Marketing is a challenge for all small businesses, especially those on a budget. For a good return on investment (ROI), you’ve got to know who your customers are and how to connect with them. With competition becoming more fierce every day, you must work harder than ever before to make those connections, and you have to do it in such a way that your existing customer base isn’t ignored. #1. Know Your Customers Photo credit: Rawpixel You likely already know base details about who your target customers are: age, gender, income level, etc. but do you really know who they are? Take some time to develop a customer avatar. By crafting an in-depth “story” about a fictional character who best represents your ideal customer, you’ll be able to better target your customers with all your marketing materials. Write everything, from your website copy, to email marketing messages, as if you were speaking to this avatar, and you’ll have a more personal approach from the start. Details that will help personalize emails to your customer include interest in social causes, geo-location, buying habits, hobbies, and even political alignment. By drilling down to specific details, you can isolate a list of, for example, young mothers who recently purchased clothing for toddler girls in a size 2. Pinpoint market by sending this list a special deal on toddler toys designed to delight and inspire little girls. #2. Use Social Media Analytics Graphic courtesy of Rival IQ You’re on social media. Your customers are on social media. You have a well-thought out content strategy, but that’s not enough. Social media analytics tools help you find out more about how your customers are responding to you, so you can adjust your strategy as needed. Recent data shows multiple social platform use is on the rise, with 52% of adults using more than one social media network in 2014, compared to just 42% the year before. Answer your social media marketing questions with in-depth analytics tools to learn more about which social networks matter to your customers, how often you should be posting content to each of your social channels, and more. You can also compare your social media efforts to competitors that rank higher than your business in the search engines. Social media boosts your SEO efforts by increasing your traffic and mentions. Successful social media translates directly to money in the bank! #3. Network, Network, Network Look at industry conferences, tradeshows, and other events where your customers are bound to be in attendance. Create a schedule of these events, and attend as many of them as you can. If you find that you don’t care for the events you’re attending, consider starting your own event. If you don’t attend the event as a speaker or a sponsor, you’ll still have the chance to connect with people in the industry, and those connections are valuable. Even with all the ways there are to be social today, nothing beats face-to-face communications. It’s your opportunity to stand out and be memorable. If you’re a little shy or awkward, bring along a sales pro who seems to have plenty of stock in social currency. You can hang back, let someone else do the bulk of the talking, choose your words carefully…and come across as thoughtful and intelligent. Before you go, do your homework. Know who will be attending the event, what important people in your industry look like, and plan how you will introduce yourself. Be ready to discuss interesting topics by keeping up on breaking industry news, political and social issues that affect the industry, and information about the area and attractions around the venue. You never know when useful knowledge might translate into conversation. #4. Get Involved Photo credit: thinglass What area charities or organizations are in line with your business? Partner with a charity or organization your audience supports. Sponsor an event. Pass a portion of your profits to them as a donation. You’ll get exposure from the partner, and your customers will appreciate the fact that you’re involved with and giving back to the community. For example, dog groomers could partner with local humane societies in a number of ways. You could provide the humane society with free or discounted grooming sessions to get pets ready for fostering or adoption, or you could donate a portion of sales to fund food for the animals at the shelter. If you’re on a tight budget and cannot afford to give anything away, become a hub for donations. Animal shelters are always in need of food and blankets. Choose a charity partner that makes sense for your business, your personal values, and your customer base. If most of your customers are 30-something professionals, participate in a wine-tasting event or a fringe film festival…as opposed to a family-oriented fun day. It’s wonderfully altruistic to follow your heart and participate in charities unlikely to put your name in front of customers, but most charity efforts are worthy…and choosing the right cause to advocate helps grow brand awareness among your target audience. #5. Double Check Your Business Listings Is your business part of the 49% of businesses that never update their contact information online? Are you one of the 70% of small business owners who say they don’t have time to manage their listings on all the websites consumers can use to find you or learn more about you? If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, you could be missing out on a lot of potential new business. Search your business. Spend a few minutes double checking listings to make sure your address, phone number, hours of operation, etc. are all correct. If time is an issue, consider outsourcing the work to someone who can manage the listings for you. You can also read and respond to comments. You can’t change negative comments, but you can respond kindly and offer to make things right if a customer has had a bad experience. Almost 90% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from someone they know. You can’t afford to ignore comments made anywhere online – even if they seem petty and unfounded. Resist the impulse to ask friends to flood the site with glowing comments. A spate of comments in a short time frame will strike readers as fake, and spamming your own comment section is worse than a negative comment or two. Your best bet to avoid bed ratings is simple: Excellent customer service. Your customers will do the rest. Marketing efforts need to be targeted and consistent to bring in results. While driving new business is critical, these tips can ensure you’re focused on both new and loyal customers alike. ______________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.