Posted: August 1, 2014 in Latest Post
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images 7How do businesses make money? It’s simple; they sell products or services to people (customers) at a profit. No matter how great your product or service, your business will not make any money unless customers are willing to buy them. No customers, no business. Period! However, most small businesses experience hard times or fail, not because customers do not want to buy their products, but because customers don’t even know their products/services exist in the first place.

Big companies with advertising and marketing budgets that run into thousands and millions of Naira dominate the billboards, newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Because most small businesses cannot find the customers they need to remain in business, many small businesses starve and die because they cannot sell enough products and services.
Despite these difficulties, how come there are still a couple of businesses which start very small but are able to attract enough customers to remain in business? My research has shown that these smart businesses and entrepreneurs use several taken-for-granted methods that many of us have learned to overlook. Some of them are amazingly simple and will cost you nothing. Some of the others will cost you a little, but not enough to bore a hole in your pocket.

1. World-of-mouth always works!
This is definitely the oldest form of marketing and advertising used by businesses since the world began. While it may bring slower results than radio or television, it still works very well. Because people are becoming increasingly suspicious of paid advertising, I still think word-of-mouth remains one of the most trusted methods in the world today. When a customer is happy and satisfied with a product or service, it’s a natural human tendency that they are likely to share this experience with people in their circle of trust and influence – family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and sometimes strangers.
A satisfied customer is one of the most effective marketing and advertising tools a small business can ever have. Satisfied customers become foot soldiers, evangelists and advocates for your business. It is amazing how many of them will go a great lengths to promote, convince, protect and defend your business outside. Word-of-mouth is so effective and powerful that many successful businesses rely solely on this method to advertise and market their products and services.
So, how exactly can your small business grow an army of passionate customers who will use word-of-mouth advertising to your advantage?
The first and most important step is to sell a product or service that really works and provides great value to anybody who uses them. If a product or service delivers on its promise and does more than what it says, it’s a winner!
Great customer experience. Most times, it doesn’t really matter how large of deep-pocketed your competition is. You can grow a successful business on great customer service. People hardly forget a great customer experience and will happily tell other people about it.
Give your customers a reason to advertise and market your business. Sometimes, word-of-mouth advertising doesn’t come automatically; you have to encourage, motivate or incentivize your customers to do it for you. Start a referral or reward program for your existing customers. The reward should be large enough to trigger their interest and make them take action. It’s a win-win method that always works.

2. ‘Free’ works like magic!
Everybody loves free stuff. Giving away some of your products and services for free does three very positive and interesting things for your small business. First, it lets people out there know that you exist. Second, it gives you a chance to prove the value of your product or service and show that it really works. Third, it provides your future customers with risk-free way to try out your products or service without spending any money. And if customers find value in your products or services, they will be willing to pay money for it.
However, you must make sure that the free stuff will not last forever. From the outset, determine the number of people who will enjoy the free stuff or many days the promo will last. Not everybody should get free stuff; that,s what makes it very appealing.

3. Offer discounts and deals
Just like free stuff, discounts and deals work well too. They are another creative and low cost way to attract more customers to your business. People often see discounts and deals as a huge opportunity to save money and enjoy a product or service for a whole lot less. In fact, discounts and deals usually influence customers to buy more products or services than they initially planned. They love to ‘take the opportunity’ because the same product may not be so cheap tomorrow.
Offering deals and discounts are also a powerful way to publicize your brand.

4. Start a contest
Everybody loves to win. It’s not just always about the prize you win, it’s the thrill of getting lucky or beating other people. Call it ego or whatever you like but it always works. Let’s say you’re in the wedding business and sell wedding gowns, bridal accessories and other stuff to young people who are planning a wedding. Let’s also say you start an interesting contest and the prizes include a designer wedding dress or a fully-sponsored honeymoon trip to a local resort. To enter for this contest, all the couples will have to do is submit a romantic poem about how they met each other.

Can you imagine the kind of buzz this could create for your small business? To spread the word about the contest, you could use word of mouth and social media like facebook (we’ll talk about this a little later).
However, make sure you can comfortably afford the prize(s) you plan to give out. Draw out a reasonable budget and stick to it. It makes no sense if the money you make from selling your products during the contest cannot cover the cost of running it.

5. Do you have a website yet?
Yes, you’re right. Small businesses need websites too, even if it has a single page. As a result of the huge influence on the internet, our world is now more connected than ever before. Most people simply use the internet nowadays when they want to find a product or service. With the spread of mobile phones across many parts of the world, it is easier and more effective to search Google for information rather than ask the nearest human being. Let’s say you run a small boutique business in Lagos. Will your business come among the search results when a desperate customer searches Google for ‘boutique businesses in Lagos’?
Owning your own website is no longer a luxury that only big companies enjoy. The internet has now made it possible for everybody to enjoy the opportunity of getting found. You can get a website for almost free nowadays. And with a little cash, you can set up a single web page with a brief description of your business, products and services. More importantly, you should include your contact information (physical address, telephone and email). Get your small business represented on the internet. It costs nothing and will benefit you a lot.

6. Get listed on popular local directories
In the old days, long before we had mobile telephones, there were these very large books known as ‘the Yellow Pages’. Every person and business usually had their telephone numbers (and sometimes addresses) listed in the Yellow Pages. Because there were fewer telephones back then (known as landlines) it was easy to get everybody’s names and numbers in one book. Today, with more than 800 million people with mobile telephones across Africa and personal privacy concerns, it would be impossible to that.
Thanks to the internet, small businesses can be listed for free on local directories. When a small business is registered on a local directory, people around the world can find it on the map and view its contact information. The best part is, you don’t have to pay anything to become registered on these directories. So, get on board today and fast to claim your place.

7. Are you on social media?
Social media is changing the way business is done in today’s world. Although there are now several social media platforms across the world. Facebook leads the pack as the world’s largest social community with over 1.1 billion registered users worldwide (as at 30 September 2013). That’s more than 15 per cent of the world’s total population. This is where your target customers hang out and it makes perfect sense that you register your business on Facebook too.

8. Online advertising is the way to go!
More people now depend on the internet for information nowadays. More people are watching YouTube than they watch television. More people read news websites and online magazines instead of the paper versions. Even big companies have recognized this shift and are now investing more in online advertising over the traditional ones. Since more people now spend more time on the internet, it only makes sense that you follow them there.

9. Print and distribute flyers
Flyers remain a simple but very effective way to publicize and advertise your business. They usually work best for small businesses that target customers within a particular area (such as university campuses, residential estates, offices and industrial areas). To try out this method of advertising, you don’t need to invest in very colourful and expensive flyers. If you have limited funds, its best you focus more on the message you want to deliver and not on the pictures, graphics or colours. In fact, you can design a simple for yourself using any of the free templates in PowerPoint on your computer.
You can distribute these fliers by yourself or hire some help to work with you. putting the flyers on parked cars and house entry doors or gates usually works well.

10. Get involved in volunteer work
Doing volunteer work is often an overlooked opportunity to enjoy free publicity. Get involved in volunteer work in your community, church or mosque. Sponsor an event or offer your services for free. Have you ever wondered why big company invented ‘CSR’, the common acronym for Corporate Social Responsibility? For some reason, customers love to support businesses that give something back to the society in some way. Most times, all that is required may be your time, effort and encouragement. If you plan to use this method of advertising, remember to make sure that all donations, sponsorships and support are done in the name of your business and not yours.

Courtesy: LegalBulksms.com

Business-Database           nairaland5


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