Manar Al Hinai: These little things can truly mean a lot for entrepreneurs

How to market your business effectively when times are lean, according to Manar Al Hinai.

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Perhaps one of the perks of working a 9 to 5 job is the guaranteed income at the end of the month. I know this is one reason holding many back from starting their own business. Why endure the stress and hassle when they could do less and still get paid? This is the case of my branding agency owner friend. Her business was doing well for a couple of months, and the next not so much as everyone was away on holiday.

Business can come and go and as a start-up entrepreneur one of the biggest issues you will face is growing your business and expanding your marketing efforts when you do not have a large budget.

Here is some advice on how to turn those slower periods to your advantage:

Firstly, keep your marketing efforts focused, starting by getting to know who your customers are and what they are tuned in to. Put yourself in their shoes. If you personally know some customers, assess what media or social media they tune into the most, where they find out about the latest products, and how they go about sharing interesting content. This will all be helpful for your marketing efforts as you can then reach out directly to them. The great thing here is that because many potential customers are now focused on social media, marketing to them will not cost as much as advertising on a traditional media platform such as TV or a magazine. Done well, your marketing campaign could offer a better return on investment. Next, be one step ahead of your customer by sharing interesting content. For instance, summer could be a month away, but you could start talking about wardrobe essentials now.

Do not make it about you, but rather about them. While time can be an issue when generating content for social media pages and agencies that do this on your behalf can be costly, there are cheaper options. These include hiring bloggers for a fairly low cost. You can also prepare content in advance and simply upload the photo/post on the day. Alternatively, if you are travelling or too tied up to upload posts or email newsletters at peak times, then automate the process. Tools such as SocialOomph, or Buffer are great for generating social media in advance.

Finally, remember you do not always have to look for new customers to build your business, you can leverage existing ones. Ways to do this include:

• Providing special discounts/benefits to those who refer a friend to your brand.

• Asking loyal customers for feedback/suggestions. The reason they are loyal to your brand is because they love it, and showing your appreciation by asking for their opinion could go a long away. For those who regularly take part or do so thoroughly, a simple thank-you gift, personal letter, or special discount would not only be memorable, but would also encourage similar behaviour in the future. You could also provide them with something that is “social media post”-worthy. A simple note with “We hope you like it. Please share with us @XYZ” could not only land you a mention on their social media pages, but also introduce new clients to your business

• Ensuring you provide personal care and attention at all times: from sending out thank-you emails when they shop with you to a nice card and a special discount on their birthday or bespoke perks and benefits for those who are consistently loyal.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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