Startups and other small businesses need to watch every penny to not only survive but to thrive. That doesn’t mean, though, that they cheapen their approach to doing business. When they pay attention to basic principles, even the smallest businesses can experience marketing success on a limited budget.
1. Base Decisions on Data, Not Just Hunches
Companies should use all the free data-crunching tools they can to track their key performance indicators (KPIs) as well as marketing performance. When they see an area in which you need to improve, they need to look more deeply into the data to see why the company is under-performing. Discover strategies that can get the company back on track. When it comes to small business marketing, if the data shows that the company isn’t getting much out of its investment in time or dollars, it’s time to move on to another marketing tactic.
2. Make Cash (Flow) King
According to business plan expert Sabrina Parsons, the main reason small businesses head off to bankruptcy court is their lack of cash. Make sure that the business has enough cash on hand every month to pay creditors, pay for necessary supplies and inventory, make payroll, and pay for the lease and utilities. Look at the average expenses each month. Balance these against average client payments and sales. Make sure that the company has more cash on hand than needed to pay for all its expenses, allowing some wiggle room in case an emergency arises.
3. Recruit and Train Top Talent
The workforce is the last place a company should cut costs. In fact, when a company has a team of innovators on its side, the company will leapfrog over its competitors, provided the company has enabled them through proper training and has empowered them to do their jobs with excellence. Provide necessary perks to keep them on the job. If a company can’t afford raises, it can make up the difference through allowing flex time work, working remotely, more vacation time, or better benefits. Furthermore, a welcoming workplace that has zero tolerance for bullying will attract the kind of workforce the company needs to rise to the top.
4. Be Active–and Proactive–Online
After you close for the evening, take a few minutes to see what people are saying about the company online. Set up Google Alerts to trigger whenever someone mentions the company. Respond to reviews—good or bad—with helpful, customer-centered comments. Interact with customers and potential customers on social media. Conduct online surveys. Be responsive to customers’ needs. Provide useful information they can use to help their own businesses or leisure time.
5. Keep ROI Foremost in Marketing Your Business
Start with low-cost marketing strategies that bring in big returns. Networking with businesses that complement the company’s work can bring in a whole new customer base. For example, a restaurant could partner with a local winery to increase the customer base of each business. And so on. Low-cost printed material—brochures, pens, labels, stickers, and business cards cost little, yet do a company’s advertising for it as customers pass them around to their friends and colleagues. Track the company’s promotions through free programs such as Google Analytics. Look at each marketing strategy. Those that bear fruit, invest more in. Those that do not, cut.
In today’s competitive environment, a business must leapfrog ahead of its competition to achieve success. With these five basic principles, a small business can get off the ground and nip the competition in the bud.