So your marketing budget is a little tighter than you anticipated. Don’t sweat it (too much). You can wage an effective campaign without spending money you don’t have.
Here are 10 ways to market your small business on the cheap.
1. Create a fan page on Facebook. A Facebook page, which you can set up for free, allows you to reach and interact with customers and prospects. Update yours regularly, and — if your budget allows — promote it or your posts for greater reach. Facebook Insights gives you demographic data on who’s visiting your page, allowing you to more effectively market to your customers. You can further increase your exposure by using Facebook plug-ins on your website that make it easier to ask fans to share your page with others.
2. Get active on Twitter. Twitter can be a tough platform to master, but the rewards are high when you do. The challenge lies in crafting thoughtful, compelling messages of 140 characters or less. Offer expert advice, answer questions, and tweet the occasional promotion or sales pitch. Include links to increase the traffic to your business’s website or blog (see #4). The best part for your bottom line: Like Facebook, Twitter is free, unless you opt to promote your tweets.
3. Use YouTube. YouTube isn’t just for posting goofy “Harlem Shake” videos. Many entrepreneurs use the site as a means to reach new customers. You can, too, by creating engaging, appealing videos related to your business. Talk about your products and show examples of why your merchandise and services are a cut above the competition. Post how-to and training videos that provide an additional service to your existing and potential customers. Link back to your company website to boost traffic.
4. Maintain a blog. Blogging is no longer optional for small businesses. Blogs allow you to communicate with clients, position yourself as a market leader, and rank higher in search engine results. You can set one up as a page on your existing company website for free. The more you update your blog, the more traffic your website will likely receive. To attract and keep readers, you want to consistently offer valuable content in various formats (words, images, audio, and video). Be sure to keep your readers updated with important information about your business, and don’t be afraid to inject a little humor into your content when appropriate.
5. Stay in touch with people. Keep a running list of customers who purchase goods or services from your company, as well as anyone who simply asks for additional information about your business. Follow up with these clients and prospects periodically to see whether there’s anything else you can help with. Make sure that they are satisfied with your service. This will help you build a reputation as a small business that cares about its clientele. And all it’ll cost you is time.
6. Start an e-newsletter. Once you’ve created your list of clients, an effective (and often free) way to keep in touch with them is by sending out a monthly or quarterly email newsletter. In it, you can promote upcoming events, describe any changes in your business, and invite customers to visit your website or retail store.
7. Put up promotional posters. It seems so 1987, but according to the Web Executive, hanging up homemade promotional posters still works. Make sure yours bears your business’s logo and clear details of whatever you aim to share with the public (such as news of an upcoming sale or a release of a new product). Print the poster yourself or, to save on ink costs, take it to a copy center. Fifty 8×10 color copies will run you roughly $30, based on a few calls we made to Office Depot, Office Max, and FedEx Office
8. Make cold calls. Although often dreaded by givers and receivers, cold calling remains an effective, inexpensive marketing tool, particularly in business-to-business scenarios. Just do a bit of research first. Is your contact in need of your services? If so, you are much more likely to have a hot prospect at the end of any given cold call. Other tips: Maintain a friendly but professional tone. Be open to questions. Don’t take rejections personally.
9. Distribute sell sheets. Sell sheets essentially flaunt your products and prices; when sent to interested parties, they can result in sales. To avoid unnecessary printing and mailing costs, produce these informational flyers as PDFs and distribute them via email.
10. Try canvassing. Yes, it sounds even more old-fashioned than putting up posters (see #7), but going door-to-door in select areas of your city or surrounding areas can be an effective marketing strategy. It also won’t cost you more than perhaps gas money and time. Canvassing gives you a chance to talk directly with potential clients — whether they’re consumers or other business owners — and make connections. What starts with a firm handshake and a smile could lead to lucrative business relationship.