I bet you already knew that small business owners cite “growing sales” as their number one fear and number one pain.(1) But it’s practically oxymoronic to use “small business” and “marketing” in the same sentence. It’s almost as if owners are pathologically resistant to marketing, right?
As the Co-Founder and CEO of Fanminder, an online service that helps local small businesses grow their repeat revenues, I know there’s fewer psychotic reasons and more of the practical kind for owners to avoid taking their marketing meds: Brutal price competition, skyrocketing health care costs and taxes, and sinking consumer demand are forcing owners to lay off staff and work harder than ever before.
So it’s no wonder that instead of “checking-in”, business owners check-out. Or buy expensive advertising on Groupon, Yelp, Google, or even ye old local newspaper to get new customers.
But can you get more business without spending a fortune? Consider these successes from local business owners:
Savvy Cellar Wine – “From New Customer to the Wine Enthusiast”
This winner of the Best Wine Classes in the San Francisco Bay Area knows a thing or two about engaging its customers. Owners Jennifer and Brent look to first gain exposure to new customers, then broaden casual engagement by suggesting a class or wine tasting, and ultimately convert new customers into regulars or join our wine club.
Brent says that “no single marketing vehicle is a panacea,” so he has crafted a clear role for each. The 3,300 emailing list works to drive more class sign-ups and attendance to special events and is still one of the largest and fastest growing channels. On Facebook he converses with 1,600 fans about the “everyday aspects of the business” such as their favorite wines, a pesky cricket that’s taken up residence in the walls, or recently – surfacing a service issue that Brent immediately resolved.
Savvy’s text message list “fills a void of instant sales during low periods that we can’t fill with the other avenues.” says Brent. With texting, Brent can direct people to come on a Tuesday night or Saturday afternoon when he has capacity to serve more people.
And while he believes “it’s still the early days of mobile” Brent sees signs of great results like a cork-popping 32% redemption rate for his standard mobile offer of 25% off a flight of wine. I’ll toast to that!
Grorite Gardening Center – “Engaging the Green Thumbs”
Historically catering to a 50+ year old target customer, owner Ken V. knows his business’ future is entwined with social and mobile-connected consumer. According to eMarketer, boomers and seniors’ use of Facebook doubled in the last year(2)
This blossoming growth isn’t lost on Ken, so he’s seeking to transform his family’s 40 year old nursery business into a “more personable, more interactive, and more in-tune with the times nursery.” To put his money where his mouth is, Ken recently chopped $70K from his $200K annual local newspaper advertising budget this past year and found no noticeable drop in sales!
Ken is now plowing a fraction of these savings back into interactive media. He’s hired Sunrise Marketing, a small, interactive agency that specializes in the gardening industry. The firm is engaging its 170 Facebook fans and dozens of mobile green thumbs by quickly answering questions and posting quizzes and specials (ex. 8” pot Hardy Garden Mum for .99 cents). Often, it’s simply tips and techniques on how to be a better gardener, such as “Did you know that late summer/early fall is the perfect time to re-seed those bald spots on your lawn?”
Ken knows he has a long way to go, but says “We’re looking to make our business more relevant and responsive to our customers – no matter what age they are. Social media helps us reach both existing and new customers while mobile gives us another tool to keep us connected with our most engaged customers.”
Psycho Donuts – “Donuts as Entertainment”
This artisan donut shop in Campbell, CA has garnered national attention for its edgy take on a favorite dietary staple. Owner Jordan Zweigoron purposefully creates entertainment as a way to sell more donuts, giving his 34 donuts such names as “Cereal Killer” and “Glazed and Confused.” He keeps a padded cell on premises for fun pics and dresses his female staff in nurses’ uniforms to accentuate his shtick.
The vibe is palpable. On any given Saturday, rock bands blare out the tunes and the line stretches out the door. Marketing costs? Very little. To stay front and center with his lunatic customers, Jordan doesn’t spend a nickel on traditional media. Instead, he uses a sugary concoction of text messages, Facebook posts and tweets to his 5,000 fans. A typical message sprinkles humor on a promotion to drive same-day donut sales: Beer donuts Fathers Day wknd! Tues 7pm – Come as a zombie for photo shoot, best 2 zombies get tshirt!
I hope these examples at least begin to demonstrate it doesn’t take money to drive growth. It just takes a bit of creativity and a focus on your most likely prospects – your customers.
What’s your psycho marketing stories?
Paul Rosenfeld is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fanminder, the complete Fanbase Marketing Service for local businesses. Paul has devoted his career to serving local businesses by developing innovative online services for American Express, Intuit, and three start-ups.
1 = Warillow
2 = eMarketer