5 Marketing Ideas Small Businesses Can Implement Now!

Small businesses often complain that a lack of budget restricts the opportunities to successfully market their businesses. Too often they confuse advertising with marketing and believe that placing an ad in the local newspaper will keep the customers coming in.

Below are five simple strategies that small businesses can implement TODAY. The cost to implement them is minimal if not free and they will do more to drive customers to your business than the majority of your current marketing activities. The list is by no means exhaustive, there are thousands of ideas out there but here are five to get you on your way.

1. Offer a guarantee

Guarantees often come in the form of money back guarantee. But by thinking laterally small businesses can provide guarantees that communicate their brand promise clearly and effectively. Guarantees also help to build trust, differentiate you from competitors and create a perception of a reduction in financial risk from the customer. Some examples include:

– Guarantee of product quality. “If your not completely satisfied with your haircut we will give you a full refund”
– Guarantee of service. “We will deliver your new bed tomorrow, guaranteed!”
– Guarantee of price. “We will beat any competitors advertised price by 10%”
– Guarantee of product range. “The largest range of lawnmowers in Sydney, guaranteed”
These are just some examples, the sky is really the limit but make sure your guarantee is strong and is consistent with your brand promise.

2. Create a simple special offer.

The best special offers are often the simplest. They can be as simple a offering a free item with every purchase or even a small gift for entering a store during a specific time. You can also cross promote with other retailers to drive customer traffic. Some ideas are:

If your targeting mothers aged 25-40 with your clothing store you could offer a free balloon (with your logo on it) to every child that comes into your store. It provides a positive experience for the mother and a useful point of distraction for the children so the mother can spend more time looking at (and buying) clothes. Offer a free coffee at a nearby coffee shop for every purchase over a certain value and provide products to the coffee shop for a reciprocal offer. Special offers don’t have to be expensive to, just try to make them valuable to your target audience and time sensitive to try and create a sense of urgency.

3. Start a loyalty program

When we think of loyalty programs we think of the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program or Woolworths Everyday Rewards amongst many others. The concept is the same in terms of generating customer loyalty but for small business they can be really simple. As an example, any coffee shop that does not have a “Buy 10 coffee’s and get one free” loyalty card available are losing revenue as we speak.

I’ve seen a coffee shop take this one step further and have a card file on the front counter where frequent coffee drinkers can leave their card. What a great idea! The card file ensures that their customers don’t forget to bring the card and that the card owner always returns to purchase the coffees. This idea can be applied across most small businesses including hairdressers, corner stores amongst many others. The key is to give your customers a reason to keep coming back to you and not your competitor.

4. Capture an email list of your best customers

Many local small businesses such as clothing stores, restaurants and hairdressers have a list of loyal customers that keep coming back time and time again. In many cases, the only contact small businesses have with these customers is when they return to the shop or salon. All small businesses should aim to capture a list of their best customers on the basis that they will be offered exclusive discounts and offers as part of being on the list. Wineries are particularly good at this where they offer exclusive vintages to their best customers. The winery is often able to sell through the vintage directly to the mailing list and the customer gets an exclusive wine that isn’t available at the local bottle shop. A win-win for both.

5. Host an exclusive event for loyal customers & friends

Loyal customers like your business already and by being loyal they are often the customers that generate positive conversations about your business. You need to make them feel special and give them an opportunity to introduce their friends to your business. Now that you’ve captured their email address, you can invite them and a friend to an exclusive event. Some thoughts are:

– An exclusive preview after trading hours of your stores new summer range of clothing with champagne, hors d’oeuvres and a 20% discount on all clothing. Exclusive only to those on your email list.
– You’ve just introduced a new type of manicure to the services you offer at your beauty salon. Invite your customers to an evening of free manicures and champagne to showcase the new service and say thanks for their continued loyalty.

Exclusive events are a great way to show your customers how much you value them and provide a great way to promote new offers within your business.

6. Under promise and over deliver

Yes it’s an oldy but still a goody. And to illustrate my point I only offered you five marketing ideas in the beginning but given you six. Over delivering does not have to cost you anything. It can really be anything that exceeds the expectations of your customers and creates a positive impression about your business. Some examples are:

– Tradesman that provide additional service over and above what was quoted.
– A discount given to loyal customers outside of sale periods.

The opportunities are endless. The benefits of over delivering are that it gives your loyal customers a reason to talk about your business. It also gives them a reason to recommend you to others and can stimulate referrals that lead to new customer relationships.

These six simple strategies are easy to implement and hopefully they have stimulated your creative juices to come up with ideas for your business. Let me know what you’ve come up with by leaving a comment.

Good luck!

Commercial Mortgage – 5 Factors That Affect Deal Flow

Niagara Falls or babbling brook. How is your flow? How do you get commercial mortgage clients in the door? Do you have the budget and time to undertake a massive marketing campaign? Could experience with multiple property types and applications increase your value to the commercial market? Where are your deals located? How is the market in your area? Is your referral network bringing you enough business? These are all questions you need to consider when you think about how to increase your deal flow.

Of course every commercial loan you work will not close; that is not the reality of the commercial mortgage industry. You need to be in front of the right people at the right time with the right solution to even be considered. Here are the 5 main factors that affect your deal flow which ultimately affects your cash flow. The first step is awareness; knowing what the issues are will allow you to determine a solution. Rate yourself in each of these areas:

-Referrals: Referrals are king in the mortgage industry. This is by far the number one way for a commercial broker to get business. This certainly works well for those that have been in the industry for years and have a large network, but what about those new to the industry? Can you survive waiting on someone to refer you when no one knows you exist?

-Marketing: This is how we let our potential clients know who we are and that we can provide them with a solution for their commercial financing needs. The problem is that there are hundreds of other solutions out there all competing for the same client. Without the budget and knowledge to do it right, it is very difficult to get a good return on your marketing investment.

-Expertise: What you know and how long you have been in the business has a dramatic affect on deal flow. Of course, those that have been in the commercial business for 10 years have a greater client base and referral network. You can’t buy experience, no matter how much you spend, but what you can get is training. Through continuing training, especially at the beginning of your commercial career, you can build the knowledge it takes to get the deals done. Share that knowledge with your potential clients and you have set yourself up as the expert in the field, despite your lack of experience.

-Geography: It is no surprise that by serving a larger geographic area, you will be exposed to more deals. However, without the support of a large national company this is very difficult and potentially cost prohibitive. The downside of most national commercial finance companies is that by bringing the deals to you they will expect something in return. Often a big chunk of your commission. It’s a catch 22, you get more clients, but now you need even more than before just to break even.

-The Market: Some markets are hot and some are cold that is the reality of the industry. If you are only serving a small geographic area and that area goes cold, what do you do? The key is to ensure that your client base is as diverse as possible, not only by location, but by property type and industry.
What to do?

Build your commercial finance business. Start by looking at the percentages that each of the above are contributing to your total deal flow and set targets for the coming year as to what you want the percentages to look like. For example, if referrals now make up 10 percent of your total business, set your targets for 20% next year and establish the game plan to do it.

For marketing, are you tracking a cost per closed loan? Do you know what you’re spending for the revenue you’re generating? Begin to cull out the sources that are not generating the returns you require.

When looking at geography, start to examine how you can expand the markets you serve. This will both increase your deal flow and minimize a downward movement in any one particular market. In effect, it is diversifying your portfolio. Look for a partner that can introduce you to new markets and provide you with lead sources into those markets.

In summary, deal flow in the commercial mortgage industry is driven by your presence. When the market knows you’re there and do quality work, your flow will build exponentially. The next step is to formulate your plan to increase that presence and identify the partners that can help you do it.

Advantages of Using Social Media for Small Business

Advantages of using Social Media for Small Business
Social media is an inexpensive and efficient way of advertising products and services. Social networking sites are a platform for small business to grow and make their mark on the market. There are lots of advantages of social media. Top nine advantages are listed below.

You can have a website or a blog for small business
It gives an opportunity to have your own space on social networking websites where you can be in contact with your customers and prospects.

Huge Exposure to Potential Customers
Social media provide an opportunity of exposure to its potential customers. There are numbers of famous websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. These sites have more than a billion users. A small business is able to get huge traffic because of these websites.

Marketing without Money
Once you have got your desired target customers and prospect its time to market your business. Online business is different from other businesses because you do not have to spend anything on it not even a penny.

Customers will find you
Small business should work on generating good contents following with keywords and phrases. Try to write articles and put them on different search engines with a link of your website and so when your customers will read your article he will follow you on your website.

Contacts around the world
There are numbers of different people living in different geographical locations but they all are connected to your business because of social media.

Innovative ideas
Small business can create original ideas. People connected to your business belong to different culture, religion or nationality. While catering their needs you can create ideas to make better connections with them.

Fan Following
If your business is able to cater its customer’s needs, then your business can have a huge list of fans. They will follow you on your website and will be willing to buy your products.

Opportunity of feedback
Your customers can tell you about your company. They can give you suggestions which in return will help your business to improve.

Profit and Sales
Small business online can generate hefty amount of profit. Sales increase with the passage of time. Online business does not require you to invest lots of money in it. What it needs is time and effort to make your business.

Commercial Mortgage Broker Fee Agreement

Now having a good commercial mortgage broker agreement in place with your borrower is more important than ever. As CMBS lenders like Lehman, Silver hill, etc have been taking the worst of it, we as commercial mortgage brokers are now forced to originate our commercial mortgages through traditional sources, i.e. regional or smaller banks.

These banks that for years saw their market share shrink are now in control. Many of them never bothered to increase their risk thresholds and or change their underwriting guidelines to stay competitive. They are now reaping the rewards of that prudence. Bottom line, they still have money to lend and many times their rates are considerable better than the rest of the market.

The challenge however for commercial brokers is that most of these smaller banks are not broker friendly. Or more accurately stated most of them are not set up to work with brokers like the CMBS lenders. For example it’s very rare that a smaller bank will pay rebate or ysp. Once in a while you may find a bank that will pay a .5% or 1% referral fee, but that’s it and it’s rare to find.

Rather many of these banks expect you to get paid on top of their 1% bank fee. Or worse many of them will want you to make your fee outside of close… When was the last time you chased a borrower for a $15,000 commission? If you don’t have it set up right from the beginning you will have a difficult time ever collecting. And besides collecting you will have a hell of a time competing on the deal.

So the point here, besides that this current market reality is not a lot of fun, is that if you think you’ll have to take your deals to a local banks, you’d better have your commercial mortgage broker fee agreement signed and in place before you bother to work on the deal.