Ask any entrepreneur that’s just starting out what the most difficult aspect of their business is and they’ll likely point you to the challenge of reaching and retaining customers. Yes, marketing a new business or product can be a time consuming, costly endeavor — something many entrepreneurs don’t have.
Small businesses and startups generally don’t have the luxury of outsourcing their marketing needs to professionals. However, there are a handful of marketing practices available to entrepreneurs that don’t require them to burn through valuable resources to get this challenge under foot and get their business humming.
Don’t skip out on marketing because you think you can’t afford it. You can’t afford to fail at marketing, so use these budget-friendly ideas to build your business.
1. Create local awareness.
Gaining coverage in local papers, trade magazines and websites can greatly increase name recognition and educate people about your business – driving new customer acquisition. While many growing businesses in competitive landscapes may want to hire an expensive public relations firm, startups and small businesses can start off with some simple “do-it-yourself” PR.
Start by researching publications and writers that cover your industry — or local business. Once you have a grasp on the writers you want to reach and the stories they typically write for their publication, craft a pitch around your business that will pique their interest.
2. Get promotional business cards
made by a discount printing service. Leave them everywhere, hand them out to everyone. The business cards should offer a specific discount or coupon code to be used on your website or in your store. (Track how many are used)
3. Collect e-mail addresses and send out e-mail newsletters,
Promotions, or updates (depending on your customers and what they’ll like). The only cost initially is your time; once you get past a certain number of subscribers, you’ll need to pay for a service. Still, not costly.
4. Donate some of your products
Or services to a charitable event.
5. Get a magnetic sign made for your company car.
For the one-time cost of the sign, your business name will be on display everywhere you drive. (Don’t cut people off.)
6. Hire a teenager to stand by the road and hold up your sign.
You’ll invest in the cost of the sign plus minimum wage for a couple of hours a day, during the busiest traffic time. See if you can’t get one new client for each day of sign-holding.
7. Buy someone’s dinner
(Or soda, if you can’t afford more than $1). Then give them a business card. Then walk away (no sales pitch!).
8. Offer a free class or seminar,
print up a flyer and put that flyer up at every community bulletin board you can find in the area. These bulletin boards often won’t allow businesses to put up advertisements, but will promote free educational seminars and classes.
9. Go to any community event and give away balloons.
Have them printed with your business name, if you like. 250 custom printed balloons will run you around $100. Helium tank rental will cost $45 to $60. Happy kids with a free balloon equals happy parents. Happy parents can become happy customers. That’s less than $1/each per new potential happy customer.
10. Donate magazines and books to any business with a waiting area
(doctor, dentist, government offices, so on). Make sure your business address label is on the front, or stamp the inside cover with your business name and information.
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11. Contribute expert articles to local publications.
Contact the editor to get started; write an article so they can see your writing style and that you know what you’re talking about, and share your credentials so they know you’re qualified.
12. Create tip sheets on your area of expertise;
this could be a one or two-sided piece of paper filled with helpful tips from you, the expert. Put your logo and business information somewhere on there, of course. People like reading tips, and they like getting free stuff. Hand them out, pass them out, mail them out.
13. Do a demo.
If you don’t have retail or office space to hold a public demonstration yourself, get in touch with a related business that could benefit from some publicity. Host or co-host a public demonstration of your service or product. Let local newspapers know and be sure it’s on all the community calendars.
14. Create a referral program for your existing customers;
They get a free product or coupon or reward of some kind for every new customer they send your way.
15. Send hand-written thank you notes.
Include a $X dollars off your next purchase coupon.
16. Send hand-written “We Miss You” notes.
Review your “best customer” list and contact the ones you haven’t seen or heard from in a while.
17. Hold a contest;
It doesn’t have to directly relate to your business. It could be something seasonal, like a “Karaoke Christmas Carol Contest.”
18. Participate in local contests
By donating your product or service as a prize.
19. If you’ve got great office, warehouse or retail space,
Allow community organizations and non-profits to use it for events.
20. Participate in online forums related to your business.
Offer helpful advice, solutions and insight. Don’t spam. Don’t pitch. Just be helpful.
21. Hang out where “your people” hang out.
Know your target market? Know where they hang out? You should be there. Meet people. Talk. Be a cool person.
22. Leverage social media.
It’s free, easy to get started and offers a massive network of potential customers. The hard part is increasing your followers without wasting your precious time. Make sure you focus on value over volume. Identify the social channels that reach your customers best – including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and the new guy, Ello.
The goal is to provide your followers with something that’s useful, interesting and shareable. Start small, post a few times a week and learn who your audience is. Once you have an understanding of who’s consuming your content, and what they’re interested in, you can start ramping up efforts.
23. Start Using Videos To Market Your Business
Videos are very popular with consumers today and offer an excellent way to market your business. There are many ways a small business can use videos as part of their marketing strategy.
Displaying product videos on website is a very effective way to increase sales. Studies show that customers are much more likely to buy if they see a video on your product or service landing pages.
Being active on YouTube is another effective way to market your small business. YouTube is one of the most widely used channels by consumers today and building your company’s presence on the site can get extra coverage for your business and help to attract new customers.
You can also start your own YouTube channel to post your videos as well as share videos of other users that are relevant to your target market. Commenting on videos relevant to your niche is another way to engage with users and increase your brand visibility.
If you are creating your own videos, don’t limit yourself to promotional videos about your products or services only. Creating instructional videos that can help your targeted audience to solve common problems will get far more coverage than promotional videos.
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