To effectively grow a small business and survive in tough times, you need to use all the marketing tools available to you. Marketing is an ongoing process that never ends, but changes along the way. Ignoring market changes or not using all the tools available is just asking for trouble. A small business owner needs to budget the money necessary and when money is short, do the things that cost little or nothing. Here are 10 marketing commandments to guide your snow and ice management business on the right path:
1. Thou shall know thy target customer
It doesn’t do much good to spend your advertising, direct mail, telemarketing, and promotion dollars where they don’t reach your target audience. Learn who your target customer is and use the correct media to reach them. Don’t waste valuable marketing dollars chasing the wrong prospects. Analyze your sales and responses often to see if your target market is changing and adjust accordingly.
2. Thou shall provide outstanding customer service
Your customers remember how they were treated during a sales call or on the phone long after the sale. Treat them with the respect, courtesy, speed and the friendliness they deserve. Ask for their input and pay attention to what they tell you. Make sure your personnel are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. And remember, there is no business without customers.
3. Thou shall know what thy competitors are doing
How will you know if you’re offering the best quality, service and value if you don’t know what others in your market are offering? You need to check their ads and websites, and get on their mailing lists. Find out what they are doing and discover a way to do it better. Don’t ignore your competitors because they are not ignoring you.
4. Thou shall find out what the customer really wants
You’re in business to satisfy the customer with snow and ice management services. How do you find out if they’re satisfied? Ask them, have surveys and response cards. Once they tell you what they want, you must follow through or pursue other options. Getting the customer involved builds loyalty.
5. Thou shall go after free publicity
Send press releases, write articles, sponsor groups and give speeches regularly. Sponsor a local charity where you can make a difference. You can always think of something new and different that’s informative and newsworthy. An email is all it takes to put your business name in front of the media.
6. Thou shall deliver more than thou promises
When you surprise your customers in a positive way, it leaves a lasting impression. Little things like faster delivery, free refills, faster quotes, free delivery, free upgrades or a small gift with their order can help cement a business relationship. Customers will expect the ordinary, but give them the extraordinary. It can cost only a little but mean a lot.
7. Thou shall use a web site and email
You don’t have to be a computer expert to have a basic web site, your customers will expect it even if they don’t visit often. Email is now used as much as the telephone, have an address and use it. Check your email often and reply as quickly as you would on the telephone. You don’t need to spend a lot developing a web site, check prices with smaller independent firms. Have links to contact you on every page.
8. Thou shall reward customer loyalty
Customers who come back often are the ones that will help you grow and survive in tough times. Find a way to provide that extra service or bonus for them. Keep a preferred customer list so you remember who they are. Do special mailings to them and offer advanced knowledge of any sales you’re planning. Keep them informed.
9. Thou shall use advertising and direct mail religiously
One time mailings or ads won’t pull the response you really need to grow and prosper. You need to remind your prospects over and over again. It’s a proven fact that repetitive ads and mailing give much higher results. Go after your target market only and don’t waste valuable marketing dollars in the wrong media.
10. Thou shall test, test, and test again
Monitor your response so you know where you’re getting the most for your money. Direct mail pieces and ads need to be changed occasionally to entice the reader to take action. Find lists or media where the responses turn into sales and not just requests for free information or samples. Keep searching for new lists and media to test and retest, they are out there.
Barry Thomsen is the publisher and editor of Small Business Idea Letter and a frequent Snow Magazine contributor.
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