit of work to build up your ‘likes’ but if you put in the time and effort you will gain interested and engaged relevant customers. Can you afford not to be part of it?

Twitter – 271million monthly users and 500million tweets sent per day, Twitter is a different entity to Facebook. It is short and to the point as you only get 140 characters per tweet. It is a fast and easy way to connect with customers and other organisations that may be of interest to you.

LinkedIn – This is a business oriented social networking site, connecting you to other professionals in your industry. It is quite literally like attending a networking meeting but you are doing it from the comfort of your own office. It has over 300million users.

Pinterest – Described as a ‘visual discovery tool’ Pinterest allows you to ‘pin’ images and stories and gain followers. You can create ‘boards’ of different categories and ‘pin’ relevant images to this. It can be used for businesses to attract more customers and drive traffic to your website. The most successful ‘pinners’ are those who pin useful and relevant tips or stories for their audience, you can share your own knowledge or share interesting articles you have found online.

Instagram – This is an image-led social networking site that allows you to take photos and upload with a nice filter, these photos can also be shared to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr as it doesn’t yet have a sharing or re-posting tool on its own site. Use Instagram to share photos of new products, new stores and even new staff to your business.

Monitor Your Marketing Activity

You will know yourself the forms of advertising your customers have responded to most in the past, but if you are looking for new customers then it may be worth trialling some different methods. If you haven’t tried social networking or online advertising, why not try it or if you haven’t used local radio or local newspapers then give them a shot as you might reach more potential customers than you thought.

The most important thing to do with all your marketing activity, free and paid for, is to monitor your response. In an ideal world this would be easy, with every customer calling and telling you exactly where they saw your advert or heard about you, however in reality most customers will not recall the exact place they heard about you. It is therefore often an idea to include a unique code for customers to mention when they call to receive a discount, this will allow you to keep track of where the calls are coming from and track what marketing activity is working well for you.

If you don’t use a code, another good thing to do before an advertising campaign starts is to check your website traffic and monitor this over the following weeks to see if there is a rise in web traffic and subsequently a rise in phone calls. You can generally link this activity back to adverts running at that time.

To monitor social networking activity, keep track of the types of images, stories or posts that your audience respond to. The results may surprise you as you discover more about your audience and what they like to read about. If you know what they like to see online and what they respond to you can tailor your posts to suit them and keep them interested in your business.