Q: We began a small graphics business to generate a second income. We've expanded our services and have extremely satisfied customers. We want to expand more within our own region, but I work full time, which limits my face-to-face marketing time. Our prices are reasonable, and we deliver high-quality products and good customer service. We've won 2 ADDY awards for advertising animation, but the jobs just trickle in. How can we increase our sales with a limited budget and get our clients to utilize us more often?
A: It's not uncommon for part-time businesses to encounter the types of problems you describe. Here are four ways you can improve your marketing results:
1. Create a "sound" image. When prospects call during business hours, do they encounter an answering machine or have to wait until after hours to have their calls returned? Switching to low-cost voice mail with multiple mailboxes from the phone company will allow your prospects and clients to get information when you're unavailable and create a more solid, stable image for your business. Carry a portable phone to return calls from prospects and clients while on breaks during business hours.
2. Set up a low-maintenance marketing program. Create a marketing program that relies on simple tools you can prepare well in advance that require minimal attention during business hours. You might create a postcard series that shows some of your ADDY-winning work. Create all your direct-mail pieces, have them printed at one time, and purchase a list of targeted businesses for multiple use. Then have your mailing house send them at designated intervals-say, one postcard mailing every six weeks. Do the same with small space ads: Develop all the creative elements at once, place the schedule well in advance, and leave it to the media to run the ads on designated dates.
3. Communicate regularly with past clients. A monthly broadcast fax newsletter is a terrific way to stay in touch with existing clients, and it's considerably less time consuming than doing it the old-fashioned way-printing or copying, folding, stamping and mailing. Create a one-page newsletter using a desktop publishing program. Then use a fax software program, and with a few mouse clicks, your computer will do the rest of the work.
4. Add face-to-face tactics. Consider partnering with someone who operates a similar business full time. That way your partner can attend networking functions and meet with prospects during business hours on your behalf, and you can expand the size of your business without adding staff.