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10 new year marketing resolutions

We may be well into January, but it’s not too late to start making some changes to your marketing plans for the year. By choosing to do just one of these actions this year, you can make a real difference to your business - and your bottom line.

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We may be well into January, but it's not too late to start making some changes to your marketing plans for the year. By choosing to do just one of these actions this year, you can make a real difference to your business - and your bottom line. 1. If you haven't already, start marketing … Marketing may be a dirty word for small business owners, but it's really just about making sure that what you have to sell matches the needs of customers and then communicating the benefits to them. It's as simple as that. 2. Improve your customer service If you do nothing else this year, do take a look at your customer service. There is no better marketing than word of mouth, and nothing encourages a positive recommendation more than excellent customer service. Plus, it can also ensure repeat custom, so make it a core value of your business and make sure all of your staff know what standard is expected of them. Use mystery shoppers to highlight any problems and training to resolve them if necessary. 3. Start a blog Show customers the human side of your business by keeping a blog. Benefits to your business can include: Credibility in your marketplace – become an instant ‘industry expert' A quick and easy way to get more content on your website Improved search engine rankings for commonly searched terms relating to your business – blogs are also easily indexed by search engines such as Google Build relationships with potential customers and clients A way for people to identify with you personally Provide technical support to customers or a hub for them share knowledge Instant feedback through comments and suggestions to inform your product development More business! Much of the most popular blogging technology, such as Blogger or WordPress, is free and easy to set up. To find out more, read our guide to blogging for business. 4. Get to know your local journalist or radio DJ If you operate on a local level, your local journalist or radio DJ really should be your best friend, so let them know that your business exists. If you don't know who they are, find out and introduce yourself. You can find more information on the dos and don'ts of dealing with local journalists in our guide to getting your business in the local newspaper. 5. Start networking Wherever potential customers or referrers meet, be there. You usually have to pay a fee to attend networking events, but the number and quality of contacts you make will often justify this small cost. If you're already a seasoned networker, why not step it up a gear this year and offer to give a free talk to a group. For more information read our top networking tips for business owners. 6. Start a newsletter Sending a regular email newsletter is a quick and cost-effective way of staying in touch with your existing and prospective customers, letting them know about new products and services and giving them special discounts. For more information read our guide to getting started with email marketing. 7. Analyse your competitors and your market You may remember doing this when you started your business, but how often have you done it since? Regularly assessing your competitors and the market will help you to discover the things customers are demanding, and what your competitors are – or aren't – delivering. You should also survey your customers regularly to find out what they want. 8. Start using social media Promote your business by getting involved in social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Not all social media channels will be suitable for your business, so just choose the one that is best for you and where you know your target market is active. You could join online business forums, start a Facebook page for your business or join a LinkedIn networking group like the Forum's. Put a little bit of regular time aside a week to read posts and reply with relevant comments so that it doesn't start to interfere with your work. For more information read our tips on making social media work for your business. 9. Review your website How many people are coming to your website? How many people read your blog? If your answer is "I don't know", then you should. How can you know whether you're getting the best out of your website if you don't know how it's performing? Put yourself in the customers' shoes and test your website as if you've never visited it before. Is it easy to find out more information or to buy from you? How does it compare to your competitors' sites? Is your content out of date? You may find that many problems can be fixed easily and inexpensively. For more information read our guide to making your website work for your business. 10. Do something different Marketing doesn't have to be boring. Use your imagination and have fun with it: dress up, give away free samples in the street or do something positive for your community to make you really stand out. Just make sure you stay within the law and that it's appropriate for your line of business. To get your message across to potential customers you should put as much of your personality and passion for your business into it as you can. Find out how the Forum can help you get started with marketing, PR and social media - call us on 0845 130 1722.

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