101 Ways to Market Your Small Business

Are you a small business, consultant or entrepreneur? Looking for ways to market your services to bring in more sales? I don't need to tell you that a big reason 8 out of 10 US businesses fail is because they don't have sufficient sales to sustain their business - I'm sure you've heard that a million times.

However, if you're like most entrepreneurs the thought of "selling" makes your stomach churn. When we do a word association with "salesperson", most of my clients say things like "sleazy", "untrustworthy", "pushy" or "unethical."

In fact, a recent Gallup Poll indicates that sales people really do have a bad rap - with sales/marketing being 3 out of the 4 least trusted professions.

So you NEED to sell and you don't want to be a salesperson. Easy enough.

Here are 101 ideas that you can use to market your small business without becoming "salesy"

1. What makes you better than your competition?Click here for a great post about PODs (Point of Distinctions)

2. Become the character of your customers and start writing like they're really thinking. What do they look like, act like, sound like, even smell like? What is important to them? Try using some of their slang - a great book for that is Slang by Paul Dickson.

3. Blog. Click here for a 101 list on how

4. Send thank you letters to new people you meet. Mention a snippet from your conversation. If you really want to stand out - hand-write them.

5. Join networking groups - Chambers of Commerce, BNI, Industry Associations and attend their events

6. Show passion - there's an old adage "people buy from people they like." Let it show that you really love what you do.

7. Get a system to organize your clients - personally, I like using ACT! 2005

8. Keep meticulous notes on your prospects and clients likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc. and  send relevant articles ("I saw this and thought of you. Hope you're having a wonderful day!")

8. Turn "cold calls" into "warm calls." Find a connection between you and the other personand lead with that. "Hi Mr. Smith, I noticed you're a member of the Chamber of Commerce too. Want to meet for coffee? I think we could refer a lot of business to  each other."

9.  Read anything about your industry - blogs, books, newspapers, magazines and use current issues when you talk to clients. ("I know what you mean - I read an article about that just the other day!")

10. Change your voicemail to illustrate your POD (point of distinction).

11. Change your voicemail to say links to your website and blog

12. Speak in public at Chamber events, associations, networking groups, etc. Nervous getting up in front of people? Hire a coach. Looking for resources? go to www.speakernetnews.com.

13. Have a message that interrupts - you have less than 2 seconds to get people to say either "I want to learn more" or "NEXT!"

14. Cut the B.S. out of your Marketing Material. Click here for one of my blogs about this.

15. Smile - even when you're on the phone. Believe it or not, it changes the sound of your voice.

16. Change "I" language to "you" language - what is your client going to get from doing business with you?

17. When there is a problem you can expect word of mouth activity. If you handle the problem quickly and exceed your client's expectations - you'll get great word of mouth. On the other hand, if you don't empathize and adhere to "policy" your customers will leave and tell 10 people. (Think about the last time you had bad service in a restaurant)

18. Have a system for feedback and respond to client's requests

19. Don't over-promise, over-deliver

20. Dress for the clients you want.

21. Be unexpected, yet relevant.

22. Respond quickly to voice-mails and emails - within 24 hours. Show your prospects and clients you're not too busy.

23. Reward your current clients for their referrals. Could you send a gift card? Thank you note? Discount on next purchase?

24. Be upfront and honest. People can tell when they're being swindled.

25. Avoid using industry jargon and acronyms

26. Be consistent. A marketing campaign is like a gym membership. It doens't do any good unless you use it regularly.

27. Value pricing ($2000 for this, this, this and this) is easier to market than hourly.Alan Weiss wrote the book on this topic.

28.  Don't oversell, over-educate

29. Brainstorm first - polish later

30. There are no bad ideas when brainstorming

31. Use focus groups. Limited resources? Use your own network and get gut reactions.

32. Your first instinct is usually right - learn to listen to your gut.

33. ROI, ROI, ROI!!!! What time/money will you be spending? Is it worth it?

34. As in financial investing - a diversified campaign will be best in the long run.

35. Be prepared for your "best case scenario." Do you have the ability to grow quickly to respond to customer demands?

36. PR is cheaper than advertising- write several articles and submit them to papers, magazines, and even websites to help get your name out there (you may want to try publicrelationssoftware.com - there is a fee for this service.)

37. You've heard the cliche - "Everything to everyone is nothing to no one." Pick a niche and focus there.

38. Perception = Reality - What people perceive of you is what they will think of you.

39. Value - Price Ratio - Find the balance between your quality and price. Some people shop at Neiman Marcus, others at Wal-Mart and it's for very different reasons.

40. People love quizzes - take a lesson from Cosmo and make a short simple quiz for your business.

41. A great plan is no match for poor execution

42. Have a "elevator pitch"

43. Could you give back to your community by offering a gift certificate, discount or product to a fundraiser or event?

44. Read SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham and use the Field Guide

45. When meeting new people - ask questions about them. Listen 80% and talk 20% of the time.

46. Branding is more than a logo - it's everything your customer does to make a perception.

47. Looking for a logo? Try using elogodesign.com

48. Seize the opportunity for free training and continuing education (i.e. conventions and conferences)- use it as a networking event.

49. Need a good graphic artist, writer, web tech, or consultant? Check outwww.elance.com

50. Write a book showcasing your expertise. www.lulu.com has great resources so you can self-publish.

51. Have an action step. Do you want people to call you? visit your website? send to a friend? Tell people what you want them to do with your marketing.

52. Learn the "hot buttons" your client has. What problems does your product/service solve?

53. Spell-check.

54. Read your material backwards to help catch any errors. A friend of mine once sent out an email to the top dogs in her firm with the subject "XYZ company goes PUBIC" - don't let this happen to you.

55. Remove the "fluff" - learn to be concise.

56. Format for easy scanning- use bullets, lists, graphics to help keep people reading.

57. Keep sales letters to one page front only.

58. Use catchy headlines to get people intrigued and saying "tell me more." Want to learn how to create a catchy headline? Read POP! Stand Out in any Crowd by Sam Horn

59.  Know your competition - what are they doing? How are they pricing things? If they set up a successful marketing campaign how would that would impact you?

60. Think about your legal implications. Be cautious not to break trademark or copyright laws. Questions? Ask a lawyer. Need a lawyer? Try www.lawyers.com

61. Timing is everything - does your campaign need to be sent out at a particular time of year? Example - which CPA' s "I'll help you with your taxes" campaign is more likely to get a better response? The one sent March 1st or the one sent May 1st?

62. Start keeping a file of ads that jumped out at you. Why did they do that? How can you do the same?

63. Frequency is generally more important than a pop-shot. Yes, I know - there are always exceptions to the rule - like GoDaddy.com. For a small business - just keep it frequent.

64.  Imagine your sales is fruit on a tree - you need to pick it at the right time. To early - no one will eat it. Leave it on too long and it will rot (or someone else will pick it).

65. Speak in benefits not features.  A feature is what your product/service does or has (example: our cars have seat-belts). A benefit is what your features actually do for your clients (example: our seat-belts can help save your life)

66. Use "action" words (verbs) first in a bulleted list. (Some examples: Impact, Enhance, Become)

67. Do you think questions will help your marketing? You bet they will!

68. Anticipate objections - think of every single reason that someone wouldn't want to buy your product/service and have a prepared response.

69. If you don't know the answer to a question - it's OK! Say, "That's a great question - I'll research it and get the answer by the end of the day." Then research it and get back to them by the end of the day.

70. Could you benefit from new web-tools? I know a local restaurant that wanted to promote their new networking night for young professionals. They packed the house by using myspace.com.

71. Craigslist.com is a great place to post a special event, job opening, etc. - and its FREE!

72. Check out meetup.com to see if there are any local groups in your area that you could market to. Could you offer a special discount, place to meet or donate supplies? I'm a member of a pug meetup - a bakery came to our meetup with free homemade dog treats and left with lots of new clients.

73.  How are you sending your direct mail? Is a plain white envelope a barrier to entry? Check out www.overnightprints.com for low-cost, glossy, card-stock postcards. Or try something completely different and use a mailtube.

73.  Is your business card effective? Would changing it to bright colors, a different material or a new shape spark conversation?

74.  What about promotional products? If you sell candles, would a nice lighter with your logo be a nice gift to hand out with every purchase?

75. Could you start a mastermind group? Would you benefit from having a group of people you trust to bounce ideas off of?

76. Are you using referral partners? If you have a company that cleans carpets, are you spending your time and effort meeting with real estate agents to get them to refer your services?

77. Is your website Search Engine Optimized? When people type your product or service in Google, where does your company come in?

78. What other products/services complement yours? If you had a company that sold peanut butter, and your friend had a company that sold jelly - could you create a joint marketing effort promoting both of your businesses at the same time?

79. Looking for a way to test market a slogan with real people? Go to www.vistaprint.com and get a free business card (you won't be able to upload your graphic or anything, but hey, it's free) and order one with the tagline you want to use. Show it to people at networking events and see what they think.

80. Start looking at customers who complain in a different way. They care enough about your company to tell you exactly what you need to do better! Over-deliver by not only fixing the problem, but rewarding their feedback (thank you note, gift card, etc.)

81. How are you using trade shows? Could this be a great way to test market new ideas with people you've never met? Could you get market research by offering a door prize for filling out a questionnaire?

82. PPPP - Product, Price, Place (Distribution Method) and Promotion must all be in alignment.

83. If you gave away something as a bonus (think, "but wait, there's more!") would this be more effective than giving a discount?

84. Would imagery help your campaign? Remember the commercial: This is your brain (shows an egg) - This is your brain on drugs (egg cracked in the frying pan)

85. Could you use Youtube.com as a way to build buzz? Keep in mind, your video needs to be funny for this to work. Think covert instead of overt.

86. If you "don't have time to market" make time by outsourcing non-revenue generating activities (ex: bookkeeping, payroll, accounting, HR, etc.)

87. Make your website more interactive. Do you have articles, resources, etc. that you could share? How often is it updated?

88.  Could you use teleseminars, podcasts and webinars to help promote your services?

89. Send out an e-zine at least once a month. Again - consistency is best. Pick a schedule and stick to it. I like mailchimp.com - it's packed with resources on creating a great email campaign.

90. Use lots and lots and lots of testimonials - it boosts your credibility. Need to get testimonials? Ask your current clients.

91. Check out the American Marketing Association for tools, webinars, and resources.

92. Perform a SWOT analysis - What are your company's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats? (strengths and weaknesses are internal while opportunities and threats are external)

92. Do a situation analysis. Discuss the 4P's (Product, Place, Price & Promotion), your target market, your competition, environmental factors (both internal and external things that are out of your control) and do a SWOT analysis.

93. Develop a marketing plan.  Looking at your situation analysis - this is where you are. Where do you want to be and how are you going to get there?

94. Take a course to help you understand marketing. Marketing 101 at your local community college? A teleseminar from AMA? or a course from www.freeinternetmarketingcourses.com

95. Understand the difference between advertising, marketing and sales. One way to think of it is - advertising is the pick-up line, marketing is dating, and the sale is the marriage.

96. Use metaphors - turn abstract thoughts into stories that help people "get it."

97. Associate with something people already know - a book, movie, cliche. Click here for a blog post about this.

98. Say "thank you" to your clients often. Show them your appreciation.

99.  Use words in a new way. A nutritionist sent a follow-up post card saying "Now that you've had time to marinate with your new healthy-living lifestyle." Are there industry words you could use in a new way?

100. Write a 101 list

101. Have fun building your business. Marketing is a great way to be creative and think out of the box. Enjoy it!