Sometimes the best ideas are simple. That doesn’t mean they are easy, fast, or without risk. The ideas here aren’t rocket science but you’ll still need to invest meaningful time, effort and perhaps some cash to make them work.
The starting point is the service/value/experience you offer. Are you achieving natural (that is without gaming and encouraging the process) achieving repeat and referral business? If not, what are you doing, or not doing, that is turning your customers off. You need to fix the problem(s).
My ongoing analysis indicates that on average, AEC businesses achieve slightly more than 70 per cent of their business volume through repeat and referral business. If you’ve been in business any length of time, any number below that level should be a warning sign of serious problems with your business practices, product, employees, customer value or the like. If you cannot solve the problems underlying your core business, you won’t go far in any marketing initiative. Note, if you are just starting out, the 70 per cent may come through personal relationships, referrals from friends, family, and colleagues/customers at your former employer (obviously not violating any non-compete or solicitation rules). It is a percentage number, so your volume may not be high, but you should still start off with something better than a cold landscape.
The second stage is to enhance/improve your referral/relationship capacity, while making sure your website and social media relationships are reasonably close to state-of-the-art.
Any incremental improvements you achieve in referral and repeat business will have inordinately positive results, so marketing designed to enhance your current client experience while encouraging repeat/referral activities will pay off disproportionately to any other marketing approach. The website/social media are must-do initiatives these days; because virtually every new customer (even when referred) will visit your site/social media feeds first. Take time to get them right. These don’t need to cost much money at all.
Finally, think of uniqueness and focus; where you have a compelling advantage and distinctiveness, and make that your marketing priority.
This is NOT “we have great customer service (unless your service is so over-the-top great that customers themselves are spreading the word). It could be any number of other advantages, including your specialized skills, unique geographical focus, extreme responsiveness, or some other quality that both is unique and that your customers value.
If you take these three guidelines to heart, you can achieve incredible marketing success with almost no marketing budget. I didn’t say it is easy to do these things, though. This is where you need to dedicate thought, resources and in some cases, contract with external consultants to help you make progress. You can do it, though.