Jacqueline Drew: Basic marketing for basic business types

Money Talks is a collection of daily columns from The Business Network, which airs weekday mornings on CBC Radio One at 5:45 a.m. ET (6:15 a.m. ET in N.L.).

By Jacqueline Drew, founder of Start Marketing in Calgary
(Listen to the original audio)

Recently a journalist called me looking for basic, inexpensive marketing ideas for various types of businesses. So thought I would give you a quick summary of some of my handiest, most inexpensive ideas for various types of businesses.

  • If it’s a retail business, make sure you have a good name, logo, location and signage. Keep the inventory always moving - either by selling it, or remerchandising it. And always try to get your customers’ names, talk to them as friends, and get their suggestions as to what kinds of products they’re looking for.
  • If you’re selling to businesses, your sales skills, technical skills and writing skills are paramount. Take time to get sales training, improve your written proposals, and continually improve your education. Then work hard on picking up the phone, visiting clients, and writing killer proposals.
  • If you sell services, your website, and its search ranking, are key. You can get an inexpensive design, or buy an inexpensive design template by searching for “web templates” online - but the key is to spend lots of time writing good content - giving lots of detail. Then you can get your site to the top of the search rankings by finding a marketing company that does this - search “internet marketing” in your city to find one, and see who comes to the top of the pile.
  • If you’re selling to consumers, or numerous small businesses, the web tips just mentioned are important, but more so is your ability to answer the phone with a live person. If you can’t always answer your own phone, find a secretarial service to do it for you. They cost about $100 to $300 per month to greet your customers with real live receptionist, and then that person can connect the caller straight to your cellphone.
  • Finally, if you’re a home-based business, but you don’t want customers coming into your home, the secretarial service can solve that too. They offer professional addresses, and you can rent board room space as needed, typically for $25 to $200 an hour, which can be a lot cheaper than actually paying office rent every month.

In a nutshell, marketing doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective - but if you can get the basics right for your kind of business, you’re 80 per cent of the way there!