Take a minute to think about your company’s sales growth last year. If the number isn’t where you wanted it to be, ask yourself: How effective is my marketing plan?
“Marketing is a game-changer, especially for a small business. Without a well executed strategy, a lot of small businesses simply are not found by potential customers,” says Dan Schawbel, branding expert and author of Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future.
Here, we highlight two small businesses that are thriving as a result of major marketing makeovers.
Case Study #1: Murray Resources
About two years ago, Murray Resources didn’t have a marketing plan. The 24-year-old Houston-based staffing and recruiting agency had a website, but its look didn’t match its logo. There was a lack of clear communications on social media channels and online inquiry forms were going into the ether. The company hired Keith Wolf in spring 2011 as vice president of marketing to take charge.
1. Website reboot. Wolf's first order of business was to completely revamp the website. He started by sending out a survey to Murray’s top clients.
“I asked them what we were doing well and where they would like to see improvement,” Wolf says. “Candidates wanted job opportunities to be clearer on the site and clients wanted the site to show why we were a great company to partner with.”
Wolf gathered testimonials from clients in written and video form and wrote up case studies with the help of firm recruiters. From there, he uploaded job search resources in PDF form. Documents included tips on how to prepare for an interview, what to wear and the biggest interview mistakes.
With the help of an outside firm, Wolf then presented a logo that would nicely complement the soon-to-be-launched website.
“I got a little pushback on the logo because there was a lot of attachment to it after so many years,” he remembers. “But after explaining that our previous logo had somewhat of a boutique look and we needed something with a more professional, clean look that would show well on the white background of our new site, I was able to get more buy-in.”
2. Print campaign with a promise. In addition to working on the website, Wolf launched a print campaign with a specific hook: a six-month placement guarantee. If a job candidate decided to vacate his or her placement before six months, Murray Resources would replace the candidate at no charge to the client.
“Most recruiting firms offer a 30-day guarantee; this campaign was a great way to build our credibility,” he says, adding that advertisements were published in local business publications and online.
3. Email push. Before hiring Wolf, emails were sent on an ad hoc basis—recruiters pinged candidates when a job opened up.
Wolf signed up everyone on the firm’s database of clients and candidates to receive email updates. He then set up monthly email newsletters to include articles and resources helpful to clients and job candidates.
4. Social media streamlining. When Wolf began his marketing makeover, Murray Resources had three Facebook pages.
“All of them were people pages, not business pages, and no one was managing them,” he says. “I shut down those pages, launched a business page and began interacting with followers.”
Today, Wolf posts career-related articles daily and information on new jobs. He also makes it a point to respond to comments and questions from followers.
Results: These days, business at Murray Resources is going extremely well. Website views are up a whopping 400 percent from one year ago and more than 600 people are following the company’s Facebook page. Perhaps most impressive is the company’s flood of new leads.
“When I joined the company, we would get one or two client leads every month,” Wolf says. “Now we're getting almost one lead every day; we’ve added 29 clients in the past year. The improving economy and other factors have also helped, but marketing has been huge for the sustained growth of the company.”
Case Study #2: Mama Mia Trattoria
Food industry veteran Barry Brown was looking to purchase a restaurant in 2012 when he happened upon Mama Mia Trattoria in Portland, Ore. Already popular with locals and visitors, the eatery boasted an excellent downtown location but needed a revamp in the marketing department in order to grow. Brown bought the business in July 2011 and has managed to increase sales by more than 24 percent.
How did he do it?
1. E-mail club. First, Brown allocated 4.5 percent of sales to marketing and advertising. He launched an email club and instructed servers to personally ask customers if they wanted to participate. Email newsletters are now sent out once or twice a month with offers and fun facts about the restaurant.
“We started with zero and now have 5,100 members who receive our emails,” he notes. “Our open rate is more than 50 percent, which is incredible.”
2. Concierge catering. Next, Brown made friends with local concierges by passing out menus to hotels and inviting concierges to free biannual dinners. Brown also trained his staff to make all possible accommodations when a concierge calls—even on busy nights.
“This past Saturday we got a call from a hotel concierge asking for a table for seven right away,” Brown says. “We were really busy, but we made the accommodation because I want them to know they can always count on us.”
3. Website revamp. Brown and his team also redeveloped Mama Mia’s website to include online ordering, delivery, a reservation system via OpenTable and an online portal to purchase gift cards.
Results: Sales are rolling in at Mama Mia Trattoria. “It's great to see such an improvement,” Brown says. “Last month we were up 15 percent in sales from the previous month. Now we're just competing with ourselves.”
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