Businesses face umpteen challenges, but none are more important to solve than the objective of being cash-flow positive. We have seen the cost of setting up businesses come down dramatically in the past decade with the rise of digitalisation, but there are still some upfront costs to incur before revenue comes in, and one of the item is Marketing cost.
A freelancer can start for the cost of a coffee and a laptop, while others have to pay thousands upfront in development costs and other overheads. Depending on how strong your value proposition is and myriad of other factors, some may not see cash until many moons later, which means they will struggle financially to stay afloat.
So many entrepreneurs end up giving up on their dream and going back to reality. Many of them in this bracket may see expenses such as marketing and advertising as superfluous, yet the irony is that these items drives businesses directly. Not spending on these runs the risk of longer go-to-market and longer "sharpening of the saw."
With 50,000 new businesses opening up in Singapore alone and 80% not lasting the first year, little do they know that perhaps with alittle marketing spent, they can be quicker at generating profits or if not, faster at finding out whether their product resonates with their audience.
Unless selling investment products, effective marketing doesn't have to cost thousands. Higher-priced marketing may bring tangible benefits and consistency but that doesn't mean that they should be utilised for longer. Sometimes, its the lower cost ones, and the most basic ones that gets your the sustainable ROI that help businesses grow.
So here we summarise 5 low-cost strategies used a few years ago and that should still be used today, which when executed correctly, can get you the ROI that you are looking for eventually. None of them are the bracket of thousands of fancy products that you may have come across.
Social media marketing is something that when executed correctly, can provide immense ROI on a sustainable basis. Unless you are an expert or have a lot of time, it's definitely not something that you can do by yourself because it requires consistency and perseverance. Some of the basic rules still applies, including establishing detailed profiles of your company, products, services and portfolio on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat etc. Start by building a solid profile on a platform most frequent by your target audience. Reach out to individuals on a personal level by sending private messages, but make sure you are not pushing, phishing or scamming. And then upload content of a particular topic (usually around company, product, services) and keep doing that for days, months, years. Constantly think of original content to upload, sync them together with the other digital platforms that you have (website, facebook etc). Stay connected always, respond to queries fast, be polite, insightful and informative, and I guarantee you that you will grow an audience of thousands in time to come.
Email marketing remains one of the most cost-efficient methods around. Email marketing was a “buzz” phrase in 2016. Businesses with a social media following and website traffic have worked hard to parlay those leads into substantial email lists, especially companies in the US, where email users have risen to 233 million in 2017. It's also extremely in Asian countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, where use of English is predominant and literacy is high. Therefore, as long your company have a list of emails, you should be able to build awareness fairly quickly. As with social media marketing, consistency and originality is key, as these factors allow you to maintain and add to your email lists.
Word-of-mouth marketing is still one of the best ways to generate customers. However what happens if you are selling online, how can you build word-of-mouth marketing or get referrals when customers do not speak to each other. One of the way is to build your store and post your products on platforms like Taobao or Amazon, and use their comments column hoping that users will post good comments of you. Another way is to use affiliate or distributor systems, recruiting a group of agents or distributors and letting them spread the word. Affiliate marketing is extremely effective if the affiliates are actual users and experienced the benefits. Agents and distributors are extremely efficient at reducing the go-to-market lead time, because they will send a buyer your way if the rewards and incentives you offered them are to their liking.
For selling specialised or investment products, we still recommend agents more than anything else, just like how companies set up sales offices outside of their location, companies can do the same and setup "branches" on other platforms outside of their jurisdiction.
Really? Yes, people still read SMSes regularly, not because they want to but because they have to. Those codes and verification numbers are usually transmitted across via SMSes. Another thing, people must read SMSes because that's the only thing that still sends out a reminder which can't be turned off. If you have something to give away, most users will gladly sign up if the process isn't cumbersome. However with bulk SMS software costing over $1,000 and getting phone numbers is a regulatory issue. We still suggest you leave this to the "experts" to manage for a merely couple of hundred dollars, and all you do is to wait for interests to come in.
The most effective but most difficult to execute right is Content Marketing. Content marketing takes many forms, and none require significant investment. One of the easiest (and also most difficult things) you can do is to manage an on-site blog yourself, adding original content on a consistent basis and keep doing that for days, months and years. Sounds easy? Oh no. Imagine having to write daily or twice monthly for months and years, continuously coming up with new original content like this, and keeping things fresh with different content types like videos, infographics, graphs, online forms etc. And worse of all, the results are not instant.
So why do people still do it? Because on a medium to long term basis, it works and results are sustainable.
Of course there are other strategies that we can discuss next time such as SEO, Verified Links, Forums and Groups, PPC Ads and Cold-calls. However, unless the internet goes away tomorrow and everybody is offline, we still see that the above 5 strategies are most efficient and effective at building sustainable returns.
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