If you want fast growth, focus on keeping current customers happy and making it easy for prospects to navigate your website. Also consider tried-and-true tactics such as good old phone calls and direct mail. These are some of the findings from a recent survey of small and medium businesses (SMBs) and their secrets for success. Use their responses to guide your own marketing plans.


Encourage word of mouth

Customer referrals and other word-of-mouth marketing take the top spot in a 2015 survey of marketing tactics from business-to-business agency Bredin, Inc. Nearly 70 percent of SMBs say word of mouth works. To cultivate positive peer opinions and referrals, start with a customer-centric mindset that builds genuine goodwill. Set policies for handling complaints with a goal of delighting your customer, and train employees to go the extra mile and anticipate customer requests. With this foundation in place, encourage your customers to tell their friends and associates about you; talk about you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social sites; or give you a positive review online. Incentivize customers by establishing special offers and rewards for referrals.


Supercharge your website

A third of business owners cited their website as an essential element of their marketing arsenal. To make the most of your website, assess whether your site clearly conveys what your business does and the problems it solves. Prioritize the top actions you want site visitors to take and then make it easy for them to do so. For most companies these actions include: finding information and pricing on products and services, making a purchase, asking for more information or getting customer service. Other important elements may include signing up for a newsletter or accessing content to learn more. Keep two important shopping factors in mind when you are evaluating your website. One, most people research online before buying, so clearly demonstrate why you are the right choice. Two, many site visitors will come to you from a mobile device, so ensure that your site’s mobile experience is a good one.


Get on the phone

Marketing on the phone is an old standby, and nearly a third of SMBs say it works for them. “Telephone marketing” often refers to business-to-business outbound calls or handling inbound inquiries, as opposed to cold calling people in their homes. A real-time phone conversation is highly effective for gauging customer concerns, answering questions and making suggestions for what they might need. Guide customers to call you by prominently displaying your number in your physical location and online, along with encouragement to call. If you try to make outbound calls to market your business, make sure you’re doing so with a useful offer or piece of information relevant for the specific person you’re calling. Keep records of your phone calls to note each contact and how it went.


Use email

Nearly 30 percent of SMBs cite email offers as being effective, and 23 percent have good responses from email newsletters. Start your email marketing efforts by frequently updating your list of email addresses. Gather customer emails post purchase with an offer of future discounts, and encourage all site visitors to sign up to receive offers or valuable information from you. If you plan to launch an email newsletter, devise a list of topics of interest to your target customer that also demonstrates your unique expertise. For example, a bakery could send out recipes and tips about how make the best summer pies or an outdoor supply store could generate articles on how to avoid accidents on a hike. Couple this value-added information with offers and discounts for a potent email.


Consider direct mail

Snail mail is still popular — 30 percent of SMBs use letters, postcards, event calendars, coupons or other direct mail to reach their markets, and the same percent say it works for them. Putting a simple, clear message in a customer’s hands strikes a chord and helps the company stand out from the endless marketing promotions that customers are subject to every day. Tailor your message to a particular audience and research your community to zero in on where these customers are. The United States Postal Service has online tools for you to map your mailing area, including options for searching by demographics like age or average household income. Direct mail is an art, so consider hiring a freelancer or other professional with lots of proven direct mail experience to help you with this endeavor. A good resource will listen to you and tap your expertise in your company. Armed with this information, they will apply some of the time-tested best practices in direct mail to create a winning campaign.


SMBs have a huge variety of marketing options available to them, but sometimes the best advice comes from looking at what works best for your peers and their proven marketing tactics. Evaluate your current marketing mix and compare it to the kinds of efforts that have yielded returns for others in your space.

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