Despite the saying, “You get what you pay for,” countless small businesses don’t have the money to invest in professional marketing right now. This doesn’t mean they are doomed to fail, however. Real, sustainable success happens beyond designer graphics and social media content.
Here are some of the best marketing hacks anyone can do, with little investment, aside from time and energy. But marketing has always required that. There has never been a better time to start, since when the business is down, marketing is the single most important activity.
Hack #1: Get Back to Word-of-Mouth
We all trust the referral of a friend. Recently though, businesses have relied very heavily on social media to do our word-of-mouth marketing for us. Unfortunately, that is only as good as our ability to make it personal.
This hack is old school. You will need to step away from the social media for a minute, and send an email, or make a phone call to a friend or customer. Crazy, right? Ask them if there is anyone they could refer you to. You’d be surprised how almost everyone seems happy to do that. The time investment is bigger than a fast post – but so is the payoff. Referrals close business at a whopping 83%, while cold calls return 10% or less.
Hack #2: Leverage Your Existing Customers
Your existing customers are already advocates for your service or product. If not, you have a much bigger problem than marketing.
They also know others who could be your next customer, and receive validation for their decision by sharing your mutual success. Ask customers to introduce you, either directly or indirectly, as a referral. Also, ask for that testimonial you never quite got around to getting. Be helpful, and give them a starter testimonial they can edit.
Incentives are a great inducement, but gratitude is even more attractive and even strengthens the existing relationship.
Hack #3: Be Helpful
Being of service to your community is definitely a time investment. Service always is. But your expertise is worth everything. Find a way to share it that is comfortable for you.
You might try blogging, or podcasting, micro-blogging, video-blogging, sending useful newsletters like this one, or teaching classes and speaking. You might be able to create workbooks, swipe files, cheat sheets or guides in your field. Whatever route you take, your authority will grow as a result.
Additionally, so will interest in hiring you for what you obviously know as well, or better, than anyone.
Hack #4: Collaborate
Building partnerships, alliances and networks is an age-old, time-tested way to amplify everyone’s visibility exponentially. Sharing databases, creating summits and conferences (virtually or live) that address customer challenges from various perspectives, are all relatively easy ways to reach further, faster than anyone can on their own.
Hack #5: Free Samples
This won’t work for every business, but if you have a tangible product or experience – and currently have less workload – free samples are a great way to move customers from considering to purchasing. It worked for Chic-fil-A, thousands of apps and subscription services, and it can work for you.
Hack #6: Be Clear
This hack is an invitation to get back to basics, and ensure your content lets customers understand how to engage you. Let them know the problems you solve, and how they can take action.
This matters on your website, in your unique selling proposition, your email marketing, and any social media platform you use. Sometimes it takes a pandemic to highlight that we can actually improve our clarity with our customers.
Hack #7: Be Positive
Fear-based marketing messages, and over-emphasis on customer problems, are a big turn-off. Customers are looking for solutions and – most of all – for hope. The business that offers the best, mostly clearly articulated, and highly referred, solution, is the one that wins the sale.