Nine Euros for a month’s advertising. It may not sound much but for many small businesses in Spain today it is. That’s the feedback I’ve been getting over the past couple of weeks and it has come as quite a shock.
But nine Euros? If a business cannot afford to spend just nine Euros how on Earth are they surviving at all?
“I cannot afford to pay for advertising at the moment….”
“With the crisis as it is we are spending no money on advertising…”
“Sorry, at the moment I can’t pay for ads, maybe in the future…”
Those are just some of the comments that we’ve been receiving whilst promoting our new Business Directory monthly payment plan.
Whereas traditionally we have always taken a year’s payment up front, we decided, to encourage more businesses to give the directory a chance by offering them to pay just nine Euros per month with no commitments. So they can cancel after the first month and pay nothing more.
I really thought that this would be of real interest to small businesses, especially as we have made some huge changes to drive considerably more people to the directory so we know their listings will get a high level of visibility.
But after our initial launch campaign, around 40% of businesses told us that they couldn’t even afford the monthly fee. And by the way, we have only contacted those businesses that originally expressed an interest in the directory, we haven’t cold called anyone.
All these businesses are in different sectors from real estate, home appliances to fashion and beauty.
When we started out in business it was impossible to get an ad out for less than €200 per month. We didn’t have much money then so we had to choose very carefully where to advertise. But if someone had offered me the possibility of advertising for nine Euros I would have given them a huge kiss. Sadly those sorts of offers didn’t exist back then...or maybe no-one wanted me to kiss them
Maybe it wouldn’t have worked but if it had it would have been more than worthwhile and if it hadn’t I’d have lost a small amount of money which I could have made up by sacrificing five or six coffees the next month.
Marketing is the lifeblood of any business, big or small. If you don’t have a business that is constantly in people’s faces how will they know you exist? There is of course repeat custom, social media and word-of-mouth but if that’s not enough to pay all the bills and you can’t afford to advertise, surely the business can’t survive?
Business need to market themselves constantly to maintain their market share and/or grow.
Although at Eye on Spain we don’t directly pay for advertising, we pay for “advertising” in the huge amount of search engine optimsation and marketing that we do. This takes a lot of time and effort but that’s how we choose to market the website and have people discover it.
It’s a massive cost in itself.
Fearing for Small Businesses in Spain
Talking to another business owner yesterday who relies on advertising to provide his service (he owns a media company), he told me that they have also seen a massive reduction in businesses taking out advertising over the past few weeks. In fact he said that come end of August it all practically dried up.
We’ve known for some time that businesses were starting to tighten their belts, hence why we brought in the low monthly payment plan for our business directory, but I couldn’t foresee that so many were going to struggle this year.
It’s not just real estate businesses affected either, these are everyday businesses. Just walking around the high street in a nearby town to where we live you can already see quite a few empty shops. There’s just not enough money being spent.
Talking to a local bar owner a couple of weeks ago, she told me that on some days during the summer they were taking in earnings of only around 10% of what they were making the same time last year. No business can survive a 90% drop in earnings from one year to the next, especially when they are so dependent on the higher income during the summer months. She told me that in October they will probably close their doors for good.
So what’s a business to do?
There is no one simple answer that will help every small business owner in Spain today but there are a few things I can suggest, most of which we done ourselves:
1. Provide great service
This should be a given anyway but so many times it’s not. If I’m going to have lunch with my family and planning on spending 30 or 40 Euros then I want great service. That’s a lot of money these days and I want good food with a smile. If I’m paying someone to fit a new air conditioning unit I don’t just want a great price, I want someone to turn up on time, dressed smartly, have a professional attitude, complete the job brilliantly, on time and within budget.
Great service = happy customers + word of mouth + new customers + repeat business
Yet so many businesses in Spain overlook this relatively simple improvement. It costs nothing to provide a better level of service.
2. Cut costs, don’t increase prices
I’ve seen several businesses bump up their prices to compensate for a drop in customers. That’s really not the way to do it. Why should I as a regular customer now get hit in the pocket because business is slow? That's not fair.
Every business can cut costs. When times are good many small business owners don’t keep such an eye on how much they pay for things. Now, instead of putting prices up start by negotiating better deals with suppliers, reduce energy consumption, phone and mobile phone providers, etc.
We did this last year and reduced our business costs by over 40%. That’s essentially a 40% increase in profits by simply looking into every euro spent by the business, and that’s without increasing turnover.
3. Track all marketing efforts
Not every method of marketing works or is cost effective. You need to track each campaign separately and determine if that particular ad spend is giving you a return on your investment.
Check where every lead has come from. What did it cost to acquire that customer and what did it cost to service it too. It's the only way to truly know where to put your money.
4. Efficient responses to enquiries
There’s nothing worse than asking a company for a quote or for some extra information only to have to wait days to receive it.
People generally don’t like to be made to wait. Be efficient and don’t take longer the 24 hours to respond to someone, even if it’s just to confirm that you’ve received their enquiry and you’ll get back to them on a certain date.
Communication is key and the faster you can respond the better. This doesn't cost anything extra to implement. It's just about being more organised.
5. Website conversion – Impressions/image/information/personal
If your main source of new business is your website, is it properly set up to convert visitors to leads? In most cases they aren’t. You can spend a fortune on advertising but if people land on your website and they aren’t motivated to take an action then you might as well just throw that money down the toilet.
Search on Google for “website conversion”, there are plenty of good guides which you should read and understand what you need to do to improve the performance of your website in terms of generating leads. This is a big subject and oh so important!
Do it now.
6. Website promotion – SEO
Google is great! If you can get your business appearing well in Google search results then you’re going to be in a much better position to pick up new business. It’s called Search Engine Optimisation – SEO.
It does take time and effort to do it but in the long run it’s worth it. It’s free advertising for years…unless you screw it up.
As a good starting point download Google’s own PDF guide to SEO and begin working on it today. (Right-click the link to save the file to your PC)
I’ve never been a big fan of networking as I’m actually quite an introvert. But most networking events are very cheap and you can make some very good contacts.
A good friend of mine gets ALL of his business through networking events. If I needed more business tomorrow I would make the effort and attend them. You never know who you will meet and how you can help each other in your respective businesses.
8. Work the forums
Putting in the effort to get you and your business known through forums and blogs is a very effective form of publicity.
I would rather that every business owner put in the effort to advise and help people out on the Eye on Spain forums than pay for advertising. Seriously. Popular and active forums such as the one on Eye on Spain become increasingly attractive when people know there are “experts” there to advise them. Be that expert, be that "go-to-person". Build up your reputation. Your advice will remain online for years for new people to see...
When you post on forums you can add your business in your signature so people can visit your website or contact you.
This is how I marketed EOS in the early days. I spent many hours helping people out on forums, giving advice, some friendly banter, really just getting people to know me and my business. It worked incredibly well.
Best of all? It's FREE publicity.
9. Turn off the TV
Some people reading the point above will say “I don’t have time to spend on forums all day”. Well, that’s complete b****sh**. If you dedicated just one hour in the evening to post on forums and social sites such as Twitter, that would be a big start.
And all you have to do to achieve this? Don’t switch the TV on when you get home.
TV should actually be banned! Successful people don’t have time to watch TV. Use that time productively. Marketing doesn’t have to cost money, it can be just your time instead.
10. Try the EOS directory ;)
OK, I had to sneak this one in! Nine Euros for one month’s advertising. It’s got to be worth a try :) It won’t work for everyone but you just never know…
Well, I hope some of that has proved useful in one way or another. If you want to add any of your own points to this list then you can leave them in the comments section below.
Here’s to your success!