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Tuning In to Your Customer's Marketing Channels

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Marketing is a highly strategic discipline requiring business to utilize various means and methods to help customers find and buy from your business. Most small businesses usually focus marketing efforts in one or two key areas. However, your customer doesn't live in a vacuum. The more effective marketing channels you can use, the greater your level of penetration into your customer's world. Here are a few alternative marketing channels to grow your bottom line:

Concentrate on Referral Business: Referral business has plenty of advantages including: added credibility, lower selling costs, and a prospect willing to listen to you. World-renowned sales trainer, Tom Hopkins, author of "Sales Prospecting for Dummies" says your closing ratio for non-qualified leads is 10% versus a 60% close ratio with referred leads.

Expand Your Revenue Streams: As a business owner you must relentlessly focus on profits. One effective means to improve profitability and drive down selling costs is to sell more to existing customers. Does your current product or service provide customers with a total solution? Look to expand into related offerings.

Embrace The Internet: Small business has been reluctant to adopt the Internet as a marketing and sales strategy. This stance has been justified in the past, however, three major developments in the recent years make the Internet an attractive method for small business marketing.

1. Web Development Costs: As a small business owner and Internet advocate for the past decade, I have been frustrated by the web development technology and services provided to small business. I have tried do-it-yourself website development technology resulting in a poorly designed website. Conversely, I have spent thousands on paying a web design firm for a professional site beyond my budget.

Now new advances exist for small business owners wanting a basic professional website at an affordable price. I recently built my business website in two hours using the easy-to-use services of a company called Homestead. Another viable alternative is creating a business blog with Blogger or TypePad. It's now easier and more affordable than ever to have a web presence today.

2. Search Engine Marketing: The cost of generating traffic from search engine marketing is much lower than traditional media. Search engine marketing has the lowest cost-per-lead and the highest return on investment. U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, estimated that the cost per lead was $0.29 for search, $0.50 for e-mail, $1.18 for the yellow pages, $2.00 for banner ads, and $9.94 for direct mail.

3. Local Web Searching: The broad reach of the Internet has been more than the targeted marketing smaller companies need. The majority of small businesses are local businesses. Consumers have begun to use search engines and Internet yellow pages to find local companies. Local search is now bringing together local consumers with local business.

Build Your Networks: Depending on your type of business, networking can be a viable marketing channel. Face to face contact is always more effective in establishing trust and building relationships than phone contact. Focus on the value you can bring to a network to successfully use this marketing tactic.

Gain Publicity: For many consumers, advertising is just a bunch of noise unless repeated over and over in a creative fashion. Small business can break through the clutter by using various publicity vehicles. Buying an ad in the paper promoting your pest cleaning business will generate less buzz than running the biggest bug contest in your town. Create news worthy events to drive new customers to your door

Use the Trade Show Circuit: Trade shows still continue to be big business for all businesses. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) states business-to-business spending for trade shows is third to advertising and promotion. In a world of websites, emails, and voice mails, trade shows offer one of the true opportunities to build relationships with face to face contact. Something every business can use a little more of.

If your business is stalling or needs a boost, re-examine your current marketing channels to determine new ways to reach your customers.

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