Small businesses face sharp economic hardship in the year ahead, according to ANZ boss Mike Smith. Smith expects trading conditions to worsen as world economic growth slows because of fiscal woes in Europe and the United States.
So, to boost your chances of surviving and thriving, you must make every dollar count.
Here are six tips on how to maximise your marketing without busting the budget.
1. Measure your success
The first rule to remember is that you must test every angle of your publicity campaign, says marketer Scott Bywater, who produces a daily newsletter on achieving maximum marketing bang for buck.
"Everything you do, you should be testing," Bywater continues. Thanks to tools including Google Analytics, online testing is easy - you can see how many visitors come to your site, what percentage converts into sales, and even compare one ad against another, Bywater says.
Testing traditional print media ads is harder. But Bywater says you can do it by just embedding a code in an ad and inviting customers to call and quote reference number "XYZ" to order.
Or you can just ask customers you talk to the standard, searching question: "How did you hear about us?"
"That question alone could transform your business," Bywater says. "Testing removes assumptions and boils everything down to facts."
2. Make affordable gambles
Take little bets, Bywater says. If you are starting out in business, he continues, instead of making a $20,000 bet, you could throw $200 at Google AdWords and see how that goes.
Or you could run a local newspaper classified ad. Or you could send 5000 flyers around your neighbourhood.
If your modest bet fails, you just lose that $200. If your bet succeeds, it may pay off repeatedly if you just keep running the ads and sending the flyers for as long as those marketing methods work.
"This concept defies the belief you need to take big risks to build a big business, or that it takes money to make money," Bywater says.
3. Offer free information
Stoke customer interest by offering a free report, Bywater says.
Almost any business can offer a report explaining how to choose something: a carpet cleaner, a mechanic, a pest control company, an accountant.
A fast way to produce a report is to have someone interview you. The recording can then be transcribed. After editing, you are away, assuming you have nailed your angle.
"The key is to think about what your target market really wants and move from the 'sell, sell, sell' mode of thinking into the 'educate, educate, educate' approach," Bywater says.
Through offering education, you set yourself up as an expert and gain trust, Bywater adds. At the end of your content-rich report, feel free to sell your services.
4. Leverage social media
Make the most of social networking platforms, says the head strategist for the financial planning firm Financial Spectrum, Brenton Tong.
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are free and each has millions of users. To make those users take notice, you must be exceptional.
"You have to provide them with something of value: it could be entertaining, it could be insight into something they would not normally get insight into, it could be useful information that will provide them with knowledge," Tong says.
Then, keep your social media campaign rolling, or else, he warns, fans and followers will desert you.
5. Use the mainstream media
Winning media coverage takes skill, Tong says. But the media is constantly on the lookout for comment from sources armed with a fresh perspective.
Just look at Richard Branson, Tong says. Branson essentially runs an airline - he dispatches planes.
But Branson stands out because he packages differently, surrounding himself with bikini-clad women and driving around town in a tank. Branson has personality - "pizzazz", Tong says.
6. Optimise your website with SEO
When you set out to upgrade your website and make it more enticing to customers, instead of hiring a search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist, get to grips with SEO yourself.
"SEO does not have to be the domain of the super-nerd," Tong says. Anyone can do it with a little effort in a trial-and-error spirit. To raise your DIY SEO game, just run a search on SEO tools and tips - there's a wealth of material.
- Sydney Morning Herald
Do you feel better off than at this time last year?