The latest Vistage International Confidence Index results for Q2 2010 were just released on July, 2010. The good news is that small business CEOs are WAY more confident today than they were at the same time last year. Realistically, you can say that the 2500 responding CEOs were cautiously optimistic about the future.
According to the survey, small and medium sized businesses have accepted the new state of the economy and have positioned themselves to do more with less so that they can be profitable throughout the next year.
The survey also showed that CEOs hoped that their profitability would come from getting and keeping customers through innovative products and services.
Now that you’ve read that, you’re probably thinking that this sounds great, but where should you begin?
Since small business CEOs are most concerned with innovation, lead generation, and funding their future with cash instead of loans, I’ve collected the following easy, low-cost DIY Marketing strategies to help you get and keep profitable customers.
1. Use Videos – by 2013 video will be 90 percent of web traffic . If you want to get found, you’d better have a YouTube channel. Create videos to educate, inform, demonstrate and promote. Promote the videos to your existing customers and ask them to leave testimonials and reviews.
2. Leverage Targeted Social Networking Channels. Here is how smart small businesses are getting leverage out of this “free” tool. Don’t focus on more people, focus on more relevant people and choose social networks where your ideal clients hang out. For example, if sell to small business owners, become a power LinkedIn user and participate fully in specific industry groups find advisors and BE an advisor. Participate in business sites with Q and A content such as Bizmore and Sprouter. Also check out Focus.com for more expert advice and small business content.
3. Build Lists - Lead generation isn’t a fishing expedition – it’s a mating expedition. Much like in the wild, you have to make yourself attractive to your ideal customer. Be sure to place a form on your web page or blog that gives your visitors an opportunity to leave their name and email in exchange for some valuable educational information about your industry, product or service. Harness some of your expertise and write a report or create a series of tips that will make your visitors more successful.
4. Ask for reviews and referrals – A recent study by Ivy Worldwide showed that reviews and referrals were very influential in which provider CEOs chose when purchasing technology. Be sure to collect testimonials and reviews from satisfied customers (and don’t forget those customers for whom you recently SOLVED a problem). Put these on your web site AND ask customers to leave product and service reviews on your LOCAL LISTING in Google.
5. Follow-Up – About 80 percent of all prospects won’t even pay attention to you until after the 5th follow-up. As you’d imagine, over 80 percent of all sales and marketing communications STOPS after the third try. Invest in a sales and marketing follow-up system. There are options at every level. Constant Contact and iContact are great basic level choices. aWeber is a terrific intermediate source and InfusionSoft is the power marketing follow-up system.
6. Turn customers into members – Back in the day we called that a multi-year contract. But that just sounds like your customer is being kept prisoner. Think of your customers as members and create an engaging offer that will keep them on a regular budget plan and loyal to you for years to come. When neither of you are thinking about contracts nor pricing, both you and your customers will be freed up to create new ways of working together.
7. Sell more stuff to existing customers - Use the Amazon model -- “If you liked this book, then you’ll also like…”. Dig deep inside how your customers currently use your product or service and look for ways to sell them additional add-ons that will both save them time, money AND make them more vested customers. Use your email marketing system to educate and inform your customers about other complementary product lines.
Generating leads and maintaining loyal customers don’t have to cost a lot of money – or even take a lot of time. The key is to sit down and plot out the creative ways that you can use the low-cost technologies available to you to make yourself a more permanent part of your customers’ world.
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Ivana Taylor is CEO of Third Force, a strategic firm that helps small businesses get and keep their ideal customer. She’s the co-author of the book “Excel for Marketing Managers” and proprietor of DIYMarketers a site for in-house marketers. Her blog is Strategy Stew.