Effective marketing and advertising strategies are an essential part of owning a successful business. While paid advertising certainly has its place and can be very beneficial, many options available to entrepreneurs are low cost or even free.

Advertising is a way to introduce or remind potential clients about the products and services offered, but more importantly, it is a promise to deliver quality goods and services, and a method to get people to your door. Having a well-designed logo, a business card on quality card stock, letterhead, website, and a presence on social media, all consistently branded (which includes color themes, fonts, etc.), provide a solid starting point.

Good customer service is much more than greeting people in a friendly manner and having trained, professional staff. It also includes being open during hours that are convenient for customers. While it may be tempting when there is no one in the store or office to run an errand or grab a cup of coffee, few things will turn off a customer more than finding a business closed during advertised business hours. No amount of marketing dollars will convince a customer to do business with you if they find your door locked and a sticky note saying, “Be back soon.” Posting your hours of operation and sticking to them is essential.

Other common mistakes, especially for those in the service industry, include not returning calls in a timely manner and not showing up to do the job when promised. Of course, professionally completing the job in the timeline and dollar amount promised is also key to ensuring repeat business. Taking the time to return calls in the morning and end of day is something successful business owners do.

While having a presence on social media is considered important in this day and age, in eastern Oregon, print and radio advertising are still viable and worthwhile options. In all cases, consistency is the key. Placing a single ad in the local newspaper or on the radio is ineffective and a waste of money. There are often incentives offered by media outlets for repeat ads and individuals will benefit from the expertise offered by professional advertising representatives.

A Facebook page or an Instagram account that has not been updated for several weeks can send a message that your business is not thriving and that you are not very serious about obtaining business. Hiring someone to be in charge of updating social media accounts can be a worthwhile investment if it is not something a business owner feels comfortable or experienced doing.

Third party endorsements are one of the most valuable tools for your business. Asking satisfied customers for a quote about their positive experience or perhaps posting a video of them on your website or other social media, can be tremendously beneficial. By the same token, negative word of mouth or bad online reviews may cause serious damage.

There are many other marketing and advertising options available to entrepreneurs depending on dollars and time available. Identifying, budgeting for, executing, and evaluating a strategy is important, but nothing replaces first putting an emphasis on providing an exceptional customer experience.

Greg Smith is the director of Malheur County Economic Development. He may be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914.

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