Marketing knowledge, techniques and tools are useful weapons in a business owner’s arsenal, but perhaps what is under-valued is the way in which both existing and easily attainable contacts can increase your reach when starting a new business.
From friends and family to competitors, social media influencers and sports clubs, this useful list will uncover some of the more unexpected marketing contacts at your disposal.
Friends and family
For most new business owners, friends and family are likely to be their first customers. Taking an artist as an example, it is a common route to self-employment that the artist first works full or part time in a job while producing art and honing their skills before a friend or family member sees their products, recommends they start selling them, and as a show of support provides the artist’s first ever sale.
Once a business has started to grow, there is no reason why friends and family shouldn’t remain close marketing contacts. Through word of mouth and social media, just a few friends shouting about you can give you the steppingstones you need to begin reaching hundreds.
Some companies have even started using functions such as Instagram’s ‘Close Friends’ feature for targeted marketing purposes, showing just how important your closest contacts can be.
Expanding your marketing bubble a little further, making contact with employees at local authorities such as councils and city halls can work wonders for bridging that gap between small-time business to national scale success.
Having strong relationships with your local authority means you can get to grips with how to get permits for trading at markets and city centers, where you’re able to put up flyers or hire advertising spaces and (if relevant) how you can start to form partnerships with well-known local organizations.
All of this will start to get you found on a wider basis than your pre-existing marketing contacts. Take this strategy online by registering your business with Google Maps – this is brilliant for search engine optimization (SEO) and means when somebody sees your business advertised at the town or city hall they can find their way there with ease.
In a similar way to local authorities, making contacts with community groups will open doors for your business. Community groups are hives of discussion where opinions, advice and conversation flow freely, meaning word-of-mouth marketing is just waiting to happen.
There are several ways in which you could get involved with community groups in order to boost your profile, though three simple ones could be:
- Offer to sponsor one of their events if you are in a financial position to do so
- Set up a stall at one of their trading days or markets
- Donate some products or services to their cause
Once you have made a good, solid connection with a community group in this way you will not only be getting your company name in their minds, but you will also be able to start getting some marketing returns in the form of flyer or advertising space or perhaps a place in their Facebook group – something that has become a useful marketing tool in recent years.
This might sound like a strange suggestion but keeping your competitors as close contacts is a help not a hindrance to your marketing strategy. While you ultimately and naturally wish to surpass and stay ahead of competitors in terms of profit and longevity, refusing to acknowledge the benefits that could be gained by working with them on marketing strategy could be a big mistake.
It won’t necessarily be easy to convince a competitor to collaborate with you on a piece of marketing, but if you can convince them then you may be surprised at the results. Imagine it as a musical collaboration – just because two singers feature on each other’s albums, it does not necessarily mean that they don’t want to be more successful than the other in the long term. Pooling knowledge, funding and supporter bases means you have an ‘in’ to start tapping into a new audience, without having to start from scratch.
A fine example of this type of marketing is the ongoing crossover between Adidas sportswear and the creative building toy, LEGO. In a 2020 interview about the collaboration, creativity expert Ronald A. Beghetto said:
“Bringing together two entities with clearly defined values can unleash new possibilities that are unpredictable, powerful, and creative. This is what we call creative emergence. Anytime you do these kinds of mash-ups, the difference between the two parts you bring together is what fuels creativity.”
It is these ‘new possibilities’ that you are searching for when you stay in close contact with your competitors.
Digital marketing experts
Informal relationships and professionals from other fields or companies are important to keep close, but in terms of outright expertise there is nothing like a successful digital marketing agency to get your modern marketing strategy rolling.
For instance, an expert can not only cast an eye over your business and offer general advice but run specific, highly technical tests on your online presence and determine where and how you should improve.
Through improving your SEO and digital marketing campaigns, traffic to your website will increase, organically augmenting the number of potential customers who are discovering your product or service. Then with conversion rate experts you can turn high volumes of traffic into clicks, enquiries and purchases, ultimately leading to smashing through KPIs and driving growth.
Social media influencers
Though they aren’t your direct competitors, social media influencers are another external marketing contact that may take a little persuading to join in on your campaigns. When they do, however, you can start reaping the rewards of their huge numbers of followers and their trusted opinions.
The stereotypical influencer is somebody who takes pictures or videos of themselves using, or often wearing, your product and posts it online for thousands if not millions of people to see – ideally linking back to your account or, even better, your website.
Traditional marketers may sneer at this type of promotion, but there’s no room for shame when it comes to getting your name out there.
Marketing promotions through celebrities is seeping into other walks of life, not least podcasting, where hosts will recommend a product or service if they have been sent a sample for free or given a free trial. This can happen in the advertising section of the podcast or even in the main discussion, putting your company pride of place in a huge audience’s ears.
You could simply promote your service with a standard advert, or you could tailor your marketing to the podcast’s audience, offering them a unique discount code or subscription offer. Reaching out to even the lesser-known podcasters and forging a strong working relationship with them will open up a new vein of potential customers.
Sports clubs and their owners, coaches and players have been fascinatingly useful marketing contacts since the commercialization of sport truly began to set ablaze in the 1980s, accelerated by the success of Nike’s partnership with Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls basketball team.
Through forming relationships and meaningful contact with sports clubs you can work your way up, from having a small advertising board at the side of a soccer pitch to sponsoring a player, a VIP lounge or even the club jersey.
Sports sponsorship is, of course, huge money to be spending and might not even be in your mind when your business is fresh faced and fighting for its place in the market but making these relationships early and keeping in contact means that you will be in favor for when your bank balance is a little healthier.
Last but not least on this list of marketing contacts you want to be in the good books of is your former customers. These relationships bring the list full circle, back to your friends, family, neighbors and local customers who have supported your business from the beginning.
Never underestimate the power of staying in touch with customers who have already purchased a product or service from you – if they liked what they bought, there’s every chance they’ll buy it again with a little encouragement.
Return customers make up a large proportion of the client base of the most successful businesses around the globe, with marketing teams making repeat purchases one of their top priorities.
These customers are already on your database, whether they made a one-time purchase or have signed up to your newsletter, and through carefully targeted reminders they should be high on your list of important contacts.
The list could go on forever, as no contact is a bad contact when it comes to marketing. As your business grows, no doubt your database of marketing contacts will too, so it is useful to begin categorizing these contacts even from the very beginning.
Natural progression will see your contacts move from local organizations to larger, further reaching bodies, but try to remember that each contact serves its own useful and unique purpose and should be treated and maintained with respect.