A Few Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget
Famed author Mark Twain once said, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”
But advertising can be expensive, and in a tight economy, many small businesses cut their marketing budgets first because of cash flow concerns. However, when times are tough, it’s even more important to keep your business brand front and center.
During an economic downturn, clients, customers, and consumers have less money to spend. This means that when they’re ready to buy, you want your brand, service or product to be at the top of their list. Social media is undoubtedly one of the most effective and affordable ways to engage your customers and keep your brand top-of-mind, but it’s not the only way. Here are a few tried and true marketing strategies that can help you market your business on a shoestring budget.
- Have a Website (that works): Set up a website if you don’t have one. Even if you are trying to market locally, most people look for local businesses online, using Google or other search engines. Have a website with details about your services, contact information and directions to your business. An attractive, functional and mobile friendly website can make your business look professional. But the real benefits will depend on functionality and ability to acquire customers for your business. If your website is outdated, consider a redesign, especially if it is not optimized for mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, etc).
- Be Active on Social Media (Facebook): A majority of small businesses already have a profile on the main social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. But this by itself will not offer much marketing benefits for your business. To maximize the benefits of social media, you must do more. Here are some tips:
- Keep your profiles up to date and fresh with new information;
- Post few times per week;
- Add value for users by sharing content that is of value to them;
- Engage actively with users – follow, share, retweet, like content of other users;
- Don’t just share content from your website.
- Google + Local: Verify your listing on Google+ Local: Previously known as Google Places, Google+ Local is a way of verifying on Google maps where your business physically is. This can be verified by anyone at the business. Google will send a pin number through to your exact business address, and as long as someone enters this pin number onto your listing it means you are verified and can receive the benefits. These include more chances to appear within Google local searchers, the opportunity to connect your Google+ profile to your Google+ Local listing, and the opportunity to gain reviews from your customers that will then show up as star ratings in your search results. The best bit about this is that it’s completely free. The downside is that the pin numbers through the post can take weeks to arrive, so if you’re given the option to verify immediately by phone then do this.
- Craft an elevator pitch: You should be marketing all the time — wherever you are. Therefore, you need a compelling elevator pitch. Research shows the average attention span of an adult is about 6 to 8 seconds. That’s all the time you have to grab someone’s attention. If you successfully engage them, then you only have a little over a minute to really sell them on your product or service. Invest the time to craft a killer elevator pitch. The return on your investment will pay huge dividends in terms of creating business opportunities.
- Network: There is no better way to build a business than to get out there, shake some hands, and get to know people. Networking requires a time commitment and it doesn’t provide instant gratification, but a strong network is one of the greatest assets any business person can have.
- Ask for Testimonials: Don’t be shy about asking for customer testimonials. The majority of people say they are willing to provide a testimonial if asked, but very few take the initiative to do it on their own. Testimonials make it easier to get in the door with new customers. If you aren’t asking for them, you are missing opportunities. Have them send you review by email, or post them on your website.
- Collect Customer Emails: 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.
- Build Relationships – Goes along with Email: It is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. That’s why establishing strong relationships with your customer base is crucial. One of the ways you can do that is by launching an email campaign. Make your communications informative and helpful — something your customers will look forward to receiving. Social media campaigns are another way to keep the communication channel open.
- Get in the Spirit of the Holiday: Go over-the-top with your holiday decorations. It doesn’t have to be tacky, just big and bright, and bold enough to be noticed.
- Be Generous: Offer free hot cocoa, coffee and cider on cold days. Make a big sign and put it in the front window. Be clear that the free beverages are for everyone, not just paying customers (that’s how you get new customers).
- Offer Discounts and Deals: Every customer loves a discount. Offering discounts and deals are a great way to market your business and reward customers. Make sure to promote your offers on your social media profiles and through articles and blog posts. There are also many deal websites that you can take advantage of. This is a great way to ge extra coverage for your business.
These inexpensive marketing strategies will help you engage customers, build relationships, and ultimately keep your brand top-of-mind. It’s not always about the money you have to spend on marketing, it’s about the time and effort you put into it and above all, the relevance it has for your customers.
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