One of the most significant challenges for small and medium enterprises is lack of marketing funds. They can either manage their cash flow to survive or invest in marketing. Traditional marketing techniques are completely out of the question. Ask any small and medium-sized organisation owner, and you would quickly realise that their business has been built through recommendations; it has taken them years to develop their customer base. They want to reach out to more customers, they want to grow but, how should they. They have tried their hands with social media, they built a decent website, but their business growth is primarily achieved due to recommendations.
Getting the growth mind set right
When you don't have deep pockets for marketing, you'll have to substitute it with hard work and labour beyond your current efforts. If this sounds like a problem to you, then you probably need to focus on your activities. It might be possible that you are the only decision maker or you make the most of the decisions related to your day-to-day organisation or customer requirements, and you have someone or no one to put the required effort on spreading the word for your business. But the bitter truth is if you are not putting your direct efforts on marketing, then no one will.
What not to do
When you don't have the traditional media budgets for marketing and awareness, then it's pointless to rely on conventional marketing techniques. Don't make ads, don't invest in billboards, don't send spam emails, and don’t fill the internet with useless commercials. The point here is simple, these are highly expensive forms of marketing, and it suits the one with deep pockets. The traditional marketing focuses majorly on WHO (target audience) and WHERE (placement of ads). Traditional marketers make most assumptions on WHO and spend all their money on WHERE. The first thing you must do is to strike off the WHERE part and only focus on WHO. Once you connect with the WHO, they will find each other where ever they are. Even big companies like Google tried and succeeded at this. When they launched Gmail, they focused on WHO. People wanted unlimited mailbox size, and Google built the best mailbox with infinite space, and made is accessible by referral. From people to people, it spread like wildfire. Not a penny spent was wasted; all the money and effort were spent on WHO.
Keep an eye for detail
A good customer experience only amplifies the referral effect. Have more frequent face-time with your customers, and learn all the possible scope of improvement; what is that you can do which will turn their experience into a wow. Bridge those gaps first. Look at the complete lifecycle of the customer journey and map all the critical areas where there is a scope for improvement. From your website, to how your solution demo is taken care of, the ease of explanation, the customer onboarding experience, the customer support, just everything about it. Every small enhancement that you make in customer experience will reward you with customer retention and referrals too! Take the Best Buy, an American retailer as an example. Their surveys suggested that women hate the shopping experience at Best Buy although over 50% customers were women. Best Buy quickly realised that women buy in a bundle if they buy a camera they also look for a photo printer and photo printing paper. She will have to move from one aisle to another and put the bundle together herself. Best Buy changed this flaw in their customer experience and won its core customers back.
Invest in solutions fit for market
Question one thing periodically, what are the things you can provide your customers that will help them in their journey. Create something that they want. Fine tune your offering until it has reached its market viability. Take Instagram for example. It started as a location-based social network called Burbn, which had a unique photo feature and also had the funding, but they truly wanted to make something unique that millions of people would want to have. They realised that their core group of users are interested in the photo app. And they spotted the opportunity bang on, which led to the creation of Instagram which attracted 100,000 users within the week of launch. In 18 months it was sold to Facebook for $1 Billion.
Virality is not an accident
If you can do something that your customers can't then they will adore you, talk about you and will become your most significant sales representative. Virality is not accidental, and it is a well-planned and scientifically designed process. Most people spread a word on their social media asking their friends and family to do a favour by spreading the word. The key here is not to ask for support, do something that they would want to do. Take Grammarly, an app that allows its customers to check their spellings and grammar, making sure their users are not caught making silly mistakes which will ruin their reputation and cause embarrassments. During its launch phase their initial user group could continue to reap the premium benefit of the app as long as they kept inviting their friends to sign up for the app. Every time someone signs up, they extend the app's premium version.
Create your bandwidth
Finally, all the ideas discussed here will work only if you can create your bandwidth. And to do that, stop doing the things which you can delegate. Focus on company processes and automation techniques (digitisation). Instil a sense of purpose amongst your team, these efforts are 100% in your capacity, and ultimately it should give you space and time to do the most crucial task - building the brand, without spending much on massive media spends.