New year resolutions lists are running rampant, so we decided to call this one the 2009 Marketing Checklist. You can tack this one up next to the list where you vow to “lose 5lbs.”, “volunteer more” and “get a dog” which is what my list looks like.

While coming up with this list, the economy really drove my thinking and the theme of “penny-pinching” really came out. So here is our list of things you need to be doing in 2009 to not only keep your business afloat, but keep it growing.

1. Social Media

Don’t be scared, Facebook & Twitter are an easy and free use of social media to grow your list using . First, if you don’t already have one, create a Facebook & Twitter account, they’re free. Then post to your Facebook & Twitter pages that you just sent your email campaign.

On Facebook, post to “what are you doing now” as well as your “share a link” section.  Include the link where you host your email and your subject line. You might get your email in front of one of your “friends” or “followers” that may have missed it in their inbox.You may also include links in your emails for people to be your friends and followers.

While you’re at it, join some groups on Facebook that might lend themselves to your content. If the group allows for anyone to post, then post your link there as well.

On Twitter, just “tweet” that you finished your email marketing campaign. Include the subject line and the link where it’s hosted on a web page. Remember you only have 140 characters on Twitter so keep it as short as possible.

2. Track Your Customers & Registrants

Ask people where they heard about you on your site, on your opt in form or after they’ve purchased. If you’re advertising on CitySearch, I’d include “CitySearch” in your list. I’d also include “Friend” to see if word of mouth is driving any business. If you’re advertising in a specific magazine, or on a site, I’d include those as well. Then look at who your best customers are, by where they heard about you, and do more of that type of advertising.

3. Use Google Adwords

I was recently at a small business conference and asked the audience how many were using Google Adwords to drive business. Maybe 20% of the audience raised their hands. This is the year you need to be thinking about cost-effective advertising for your business. Many people go to the web to search for businesses whether it’s an online business or an offline business, not the yellow pages. The best thing about Google is that YOU are in control of your spend and your messaging. You control how much you want to cap your spend in any given time period and you control where you want to advertise (local, national, world wide).

You can do it yourself or use our VerticalRepsonse partner MerchEngines to do it for you. It’s a $250/month minimum commitment with them, but they guarantee targeted traffic to your site, and they’ll even select your keywords, write and place the ads for you, soup to nuts.

Remember, it’s an investment that won’t happen overnight, you need to give it time to work.

4. Test Your Subject Lines in Your Email Campaigns

Testing your subject lines in your email campaigns will require you to spend a bit more lead time in launching your campaign, but it could get you a few more clicks and add a few more sales!

Here’s one way to do it: two days before you want to mail your email campaign, take a small portion of your list and split it in two. Make sure you have enough email addresses on each list to make the test valid, you wouldn’t want to make the wrong decision based on a data set that’s too small. We recommend each split part be no less than a few hundred email addresses. Then make a copy of your campaign and send two different subject lines to see which one got the most opens/clicks. Take the winner and mail it to the rest of your list. It really could make a difference in the subject line you’ll use in the future.

5. Survey Your Customers

By using surveys you can find out instantly what you’re customers think about your business by sending it in an email. You could also learn over a longer period of time by including links on your site. Either way it’s a good idea to keep in check with your customers to make sure you’re delivering the best products or services you possibly can. Doing surveys early in the year gives you a change to make the changes your customers are telling you to, then you can email them telling them that you’ve listened and made the changes they asked for. You’ll be surprised how far that goes. Here are just a few things you’ll find:

  • How customers were treated by your personnel on the phones, in email or in person
  • What customers might think about a new product line and how much they’d pay for it
  • How customers feel about your online checkout process
  • What products or services your customers would like to see from you next

Check out VerticalResponse Surveys and get your first 25 responses free then as low as $15/month. Also read this post for more ideas: 5 Places to Include a Survey.

6. Collaborate!

Whether your company is 3 people or 30, see how Google Docs can help your business save time and money by consolidating and sharing information. Not only will it save you time, but it also could save on printing documents which in turn saves the environment. Here are some ideas for how your business can benefit from them. Did I mention they’re free?

  • Use a calendar to schedule marketing campaigns or even appointments and events. I know an events manager at a local restaurant who was keeping event dates on a paper calendar until he was introduced to Google Calendar. Now he’s keeping everything online. Even better? The owners can access the calendar without having to contact him.
  • Use Google Docs to gather information so that everyone can see it instead of passing word docs or emails around.
  • Use Spreadsheets to keep customer data in one place. Then it’s easy to update your email marketing list.
  • We use Presentations so that everyone in our staff meetings can input into one place what they’ve worked on in the previous week. Then we present to the group. It becomes a living document we can refer back to.

7. Get Control of Your Data.

I’ve blogged about this one before but I thought it was important enough to repeat! With the economy in the dumpster, it’s more important than ever to take control of all of your lists. It could be the thing that gets your business through any tough times. Plus, you might miss out on sending email campaigns to certain recipients just because you forgot about them, which means less revenue to you in the long run.

Do you have your lists in more than one of these places?

  • VerticalResponse
  • ACT, FileMaker, Salesforce or any other contact manager
  • QuickBooks or your accounting system
  • POS Systems
  • Shoeboxes and fishbowls of business cards
  • Spreadsheets
  • Sign Up Book

If your business requires you to keep lists in separate places, that’s ok, keep them there. It’s not optimal, but if it works for your business fine. BUT, once a week, or more often if you choose, make a copy of all of your lists and choose the place that’s easiest to access, upload and download your data.

One more thing, if you’ve got your lists offline, spend an hour or so a week getting those lists in digital format. Then welcome these new list members with an email. You’ll be surprised at how important managing your lists can be to your bottom line.

8. Change The Look of Your Email Campaign

If you use a very linear campaign style where one article sits on top of another and so on, why not try to shake it up a bit; use columns and create a different look to your campaign. I know it’s easy to copy the campaign you did last time, but next time use a different approach. You might find that placing your content higher up and in a different format gets you a better response.

9. Use PR!

You have news and you don’t even know it. It might not be the Wall Street Journal that picks up the fact that you have a new head chef in your restaurant, or a new winemaker at the winery, or that your software company just hired a new VP, but you’ll be surprised at the local coverage or online coverage you might get. Every little bit helps!

If your industry gives out awards, apply for them! Then post if you won on your site and do a press release about it. It is an inexpensive form of advertising that might not only get you industry coverage but you may get local coverage as well.

If you survey your customers ask them questions about your industry or the economy. Then craft a release out of that. Once we surveyed our small businesses around tax time and asked if they had already spent any refunds they might get. We then crafted a press release around it. Do you know what happened next? CNBC and an LA TV station picked up the news! It sure got our name out there.

Finally you need to submit your press release so the world knows about it. You can use free services to do this like PRLog or The Open Press. If you want greater distribution you can spend a little money and use PR Newswire or MarketWire.

10. Use Your Neighbors

Everyone needs new customers right? Now it’s time to find businesses that you can jointly refer customers to.

Business to business marketers can find complementary businesses and do joint webinars about your products to each other’s lists. Not only do you help your customers with another product they might be able to use, but you’ll help each other grow your businesses collectively.

Local businesses can put up collateral or business card offers in a neighboring business to drive business back and forth. You might even pay referral fees for every customer another business drives you.

It’s been a tough few years for small businesses, and who knows what the new administration will bring for us. In the meantime we all need creative ways to keep going and these are just a few we can all do to get us going and prosper in 2009.

© 2009 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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