Doug’s Top Eleven Fundamental Marketing Techniques for Small Business Craftsmen
The following article is written by CustomMade guest blogger Doug Turner of Turner Custom Furniture. Through his own experience of running a successful custom furniture business in Atlanta, GA., Doug shares his effective marketing tips with you.
I consider the following marketing techniques absolutely fundamental– things all business owners should do before even thinking about more expensive avenues. I hope that none of this is new. In fact, I hope to bore my readers with information they learned years ago. But I’m writing this because I don’t think that will be the case – we business owners just get accustomed to the way we’ve been doing things for years, and sometimes just forget the basics. Consider this a gentle reminder (or a kick in the butt).
- Your business name should incorporate what your business does. I know, Coke (among others) breaks this rule and still manages to make a few dollars per year. But remember, the Coca Cola Corporation has a lot of money to imprint their brand name on consumers, and drive home what Coke is. A good rule of thumb is this: the less advertising money you have to spend, the more your business name should reflect what you do.
- Use consistent branding. I’m amazed at how many businesses I see with a confused brand image. Tighten it up, or you risk handing competitors money. Consistent colors, typefaces, layouts etc. should be used to give your business a crisp, professional image.
- Use truck /car signs. Billboards are expensive. But if you own a vehicle and a business, you own a mobile billboard. Ergo, you own an expensive marketing medium. Use it! Simple designs work best. Your company logo, a phone number and a website address are all you need. Put signs on your doors and tailgate for trucks, and on your doors and maybe your bumper for cars. You can also put a small sign on your front license plate holder.
- Hand your customers good quality business cards. I have really thick, glossy, double- sided business cards, and I found a place to get them cheap here in Atlanta. If you are still representing your business with an office store template card, consider an upgrade.
- Create a website. Let me rephrase that. Create a website that you upgrade more than once per year. The phone book is dead, or at least it’s dead and doesn’t seem to know it yet (does that make it a zombie?) Most consumers find products and services online these days. It goes without saying that you won’t be found if you don’t have an updated website.
- Create a Facebook page. I know, hand me a barf bag. But remember this: successful businesses serve clients in the way clients want to be served, not the reverse. You don’t have to spend your life on FB. Just post some projects occasionally and you’ll be surprised at how many new eyes will see your work.
- Answer the phone professionally. Use a proper phone greeting, such as “Turner Custom Furniture, how can I help you?”, or some variation therein, as opposed to “Hello…”, “This is Stew”, or even the popular abbreviated business name: “Turner Custom…” Brand your customers the very second you answer the phone.
- Use an email signature. All email programs and providers offer this service. Pay a teenager a few dollars to show you how to make one if you can’t figure it out. Nothing complex is needed here. Your name and title (if necessary), your business name, your business website, and your contact information is all you need. I’ve seen lots of long signatures, and spent money on ink printing those long, graphics-filled signatures. Be nice to your clients, and keep it simple.
- Take good quality pictures of your work. I am constantly amazed at the poor quality of images I see on many websites. Buy a nice digital slr camera and learn to use it.
- Know the answer to the oft asked question “What do you do for a living?” This is your “Elevator Speech”. I have to admit that I do not employ this technique as effectively as I could. I know what I want to say, but as a socially awkward person, I tend to muddle my speech. For example, I try to say “I design and build custom furniture, such as dining tables, bookcases, conference tables and reception desks.” And sometimes I actually say something like that. The point is this: When someone at a party or in an elevator (hence the name) asks you what you do, you’ve been asked to market to that person (whether or not that person is just making conversation). Your job is to take stock of the particular situation, and instantly create the ideal answer. This is tough for us socially clumsy folks. For example, if you are attending a bibliophile convention, you’d probably want to emphasize the fact you design and build bookcases and library furnishings. At a business convention, stress corporate furniture. Friends and family can advertise for you as well, using this technique. My girlfriend is always dropping hints to her bosses that I build reception desks and conference tables. Go team!
- Adopt the “My business exists to make money, not products” mindset. Businesses great and small forget this simple philosophy all the time. It’s the over- arching philosophy that states:
- “Create products clients will buy, not products you enjoy making.”
- “Design your marketing to attract customers, not to appeal to your personal aesthetic.”
- “Don’t engage in practices that don’t make your business money.”
- “Don’t dismiss a good business idea because you don’t like the source.”
- “Don’t dismiss marketing techniques that work because you don’t like them.”
These techniques may not always produce dramatic results, but give them a shot before you buy that Super Bowl ad (or local TV commercial). You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.