This is from a recent SCORE ExpertAnswers: Expert Advice to Grow Your Business
Sales Strategy for your Business
Melinda Emerson, CEO
Melinda Emerson, better known to many as SmallBizLady, is one of America's leading small business experts. Author of the national bestseller Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months and host of Twitter's #SmallBizChat weekly for emerging entrepreneurs, Melinda has provided guidance on marketing and social media strategies to small businesses and Fortune 500 companies alike.
Q: With so much uncertainty in today's economy, how can a small business owner keep his/her marketing tactics flexible?
A: Social media is one of the best ways for small business owners to track target audiences. Monitor blogs that cover your industry - including those produced by your competitors - to stay on top of the latest trends.
Develop signature materials such as reports and white papers to distinguish yourself as a thought-leader in your industry, and use social media to distribute them to your target audiences.
Q: Referrals are an important ingredient for growing a small business. What are some tips for getting current customers to help spread the word about you?
A: Always start by doing a great job for your customers. Be sure to thank your clients for doing business with a follow-up call or a personal note. Then you can ask them to refer you to other potential clients.
Consider creating incentive programs such as giveaways, coupons, and finder's fees for referrals. That will help motivate your customers to become advocates for your business.
Q: In an age when so many business relationships are developed online, are printed support materials still important?
A: Professional collateral materials are still quite appropriate, but be sure to have electronic versions of them as well. Of greater importance, though, is having a professional website.
A good process is to use social media networking to meet qualified leads, use your website to provide more details, and then use professional marketing materials to close the business.
Q: What's the best piece of sales and marketing advice you've received from a mentor?
A: "It's much easier and cheaper to keep a customer than to go out and find a new one."
Brought to you by SCORE, America's free and confidential source of small business mentoring and coaching. SCORE is a nonprofit association of more than 13,000 business experts who volunteer as mentors. SCORE offers free mentoring and low-cost workshops nationwide. A resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE has helped more than 9 million entrepreneurs since 1964.