Q. I need marketing for my business but have limited money for it. What can I do? Lincoln
A. Zero-budget marketing is definitely an art form that comes in all shapes and sizes. It seems some of the strategies are more successful than others, but the true challenge is to connect these activities to whatever objective you are trying to produce.
One of the most underutilized zero-budget marketing strategies is your current customer base. Customers who have already purchased your product or service are a great resource for additional sales. Not all sales have to be from new customers.
I would suggest having a detailed marketing process for current customers. What other products or services do you have that your business could cross-sell? Could you sell a three-package deal to a customer initially looking to purchase one? If you had 10 customers and had a detailed cross-selling process, how many would purchase additional products or services? Five? Three? Regardless of the number, that is additional sales for zero cost.
Another great strategy is using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) service. Services such as salesforce.com and others are offered at a low cost, but you also could very easily use Microsoft Excel to record customer information. Using this information in a responsible marketing strategy can be very beneficial for future business. Using your current email service and phone service for soliciting future business can greatly increase sales at zero cost. This may take time and effort, but they work very effectively.
Q. I am an employee of a small business. During the past three years I have seen sales, revenue and staff steadily decline. I am not the owner, but what do you suggest I do that can help change this trend, without overstepping my bounds? Omaha
A. Fully understanding your role within the small business can help you tremendously when knowing how to proceed in this situation. Assuming the small business owner has clearly defined the duties and expectations of your position, I would highly suggest using your job description as leverage toward a future plan for the organization.
For example, if you are responsible for marketing and business development, then it may be time for a comprehensive marketing plan for the small business. Is there a detailed marketing plan in place? If not, take this as your responsibility with the idea of presenting it to leadership.
By the sound of your question, you are in a position to review and analyze aspects such as staffing levels, sales revenue and maybe expenditures. If this is the case, your position may already have some leadership latitude and the owner is just waiting for you to take the “bull by the horns.”
I would suggest contacting the owner and designating a date in two to three weeks. This meeting will be a face-to-face sit-down, away from the office. This will give you time to communicate your concerns and provide details on a course of action. Solicit feedback and begin a dialogue. Who knows? Maybe the owner is just waiting for someone to help.
Zack Zimmerman is the associate director of the Nebraska Business Development Center in Lincoln. If you have a question about establishing or growing a small business, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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