According to the Small Business Development Center of Springfield, OH, which is endorsed by the US Small Business Administration, marketing is a crucial part of any small business's success. Effective marketing helps you establish a foothold in your industry, build your customer base and eventually expand your business. Include the following marketing practices with consistency to see results through increased customer satisfaction, higher profits and measurable business growth for your job shop.
Building Your Brand: Distinguish Yourself From the Competition
The Small-Business Course states that small businesses can make themselves stand out from the competition by developing brand identity. You may not be the only make-to-order manufacturing shop in the area, but if you're the one who's known for specializing in a certain new technology or the one who promotes precision machining services then your brand identity is working for you.
Your business's brand connects you to your customers and separates you from the competition. It evokes certain feelings, such as satisfaction or relief. It contributes toward the associations your customers make with your business, such as reliability, quality or expertise. Brand is more than a fancy logo or catchy commercial jingle; it generates buzz and interest toward your business and gives potential customers an additional reason to choose you.
Engaging the Customer: Considering Customer Feedback as You Shape Your Business
The best way to maintain a customer-focused mindset is to know what your customers like and don't like about your service so you can shape your marketing according to customer feedback. Engage your customers through the use of customer feedback forms. Since most people will feel more comfortable filling out a survey in private, mail or email the survey after service completion or provide one on your website.
Encourage feedback by calling customers after service and asking them open-ended questions. "Yes" or "N" questions will tell you very little, but questions such as "What did you like best about the service provided?" will engage customers in discussion. For maximum effectiveness, share feedback with employees during staff meetings so sales efforts and customer service practices can be altered for higher customer satisfaction.
Engaging Your Employees: Including the "Eyes and Ears" of Your Business
If you want to know how to effectively market to your customer base, ask the people who work closely with them. Your employees are the eyes and ears of your business; they hear customers talk about services they wish they could access or appreciate more. This information can help you as the business owner determine what promotions or sales might draw more business.
This can also help you learn what extra services should be advertised or promoted in an effort to upsell, or add to the regular services required. Most customers won't know that you have complementary services that could enhance the performance or appearance of their product. It's up to you to advertise and promote these things so they know.
Creating an Internet Presence: Using Technology to Create a Presence & Build Business
According to Seattle University, an Internet presence helps small businesses establish their image, while adding value to the customers. A presence on the web doesn't need to be complicated or time-consuming to be effective. The combination of a company website and social media marketing can help you expand your business in ways that print or commercial advertising alone cannot do. While the Internet shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of your marketing efforts, you would be shortchanging your business by not including it.
Company Website. If you're at all web-savvy, you can build your own basic company website using one of many free or low-cost services available. Otherwise, it's a good idea to hire someone, such as a college student studying web design, to create a site for you. Be sure to include a few basic, informative pages on your company website, such as a Services page, About Us page and Contact Us page. To capitalize on your website's marketing capabilities and attract traffic to your site, add a page for a company blog. Hire a writer or have someone in the company who writes well add weekly informative posts to the blog that will be of value to your readers, such as a post about rapid prototyping and how that technology helps to meet customer expectations. Don't waste time with fluff; once people come to your website you want them to find value there so they'll keep coming back.
Social Media. The Small Business Administration and Independent Community Bankers of America urge small-business owners to connect with customers via social media venues such as Facebook and Twitter. A short, informative post on Facebook or Twitter can include a link back to your site to drive more traffic to your business. You can also use social media to let customers know about product offerings and share examples of your work.
Traditional Marketing Techniques: They Still Work
St. Ambrose University states that social media marketing is an extension of traditional marketing techniques. As stated above, it's unwise to exclude Internet marketing strategies from your marketing campaign. But it's also unwise to cast aside traditional marketing methods, too.
Direct mail or mail packs are still a very effective marketing strategy for small businesses. These low-cost forms of traditional marketing are ideal for the small-business person that wants to expand businesses without going into debt. By including traditional marketing techniques, you can reach potential customers who do not use social media and are rarely on the Internet.
The Three-Prong Approach: The Key to Effective Marketing
"Don't put all your eggs in one basket," says the old adage. When it comes to marketing, this couldn't be more true. As you spend more time marketing your business, you're likely to develop a favorite type of marketing. Nevertheless, make sure to use at least three marketing strategies or methods together to reach the broadest customer base and draw them to your business.
Advertising: Understand Your Customer Base & Advertise Appropriately
The Better Business Bureau states that, even in a tough economy, small businesses are still spending about the same amount of money on advertising. To get the most from your investment, know who your customer base is. Do you service the Aerospace or Medical Device markets? Are the people you service looking for the absolute best in quality and appearance, or do they just want things fixed? A market research company can help figure this out, but keeping this information in a customer relations management database can also help you recognize your predominant customer base.
It's also a good idea to remember what not to do when advertising. According to the BBB, don't use the words "free" or "best" in your advertisements because they can be misleading and subjective. Claims of having the lowest prices in town or the best service in town can also lead to trouble.
Capitalize on Uniqueness: Understanding Your Competitive Edge & Making Sure Customers Do, Too
As a custom make-to-order manufacturer, you face plenty of competition from neighboring areas. Capitalize on any unique qualities in your business so you stand out from the competition. If you're the only job shop in the area that can provide computer stress analysis let everyone know this through your marketing efforts, business cards and conversations. There's something special and unique about your business; figure out what it is, and use it to your advantage.
Poorly Planned or Ineffective Marketing
One of the biggest marketing mistakes a business can make, according to Michigan State University, is making decisions about what your business will offer without a knowledge of your customers' needs and wishes. A prime example of this was Coca-Cola's decision to replace the old Coke formula with New Coke. Not only was New Coke a total flop, but angry customers called the company demanding the old formula back. Poorly planned or ineffective marketing can cost a great deal of money. Know what your customers want and need before you make assumptions about what products or services would be best for them.
As you continue to build your manufacturing shop business with new marketing strategies, take time to acknowledge your accomplishments, learn from mistakes and celebrate success. Growing a job shop business is like raising a child; it's a task that requires patience, nurturing and time.Here is a great infographic from The Mines Press Blog on “Five Steps to Jump Start Your Marketing Efforts Today”