About the VBOC
The Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) program is designed to provide entrepreneurial development services such as business training, counseling, and resource partner referrals to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard, and Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has 22 organizations participating in this cooperative agreement and serving as VBOCs.
Back in my day, we used to pick up the phone and call our clients to let them know that their photos were ready to be picked up,“ exclaims Wendy. “Now you receive some automated message that tells you when your items are ready for pick up.” It may seem like Klug is as old as a dinosaur and that she needs to realize it is 2023, but the fact is she is not that old. She is actually me and I’m forty-something! Times have changed extremely fast due to technology. 15 years ago, which is not that long ago, people were still using other marketing methods other than social media. And guess what, they worked!
This brings me to ask you a question. When was the last time you received a handwritten thank you? When was the last time you received a special request to present at a small business after-hour event? It may have just been yesterday (lucky you if it was) or it may have been so long ago you can’t remember.
How did you feel getting something personalized in your mail or inbox? Did it make you jump for joy and holler loud enough for all your neighbors to hear, “I didn’t just get junk mail today! I received a letter hand-addressed to me! Yeah!”
Times have changed but people still want to feel special and sought out. Whether you are marketing online or sending a personal greeting card, it is still considered marketing. The core concept hasn’t changed, just the delivery methods have! All marketing methods are to reach out and let someone know they are special and you are thinking of them. Good ol’ fashioned marketing may take more time, but the return on investment (ROI) may have a greater impact with a lasting impression which can result in dedicated customers.
What are some of the good ol’ fashioned marketing methods that work and how do you go about completing them? Let’s get started.
- Handwritten Notes/Letters: My Realtor just sent me a birthday card with a free dessert or drink ticket for a local restaurant. Not only was I pumped about mail, but now I get to enjoy a free dessert. Guess who I will call when it is time to sell our house and look for another one? There is nothing sweeter than seeing your name handwritten on the envelope. It’s almost nostalgic. Think about special opportunities that you could send this out such as holidays or customers’ birthdays. Do make sure you do more than just sign your name, that itself is generic! This way you aren’t taking too much time writing letters every month and the customer doesn’t start to feel like it is no longer special, but annoying.
- Personalized Email: Worried you don’t have good handwriting and nobody will be able to even read what you write? You are in luck! A personalized email to a customer is the next best thing to a handwritten letter. You can send these out with a little less effort but still make the customer feel special. Just be sure to not sound too sales-pitchy in this email. If you are going to personalize it, refer to a service you provide them or even about the last time they were in the store (something that shows that you know them separately from all the other customers). Simply putting their name in the subject field doesn’t make it personalized. If you do want to talk about a special, perhaps put it in the footer section with a link for them to view the specials, discounts, and events happening. Of course, time is of the essence. You want to send out personalized emails to your biggest cheerleaders, those that utilize your services often and will spread the word about your business.
- Message On Invoice/Receipt: Taking the time to even write “thank you for your order” with your signature will make you stand out from other small businesses. It seems like such a small gesture, but it is one that will not go unrecognized. It is something that makes you stand out from all the big box names!
- Support Another Business: There are so many great reasons to support another small business but don’t get me started! Not only are you supporting other entrepreneurs and your community, but you are also building an ecosystem of support for your business. Nobody can do it all on their own. This is where I believe we talk about karma. The good you do for other small businesses and your community will be rewarded back to you and your business when you most need it!
- Host a Special Event: Just recently, Lovely Lashes in Fargo, ND held a special venue event for other veteran-owned small businesses to come into the studio and sell their products. Lovely Lashes is a veteran-owned small business supporting other veteran-owned small businesses to celebrate Veteran’s Day. Now that is a special event! Not only does it celebrate a national holiday, but it also supports other businesses. Hosting a special event is a good excuse to provide extra content for social media or word-of-mouth which gets your business out in front of others. Holidays are always a great time to host a special event! Throw in “limited to only 20 attendees” or “VIP event” and people will feel special and want to attend the event.
- Speak at a Local Event: This is something that we do right here with VBOC of the Dakotas. We know that when we provide education and support for other organizations, we will see a few benefits in return. We will speak at local base events, chambers, and more. We aren’t in it just to see how it benefits us, but let’s be honest. We all need to make sure that where we put our valuable time somehow returns a benefit for our business or program. I highly suggest putting together a plan for how much time you must do events because quantity is not quality. You want to make sure that the event aligns with your business goals and mission.
- Share Your Expertise: Share your skill set and share that with others by hosting a workshop or speaking at a university to students that are looking to major in your expertise area or field. This will help circulate word about your business and how you give back and care about others. It will also help potentially reach new customers that would otherwise not filter into your sales funnel.
- Sponsor Another Event: Sponsoring another event doesn’t mean that you must spend $1000 on a booth at a tradeshow. Get creative! Perhaps you can hold a clothes drive for the homeless shelter and have the drop-off station located at your business. Or perhaps you can donate some of your employees’ time to serve at a local food bank drive. This is a great way to show your support for the community while having an excuse to market your business at the same time.
- Attend Networking Events: Word-of-mouth is still one of the best ways to market your business because people trust people, not generic advertising. When you attend a networking event, you are making valuable connections with others while also having the opportunity to promote your business. Don’t forget to bring with you a few business cards with your QR code that connects them to your social media pages.
- Ask For Referrals: Unfortunately, great service is not enough to get a consistent flood of word-of-mouth referrals. If your customer has purchased a service or product from you and is happy with it, they likely know somebody that would like it too. Be sure to guide your customers on how to make a referral. Are you just hoping they are going to go tell someone how awesome you are or do you have a plan in place? What does your referral system look like and how are you going to implement it?
Do you believe me when I say that old-fashioned marketing still works? And the bonus is you can take all these methods and combine them with online marketing to create even more marketing for your business. This can seem overwhelming and quite honestly daunting, but let team VBOC of the Dakotas get you started. We can show you how to start some of these marketing strategies above and how to develop them into a year-long marketing plan. Once you see how to complete your first month of marketing using old-fashioned methods combined with online marketing, you will have a blueprint of how to continue your marketing for months to come.