Big Advertising Strategies on a
Small Business Budget

by Anne M. Obarski

You might not have millions to spend on advertising, but that doesn't mean you can't get the same results as the big guys. Find out how to harness the power of word of mouth advertising for your business.

I am always amazed by business owners who say that they can't spend any money on advertising. Many of them validate that idea by saying, "Besides, most of my business is by referral." Building a business based on repeat and referral business is admirable. It simply means that clients are so pleased with the value of the product or service they receive on a consistent basis, that they become "cheerleaders" for that company. Consistency is the key word.

If a company combines a strong, branded advertising campaign to an already strong marketing and service program, that becomes the foundation for a successful business. I use the example of a three legged stool. One leg is your product or service, the second leg is your marketing and advertising and the third is the customer service you or your employees offer, all on a consistent basis. If any one of the legs has a "weakness," the stool is going to wobble.

Have you ever had a wobbly table or stool in your home? You probably tried to fix it by putting something under it to stabilize it. It was just a "band-aid" and not a true correction. It fixes the problem for a while, but sooner or later it will start to wobble again and at that point you probably say it is time to replace it.

Customers will be happy to be a cheerleader for you if you are consistent in how you run your business. After all, their reputation of referring a good company is on the line. Each of us has the ability to recommend or discredit a company based on past experiences. What is more important is that we have a circle of contacts that could either become a referral stream or a business choker.



Companies would be smart to study the three following statements and focus on how that could affect your "word of mouth advertising."

1. You don't know who I know!
I am in the midst of selling a home. I think I would rather have brain surgery than go through this again. I have bought and sold 5 houses in my life and this has been the worst. I firmly believe that the job of a real estate person is to make the job of "selling" the house as easy as possible. That is, if they are willing to do the work to make things happen seamlessly.

I chose my real estate person because her name was everywhere in my town; mistake number one. Mistake number two was that I didn't interview at least three potential agents to find out what their plans would be to sell my home in the shortest amount of time. Her focus is on how many houses she can list and not the service she could offer in order to make me a happy customer. I have told everyone I know that I would never use her if I had to do it all over again.

Unhappy customers like to tell other people and that is a fact. 95% of unhappy customers leave a business because of uncaring employees. Unfortunately, I have a binding contract and I am stuck. I have a reputation of being the person to call when you need just about anything because everyone knows what I do for a living. You can imagine how many people I can influence with just one sentence. Now the question is, what will that sentence sound like?

Do your employees realize the importance of treating each and ever customer like they have a golden tongue? They can build your reputation or ruin it with the words, "I wouldn't use anyone else but..." The question is, "Is your name the one that follows the word "but"?

2. I don't know who YOU know!
Every business owner loves to hear a client say that they were referred by another happy customer! Day after day you probably have new customers walking through your doors who were referred and you didn't know it!

So how can we increase that number? One simple word, "ask"! A basic sales class will teach you that if you don't ask for the sale you won't get it. So why don't we ask for referrals? We are scared of the answer "I don't know anyone." That is like asking a person the age old question "May I help you?" You know the answer is going to be "No, I'm just looking."

I recommend changing the request to: "Mrs. Smith, I know you have shopped here a long time. I hope that you will mention our name when one of your friends is looking for ..." Better yet, tell Mrs. Smith that for every third person she refers who come in and actually buy, you will give her 25% off her next purchase!

Everyone knows someone who can use what you offer at some time. The point is to use your own mouth and become a shameless self promoter! Just ask!

3. Have a "Super Bowl" commercial!
Do you remember what kind of hype occurs just before the Super Bowl? Football, yes; but the biggest hype is about the commercials during the game. There are teasers before the game and then there are "arm chair quarterbacks" critiquing the commercials on the early news channels on Monday morning. So what makes them so important? They are memorable and they are repeatable.

That's where big business and small business owners differ. Big businesses realize that if you are out of sight you are out of mind. They spend billions on advertising to make sure you don't forget. If I said the words, Target, Dell, Wal-Mart, McDonald's and gave you crayons and asked you to draw their logos, you probably could without even having an artistic background. Those logos are embedded in our brains. Strategically executed like a well run battle plan!

However, you may be saying; "I'm not one of the 'big guns' and I could never begin to develop an advertising plan like that." You probably can't. But what you can do is create a 30-second commercial that perfectly describes what you do so that your "cheerleaders" can repeat it to everyone they know.

Here is an example. I have a favorite restaurant in my town that I love to recommend. When anyone asks where I think they should go to eat, I become the biggest cheerleader for this family owned restaurant. I say, "You have to go to _____because they have the best cold salmon salad that will ever pass through your lips and the atmosphere and service are unbeatable." If you just screwed up your nose when I said salmon, then how about the hot apple pie and cinnamon ice cream dessert that is to die for.

Each and every one of us has done commercials for businesses that we like to do business with. What do you do that is unique or different that makes you and your business memorable. If you could eavesdrop on a conversation between one of your satisfied customers and a potential client, how would they describe you and what you do?

You'd be surprised the different ways people would describe your business. The question is, are they pin-pointing what you want to be known for? If not, then maybe your "Super Bowl" commercial isn't memorable enough. Work on a sentence that describes you or your business and practice saying it whenever you meet someone who asks; "so tell me about your business." I once worked with a financial planner who said that people walked the other way when he told them what he did. I said, "Why don't you tell people that you help them sleep better at night." He really looked puzzled, but the end result of managing your finances well is that you probably will sleep better at night. It also was a definite conversation starter!

You may not have the million dollar advertising budget, but you could have word of mouth advertising that affects millions.

Anne M. Obarski is a professional speaker and trainer. For more information, visit her web site at http://www.merchandiseconcepts.com/speaking.html or email Anne at anne@merchandiseconcepts.com. She can also be reached via telephone 724-941-4149 or fax 724-941-4304.

 
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