What are the key considerations for small businesses running promotions?

Some people when reading the title of this blog entry might ask: How can an accountant help me with advertising & marketing?

This all comes down to the financial planning side of my experience where I have spent a large part of my career supporting sales and buying teams, after all anything in business is always going to come back down to making the numbers work and insuring that your assumptions are sensible.

Why advertise?

This can come down to a range of reasons from increasing your customer base, telling people about a new product or even trying to improve your margins by convincing customers to trade up to a premium service or product.

Whether or not to discount

Always a tough call for business owners, discounts can drive an increased volume of new clients in through your doors but they can also damage the exclusivity of your brand if potential clients view your business as the cheapest provider.

Discounting can go horribly wrong when done on a regular basis as it trains your customers to shop discount to discount, they can also be an effort to manage and keep track of.

They work well when use sparingly and are designed to attract long term customers who are likely to become loyal due to the quality of service you provide.

Many businesses also offer discounts to entice new customers in to use a basic level of service and then they offer upgrades at full price, this can often lead to better margins even during a discount.

If you’re thinking far enough ahead then you may even considering a deep discount to drive new clients in through the door, you might not make much money in the first year but what about when they come back the year after and also recommend you to all of their family and friends.

How to get the message out there

This is often a decision between targeting your existing customers or trying to advertise externally.

If you have a modest client base then using their contact details to text or e-mail them and tell them about a promotion can often be the most cost effective way to advertise it, you could even extend the deal to their friends and family.

If your business however is too small to market internally then you may need to look at various advertising methods. Before you pay for any kind of activity it’s important to have a think about what your expectations are and what your ideal type of client will respond to.

Another key consideration is the participation, if a thousand leaflets are distributed what percentage of those are likely to be read? And then how many that are read will lead to a new client.

This logical though process can help you identify what is likely to work for your business and what wont before you even spend a penny, it can also help if you talk to your friends and family to get an idea of how they would react to the advertising.

How do you know if it’s worked?

If you haven’t got into the habit of asking new customers how they heard about your business then it’s time to start.

There are so many different types of advertising activities available that it’s important to identify which one gets you the best return per pound spent.

Not just that it’s also important to consider how your overall profit position has moved, after all you can increase the number of customers in your business and still make less money than if you didn’t have the promotion.

This can happen if your advertising was too expensive or if the additional number of customers you gained wasn’t enough to cover the discount you gave, bearing in mind it’s difficult to only offer discounts to new clients and ignore your existing ones.

However you decide to advertise your business it’s important to spend as much time researching beforehand as it is to actually organise the activity, after all when funding is tight you will only get one shot to get it right and it’s important to make it count.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues covered above please contact us.

Nishi Patel

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