Friday COACHWORX Business Tip: Advertising on a Shoestring

Small businesses need to market themselves. No business can survive with a Yellow Pages listing and word-of-mouth. You need to bring in a steady stream of new customers, which means spending some money on marketing and advertising.

But first, a look at the difference between marketing and advertising:

Marketing – Marketing is all of your communication between your business and past, present and future customers. It’s your strategy, your targets, your demographic data, your budgeting, your positioning, your logo and brand identity, and everything else that determines how you present yourself to the public.

Advertising – Advertising is part of marketing; usually a specific ad or campaign to convey a specific message (e.g. “We’re having a sale”) on a specific medium (e.g. radio, web, print). This is the outreach part of the equation.

AVIDWORX works with stores on all ends of the spectrum: established stores that spend over $2,000 a month on marketing programs and startups that currently spend $0 but are looking for ways to grow. The goal for all these businesses is to bring enough new customers – in addition to returning customers – to meet sales growth targets while at the same time reducing marketing spending to the least amount possible. In other words, what’s the least amount you need to spend each month to get the results you want/need?

When it comes to marketing, this is the bare minimum for retailers these days:

  • Store Website
  • Facebook Page
  • Google Plus Page with up-to-date store data
  • Google AdWords account
  • Google Analytics
  • Twitter/Instagram Accounts (linked to FB or managed separately using a service like HootSuite). Last week’s tip has lots of advice on managing social media.

The first step to maintaining a shoestring advertising plan is to figure out a way to manage the bare minimum. That means having a website that’s SEO optimized and that has new and changing content, and a calendar for updating all of your other marketing platforms to give customers the impression that you’re a busy, active business on the cutting edge.

Everything else you do on the marketing and advertising front should follow the golden rule: If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

What does that mean? Put simply, if you’re going to spend money on a radio spot, boost a post on Facebook, pour some more money into Google Adwords, book a booth at an autosports event, or try something new like Groupon, you should always have a way of measuring the actual impact – how many customers you brought in and how much they spent in your store.

BUSINESSWORX – which we consider to be another minimum marketing expense – can help you track that. The system will give you a breakdown of new and existing customers based on invoices submitted, and then divide your monthly marketing spend by the number of new customers that came into your store to give you your Customer Acquisition Cost. This simple metric will help you to refine your marketing program over time to give you the highest possible return on your marketing investment. If you’d like to see it in action, email us to join the webinar.

Give yourself a flexible marketing budget on top of your minimum expenses so you can try new things over the course of a year, even if it’s just $200/month. If something is having no impact, try something else the next money; if it’s working a little, refine it and try again; if it’s working a lot, do more of it.

There’s no one marketing strategy that will work for every industry, demographic and market – which is why big businesses have marketing departments. But there a lot of affordable ways to get the word out about your store. Here are 10 shoestring ideas to try out for yourself:

  1. Business cards for everybody with a call to action. Every member of your team should have cards made, and all of those cards should have a call to action – e.g. “Show at the store to save 10% on your next automotive upgrade.” Every employee should have cards to hand out to people who come into the store, or they bump into at their child’s little league game. You can incentivize this by giving the employee a bonus for every customer that comes in.
  2. Giveaways for customers. Leverage your current customers with low-cost collateral like stickers, hats, t-shirts, floaty keychains, multitools, golf balls, or anything else you think that people might wear/use in your area.
  3. Boost a post. Create an in-store package or event and boost the hell out of it on Facebook. You can set a daily spending limit to ensure that you don’t go over your budget.
  4. Email your customers. If you have a list of customer email addresses, use them. BUSINESSWORX offers a mailing program that automatically updates your customer list, has over 80 prewritten newsletters, and actually tracks who came in after opening your email to make a purchase. Add a coupon to your emails to get people back!
  5. Put together a flyer and get into the referral business. Create a general two-sided flyer for your store that lists all of your product categories and services, and talks a little about your company. Drop these off at all the car dealerships and service centers in your area, as well as a separate sheet that offers good commissions on referrals.
  6. Wrap it up. Since vehicle expenses can be claimed as a business expense, make sure your vehicles look as good as they can with professional wraps. It’s a professional and easy way to get your store’s name out there, and could potentially be seen by thousands of people every day.
  7. Show up at events. For a few hundred dollars, most automotive and marine events will let you set up a branded tent on site. You can customize a tent for under $1,000 and potentially meet with thousands of new prospective customers over of the course of a weekend. Make sure you have something to offer – water bottles branded to your store, a contest for collecting new contacts, coupons or gift cards to get people into your store, giveaways for kids – to keep people engaged and ensure you’re getting a return on your investment.
  8. Sponsor something. Most non-profit events will welcome new sponsors in exchange for some money or in-kind donations. In exchange, you’ll often get a tent, a mention on the flyer and website, or some billboard space at the event itself. The bigger the event, the bigger the potential audience.
  9. Get creative in Google AdWords. Instead of just bidding on simple terms like “Car Audio, Pheonix”, try creating some more specific bids like “Pioneer touch-screen radio Pheonix”. There’s no limit to how many bids you create, and the more specific they are the less you’ll pay per click.
  10. Have a “friends and family” deal. Create a promotion that gives your friends and family members, and your employee friends and family members, a special deal over the course of a week or two. Say you have five employees and those employees each have over 20 family members they’re in touch with and an average of 350 Facebook contacts. That’s potentially over 1,500 potential customers that will actively support your store and share your post.


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