"How do I promote my business?"

It goes without saying that for any business, in any sector, in order for it to survive, grow and prosper, sales are imperative, because sales generate profit and cash flow and these are the lifeblood of any business. It is understandable, therefore, that I often overhear the question ‘how do I promote my business?’

Any business, of any size, has to promote itself in one way or another. If we look around us, we will see numerous different examples of how this is undertaken, from promoting the specific item to be sold at one end of the spectrum, through to general brand or image awareness at the other end. Early stage businesses need to concentrate on directly generating sales of specific products, or very direct messages about what it is that the business does. It is typically only larger household names that start to move over into general brand and image promotion.

But these are only really the finer points of the question, whilst the main question should be more about how best to achieve the task of promoting your business. Young businesses very typically have limited cash resources and need to ensure that they get the biggest ‘bang for their buck’. Any promotional activities that they do need to differentiate between sectors and products, and these lend themselves to different types of marketing activities and different types of wider promotional activities.  

Whatever routes and actions are chosen, it is crucial that the return on any investment in promotional activities are tracked in order to better inform future spending and promotional decisions. Social networking can be both relatively cheap and very targeted, as well as being easy to track responses to, whereas other activities such as posters in buses or on the underground can be both more expensive and more difficult to track. One major aspect that is often overlooked by many companies, both large and small, is the fact that new customer acquisition is always far more expensive than customer retention, and the best way to retain customers is to ensure good customer service and great, engaging, communication.

Loyal and repeat customers are also the best ambassadors for any business, as they promote your product or service for free to targeted potential and new customers, and the fact that the recipients get a personal recommendation from somebody whose opinion that they value is much more likely to turn into a sale than a random promotion would, no matter how well targeted the promotion. One true maxim from the marketing industry is that good news travels fast, but bad news travels even faster.

Preventing bad news is best done by ensuring that you and your business delivers a quality product or service, as well as providing quality customer service, and also ensuring that customer engagement is maximised in as personal a way as possible. One of the many changes ‘post lockdown’ is that many businesses have learned the importance of more personal engagement with their customers and have moved much more towards making them feel valued, and moved away from just the hard sales pitch. In order for any of the above to be true, any business must know its customers, both existing and potential, and ensure that the right message is delivered in the right way, through the right medium, to the right audience.

To summarise, the best way to promote your business is to know your customers, know exactly your product or service and who they are targeted at, and to provide top quality products coupled with top quality customer service. These strategies should ensure a very high level of customer retention whilst also providing the best opportunities for customer acquisition. The bottom line of this strategy is, quite literally, the bottom line, with increased sales leading to increased profitability and a growing business.