Have you started your own business recently? Are you feeling nervous and excited all at the same time? Feeling nervous is to be expected. Of course you want your small business to do well, but to make that happen you need to get the word out about your business so that you can attract lots of new customers, with cash in hand, ready to buy. But as a small business, how do you do that without spending a lot of money on traditional advertising? I mean, come ‘on, you don’t want to be broke before you even get started. Instead of spending lots of cash on traditional advertising that may or may not work, learn how to market your small business on a shoestring budget so that you can keep your expenses to a minimum.
Define Your Target Market
The most inexpensive way to effectively manage your marketing campaign is to figure out where you want to focus it.
You can save a lot of money by avoiding a blanket marketing campaign that tries to appeal to too many people, or tries to grab the attention of someone who isn't interested at all in your product or service.
Far too many people think they just have to market to everyone possible, but that's time wasted marketing to people who actually have a higher chance of being interested in your niche. After all, you wouldn't market lawn care services to people who live in apartments, would you?
Once you have your target market defined you can begin putting together an inexpensive marketing campaign that will attract new customers to your business on an on-going basis.
8 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget
Inexpensive Business Cards and Postcards
The cheapest way to get the word out offline is through cheap postcards and business cards, which you can easily find and order online. They don't cost much, but give you a lot of space and time to present potential customers with the essentials of what you can do, and how to contact you.
Often times you can pin up your postcards on bulletin boards at your local library, grocery store, coffee shops, and so on.
Your business cards will be necessary, if and when you choose to attend networking events, as well as any other social business events. If your potential customers are at an event then you should be there too.
The most effective and inexpensive way to market your business on a shoestring budget is by attending networking events.
If you have a local Chamber of Commerce you can begin there. Visit their website to find out when they host business networking meetings and call and ask them if you can attend the first one for free to check it out.
Then go online and look for a BNI Networking Chapter that is close to where you operate your business. Once you find one, contact them either by phone or email to find out how you can attend one of their meetings for free.
The point of going to the first meeting of each organization for free is that you want to see if the group is a good fit for you.
LinkedIn is another great place to find information on local networking events. Create a business account on LinkedIn and then search for any local networking meetings.
Create a Website or a Blog
Before you setup your online presence you need to consider which avenue is best for your type of business. Should you create a static website or a blog that you will update on a regular basis? Perhaps you should consider doing both.
A static website is a great way to get the word out there about the type of products you are selling or the services you are offering. As you organize content for your website you want to be sure to include the benefits that people will receive from buying your products or using your services.
You also want to provide some background information about your business and make it extremely easy for people to find you either online, by phone, or at your location, if you operate a brick and mortar business.
You can use your blog to talk more specifically about your business and to keep people up-to-date on current specials and events. You can also use it as a way of providing useful tips and helpful information based on your niche. For example, if you are a massage therapist you could write about things such as “5 Ways to Avoid Back Pain”.
Yes you want your blog and website to look professional, but when you are first starting your business, hiring a professional web developer may be outside of your budget.
Instead you have a number of options. You could use WordPress and one of the many popular themes to get you started.
Or you could use the drag and drop website builder and easy blogging tools offered by weebly.com. With their setup you can include a photo gallery or slideshow on your website, as well as pre-built contact forms and surveys.
Always find a way to ask for testimonials that you can include on your website.
You can include them on all of your marketing materials that you create as your business grows. Ask for permission to include their name below the testimonial as well.
Partner With Other Businesses
Do a search for other businesses that have the same target market as you but offer a different service. For example, if you are a massage therapist that works solo, it would be beneficial for you to create a partnership with a chiropractor and a naturopath. Why? Because as you build a trusting relationship with your clients they will most likely turn to you for a referral when they need a treatment that you do not offer. So you can refer them to the chiropractor and he can refer his clients to you when they would prefer a massage.
Another example is a company that lays new floors should partner with a company that does window coverings. That way whenever either of you are in a customer’s home selling, and installing your product, you can refer the other if the customer is interested.
Add Your Business to Google Places
As soon as your small business has a phone number you should add your business to Google Places. This makes it a lot easier for someone to find you when they do a search online for your type of business.
Find a Way to Get Free Local Media Coverage
If your customers are local to your business then find a way to get free local media coverage about your business. Check your local newspapers to see if they have a section where they allow new small businesses to post their name, contact info and a brief summary of what they do.
Contact the editor of your local newspaper to talk about your business. Quite often, if your business is unique the editor will send a reporter out to do a story about your business and what you have to offer to your local community.
As well, offer to sponsor a local charity or local school sports team and pay for the team members shirts with your company name on the back of them. Make sure to attend some of the games as well.
If you are starting a small business then I bet you already know that the best way to market your business on a shoestring budget is to get active with social media and to use every avenue possible based on who your target market is.
Create a Business Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter account. And depending on your type of business, you may wish to consider a Pinterest account too.
Use giveaways to increase your followers. You can giveaway cash, free product, gift cards, or a free service to entice people to follow you.
Once you have followers make sure to interact with them on a daily basis. Simply posting a new link to something interesting everyday won’t cut it. You need to ask questions of your followers, answer their questions, and look for anyway possible to start online conversations that will help people get to know you and your business.
Always Be Marketing!
As you launch your new business and work hard to get the word out there you will come across many more ways to market your small business on a shoestring budget. The most important thing that you want to do is to be consistent.
Setup a schedule that lists all of your marketing tasks and put specific dates beside each task. Indicate which ones you will do on a daily basis, weekly basis and monthly basis.
And even as your business grows and you get really busy, always make time to market your business. Many people think that once their business is booming they can stop marketing, but then a few months later customers stop calling and they wonder why. Always be marketing so that customers remember you, and keep coming back, and hopefully tell their friends too.