By Ben Simmons

Reducing market research costs: social media

Staying on top of your customers’ current needs is an essential part of adapting to the current economic climate. Rather than engaging in formal, and sometimes costly market research, you could look at using social media to connect with your customers.

Social networking with customers can help you stay on top of current trends, opinions, dislikes and even spending habits within your customer base. Having a profile on a social network also gives you a valuable opportunity to put a human face to your company.

Cost-effective advertising to current customers: email marketing.

Advertising directly to your current customers should remain an essential part of your marketing strategy during a challenging economy. If you have been using direct mail to reach this key group, you may want to consider email marketing as a low-cost alternative.

Email can be used much in the same way as direct mail, allowing you to send newsletters, target a particular group for a special promotion, or announce a new product. Regular email contact is also a cost-effective way of keeping your business on the top of customers’ minds so when they do decide to make a purchase they are more likely to come to you.

One thing you want to avoid is sending emails to customers who don’t want them. Be sure that you only email customers who have given you permission to contact them, and offer a way for them to opt out of receiving future messages in each email.

Reaching budget-conscious potential customers: website improvements.

During a challenging economic climate, consumers make fewer impulse purchases and spend more time researching competing products to find the best value. Your website is the ideal forum for providing the information potential customers are looking for.

Directing some of your advertising spend towards improving your site and attracting more visits from potential customers can help you maintain your sales figures, even as consumers spend less.

Make sure your website contains up-to-date information on your products and services, paying special attention to highlight benefits to the consumer, especially:

- value for money

- reliability and guarantees

- improved efficiency over alternate products.

Make sure that your web copy contains clear calls to actions, focuses on product benefits rather than features, and provides lots of useful detail to support customers’ purchasing decisions. What really sells online is not great sweeping marketing claims but clear, helpful information.

Start a conversation with your customers: blogging

You may also want to look at improving your web presence through a blog. A well-written and regularly updated blog can be an effective and affordable marketing tool. A blog can help you:

- Look more knowledgeable. By writing about your company’s area of expertise, your customers will often come to consider you and your team as an authority on the subject.

- Gain trust. By giving sound, thoughtful insight and information on your blog, you can gain the trust of your readers and give them yet another reason to choose you over a competitor.

- Communicate with your customers. A blog is a two-way conversation, so as well as keeping your customers informed about news, promotions and developments, you’ll also gain a valuable opportunity to hear about your customers’ current needs.

Cultivating word-of-mouth recommendations: user feedback

Most business owners are aware of the value of word-of-mouth recommendations. In a challenging economic climate, the value of customer recommendations only increases as you and your competitors fight for sales.

Bringing customer voices on to your website is not only low cost but those recommendations often resonate more with consumers than your own carefully crafted advertising messages.

Some ideas to consider:

- Add a user review feature to your website.

- Solicit feedback from satisfied clients, whether as text, audio or a video testimonial.

- Put together a downloadable case study.

While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information in this business guide is accurate, no liability is accepted by Lloyds TSB for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission in this business guide. This business guide is provided for information only and should not be relied on as offering advice for any set of circumstances and specific advice should always be sought in each instance.


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