Most small business owners know firsthand the double-edged sword that is marketing and advertising your business. Many business experts have argued that marketing is one of the most important business functions of any company. When you are able to implement an effective marketing campaign you could see big gains in brand awareness, sales, and customer engagement and retention. No matter what target market you are trying to reach, from getting more consumer (B2C) or business clients (B2B), there are countless ways to tailor your marketing strategy to meet your business goals.
However, there’s always the other side of the coin to consider. Executing a thorough marketing strategy takes a ton of time, planning, research, data mining, consumer surveys, attention to detail, talent, resources, and, most importantly, a pretty sizable budget. Some marketing channels like paid advertising require quite the hefty spend up-front to get your ad in front of the customers you are targeting. In fact, some of the biggest national brands like Amazon, General Motors, or Samsung may spend over a billion per year on marketing and advertising.
Advertising, however, is just one facet of a marketing strategy. Although it is still an effective way to drive business, the high up-front costs and thin ROI margins can be a barrier for many small businesses looking to increase their marketing efforts. However, small businesses like yours have a certain marketing ace up their sleeves over large businesses or national online retailers. The small business advantages you have are your personal relationships with your customers and visibility in the community you serve. This creates an abundance of opportunities in a highly sought-after marketing channel: word-of-mouth recommendations
Small Businesses Naturally Inspire Word-Of-Mouth Recommendations
We’ve touched on the potential of word-of-mouth marketing for your business in a previous blog, but let’s do a quick recap. Word-of-mouth marketing is the collection of efforts your business does to inspire natural talk about your business between your target audience’s close friends, colleagues, and family. In other words, it’s a type of free advertising that is borne of personal experience with a brand or organization. Word-of-mouth can lead to increased traction in referral marketing, customer loyalty and retention, and so much more.
Depending on these experiences (and sometimes depending on a consumer’s impressions of the organization) the consumer can either talk positively about a business or negatively. Obviously, businesses are only interested in generating more positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
According to the media research company Nielsen, 83% of consumers, that’s about eight in ten, say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations they receive from friends and family members. The next most trusted format is reviews and opinions that are posted online, either from social media, a business review site like Yelp, or message boards like Quora and Reddit. Online reviews can be thought of as a type of word-of-mouth marketing, however, it has the potential to rapidly increase its reach thanks to the power of the internet.
Compared to larger, more national businesses, small businesses have a personal and immediate influence on the communities they serve. This interconnectedness between your business and your community gives you an opportunity to really hone your marketing efforts into generating more positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
If you are a small business, and especially if you are a small business that is working to establish yourself within the community, focusing your marketing strategy on word-of-mouth marketing is a great way to get more from your marketing budget. Word-of-mouth is famously a free or an extremely low-cost marketing channel that is more likely to convert to sales. In fact, word-of-mouth recommendations have the potential to influence between 20 - 50% of all purchasing decisions. The other business benefits your business could see from positive word-of-mouth recommendations are:
So, how can you start generating positive word-of-mouth exposure for your small business? It’s simple: use the good that you already do for your community and make it a visible part of your brand identity. By sharing your community-building activities, you can create natural and positive word-of-mouth attention.
As a small business owner, we understand that you have a ton to manage day-to-day to ensure your business is running smoothly. We get that you probably don’t have the time or resources to spend planning and executing a successful marketing or advertising campaign. All this is to say, coming up with a marketing strategy and creating assets to execute that strategy can be a full-time job in itself.
However, with word-of-mouth, the most trusted and authentic recommendations can come just from one positive interaction with a brand or organization. And that interaction doesn’t have to come from a direct experience at your business’ storefront. We know that according to a recent consumer study, 88% of consumers pre-research the things they are buying both before going in the store or purchasing online.
That means a good chunk of your customers are keeping tabs on your business before they set foot inside. If you have shifted your focus on giving back to your community, and making your charitable-giving efforts a visible part of your online presence, the good you do for the community has a higher potential to emotionally resonate with your customers than an expensive advertising campaign could without cost you a penny.
That being said, you may be wondering, if I’m donating to a cause, doesn’t that ultimately make it an expense? The fact of the matter is that when it comes to kindness, money is not the only thing that creates value. Of course, financial donations can be a way to give back to your community, but as a business, you have more you can offer your community. You, yourself, are a business leader, and by extension, a community leader too. Offering your expertise to mentor other small business upstarts, or volunteering to mentor students at your local school, for example, are ways you can give back and make a lasting impression on the community without spending any money up-front.
Here are other ways your business can give back without having to spend money:
If you look online, you can find plenty of heart-warming and uplifting stories about how small businesses across the country are making a big difference by the good they do through the means they have. For example, ShelfGenie, a shelf installation company out of Colorado Springs, CO, partnered with Homes for Our Troops to create accessible shelving in the homes of severely wounded veterans. Anton’s Cleaners of Lowell, MA, holds an annual Coats for Kids drive in their town. They call on several other small businesses around town to hold drives to collect coats from their customers that they will then clean and distribute to kids in need of warm clothing.
How did we know about the things these businesses did for the community? It was a few search terms away. That goes to show the power that word-of-mouth and publicity can do for small businesses just trying to do good and make a difference in their communities. The good that small businesses do for their communities is so authentic and uplifting community journalists and local news outlets are particularly interested in running these types of stories.
Now that you know you can create a strong marketing strategy without having a large marketing budget, let seedership help you transform your kindness into something that can help your business grow. With our Act Tracking feature, you input every hour, item, or thing given to your community and we will tabulate the results to give you your Total Kindness Impact score, representing your total investment back into the community.
With our visual storytelling platform you can share your kind acts directly to your social media accounts, or export color and engaging infographics for your website or storefront. The seedership platform helps bring to life your commitment back to the community, shows what your business and employees give back, and keeps the good you do top of mind in an engaging, dynamic way.
Worried you don’t have enough money for marketing? Let seedership help you grow from the good you do. Try a free 30-day trial today!