Getting Noticed as a Small Fish

Getting Noticed as a Small Fish
By: Alison Lane, Business Advisor

“Helloooo, I’m Here!” 

Raise your hand if you have ever got up early, hustled, and given 110% only to find the phone is not ringing, the door is not opening, and the cash register stays shut. 

We can all agree that owning a small business is demanding, perplexing, and often lonely, but those new to the game or competing in a particularly busy market have the extra challenge of getting noticed.  No sales revenue means no money to spend to generate sales, and it can often feel like swimming in circles. 

Fortunately, there are many low or no-budget actions that can be taken to generate awareness, optimize service, and keep customers coming back.

What Really Is Targeting?

Target marking is not wasting precious time or dollars reaching the wrong audience or using the wrong channel.  Stop trying to connect with everyone and target the “low-hanging fruit”.  Who is most likely to use your product or service?  Who can afford it? 

Once you have determined who will be the easiest to sell to, dig in!  How can they be reached—are they on social media?  Do they go to events?  Are they part of a networking group?  Think about what is important to them—When purchasing your product or service, do they care about quality, price, packaging, availability, number of choices, design, something else?  Tailor your offerings to meet the needs of the most likely customers. 

Market research is how you find your answers.  Using the Internet or a market research tool like Google Trends is a good start, but nothing beats putting the boots to the ground and talking to people.  Surveys, interviews, social media engagement, and networking can all get you connected.  People love to share their tastes and preferences, so do not be afraid to ask!

It Is About Who You Know

Networking is a great method to do market research, but it has many purposes and usually only costs you your time.  Networking events are easy to find via social media, your local business resource partners (like the Maine SBDC), and municipal economic development departments.

Attending a local networking event will get you face-to-face with potential customers and give you the opportunity to give your pitch and put a face to a business name.  One of the biggest values of face-to-face marketing is that it humanizes your company.  How often do you ignore an ad that pops up on your phone?  If someone was standing in front of you telling you about that product, would you pay more attention?  What if they shook your hand?  What if they did something for you?  You’d almost be a guaranteed customer, at least one-time.

Drive Loyalty: Quality Over Quantity

Most businesses rely to some extent on repeat customers, and even those that sell items you only purchase once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-while (like houses, cars, and LLBean apparel, of course) can benefit from loyalty-driven referrals.  Some even say the Pareto principle applies to marketing in the sense that 80% of sales will come from 20% of customers.

So how can you inspire loyalty to ensure that 20% keeps coming back (preferably more and more) and will share their experience with others?

  1. Give them something to talk about—be memorable or do something different: Make a statement, support a cause, throw a party, give out free samples.
  2. Reward customers for talking about you or being loyal. Try, “Share this Facebook post to be entered into our contest…”  Hand out loyalty punch cards to encourage frequent purchases.
  3. Make your customers feel special: Greet them by name, remember their preferences, go above and beyond to satisfy them, feature your customers on social media
  4. Thank your customers: Host a customer appreciation event, mail out thank-you notes or holiday cards, donate to your customer’s favorite causes

It is more than just a little frustrating when your top line number just won’t budge, but small efforts can generate a big return. 

At the end of the day, remember to be persistent –No Fortune 500 company was a household name on day one and part of being an entrepreneur is accepting failure and learning to pivot.

Need help understanding your market? A Maine SBDC business advisor can help (at no cost!). Find an advisor near you.