Reputation is everything in the professional services sector and has an influence on attracting new business. A big part of maintaining a positive reputation involves not only the work and results you produce but the relationships of existing customers you nurture.

You probably spend a large part of your week meeting one-on-one with clients and feel like you don’t have extra time to give to market your business. But what if meeting with clients was part of marketing your business?

The assumption that most small business owners make is that marketing is a separate business function that they need to pour energy into, or an added extra they have to make time for. But marketing can fit into your schedule and day-to-day business functions. You just have to put a little thought into it and be smart about how you can accomplish this.

To help you get started here are some thoughts and smart hacks that can help you achieve marketing and sales goals while still running a successful practice or firm.

1. Be smart about referral marketing

You spend a lot of time with existing clients and they know what it’s like to work with you. They know how you make their lives easier and how your services add value. They’ve gotten to know you and how you operate, and they have first-hand experience. So, what better way to get your business out there than to encourage them to refer you.

A referral program can be a great way to use existing relationships to get new business. Statistics show that word of mouth and online peer reviews carry a lot of weight when customers are making decisions about a purchase or service. In fact a study by Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising found that 84% trust recommendations by family or friends.

Referral marketing will require a little thought but once that is up and running it can work for itself. You’ll need to put some thought into what you can offer your client as an incentive to motivate them to ‘market your business’. Some businesses offer discounted rates for one or more referrals, others offer commission or a reward based system. Consider what kind of offer would be compelling enough for them, and what you are able to offer. Then be sure to communicate this with existing clients via an email campaign or when you meet with them, so that they understand that they benefit from sending new business your way.

Just be sure to have clear terms and conditions laid out so that you don’t run into any issues later down the line.

2. Be smart about your business website

The upside of a business website is that it can generate a steady stream of leads and doesn’t require your time each day. An effective website is user friendly and easy to navigate. Using a booking form on your website can help potential customers get in touch with you, schedule a meeting or ask questions and queries. If you don’t use an online form for prospects to contact you then make sure your contact details are easy to find on your website so that they can call in or email. Prevent barriers for new business by making it easy to find and contact you.

Also, be sure to include your website URL on business cards, invoices, email signatures and other forms of communication. This way it is always visible and easy for someone to click through and find you online. For more website tips, read our blog on how to create an effective website on a budget.

3. Be smart about the time you spend on email

You probably spend a fair amount of time on email, who doesn’t these days. It’s one of the biggest forms of communication for businesses. So, while you’re responding to emails or scheduling meetings, draft a customised email that you can send out once or twice a month updating your database on specials, your referral marketing or business news.

In this way, you are touching base with your customers, or new contacts and you’re doing it in the time you’d be using to catch up on emails anyway. Outlook, Gmail and other email tools can make it difficult to send out bulk emails to your database but a tool like MailChimp can make this easy. And if you’re checking and sending emails on a weekly basis you can make it a habit to include this in your email practices.

Marketing your business is important. It’s not a nice to have, it’s a necessity. But it doesn’t have to take all your time or cost your business a significant amount. There are clever ways to fit marketing into your daily schedule and make it a part of what you are already doing, and there are clever ways to take advantage of free marketing tools that can lend a hand. But, if you have the luxury of dedicating time to marketing your business or a team that can do that, there are also clever ways to finance your marketing campaigns with small business funding offered by Lulalend.

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