So I get it, you started a small business, but customers are not lined up at your door. A friend told you that you need to pay for ads and marketing, but how can you do that when you spent all of your startup money already? Don’t worry. It is actually quite simple. You can easily market your small business on a shoestring budget when start-up funds are limited.
Of course you want your small business to do well, so to make that happen you need to quickly get the word out about your business so that you can attract lots of new customers, with cash in hand, ready to buy.
As a small business it is definitely possible, and actually quite important, to market your business and tell people all about it 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 ads 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, as you increase your revenue.
Define Your Small Business Target Market First
The most inexpensive way to effectively manage your marketing campaign is to figure out exactly who your buyers are first.
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.
You want to market 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.
Second, Send a New Business Announcement to Friends and Family
What do people do when they are getting married or find out that they are going to have a baby?
They send out fun announcements.
Your new small business is an exciting event in your life, and you need to share that with the people you already know.
Now I am not suggesting that you send this to people that you have not spoken to since kindergarten.
I am suggesting that you create and send a fun “new business announcement” to your close friends and family.
And here is why I suggest that.
The most inexpensive way to market your small business is through word of mouth.
Okay, you already know that.
So first and foremost you want to begin spreading the word by telling your family and friends.
However, you do not want them to feel obligated to buy from you. You simply want them to “refer you” to their network of friends and family. Let them know that you are simply asking for referrals for new business.
If they do buy from you, that is wonderful too, but ultimately, you just want to start getting the word out there.
8 Simple Ways to Market Your Small Business
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.
Even though they don’t cost much, their design options are professional and elegant, and so is the finished product.
And, they will ship right to your door.
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.
Attend Networking Events and Meet People
The most effective and inexpensive way to market your business on a shoestring budget is by attending networking events and meeting new people.
Ask people about themselves and show an interest in them. You can make new connections by learning about other people and their business.
Show people that you are there to make friends and people will remember you.
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. What you are looking for is a group that is full of genuine, kind people, that you can build connections with and possibly create business collaborations with.
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 website and a blog.
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 about you), 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.
Always find a way to ask people 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 Small 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.
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
A free and quick way to market your small business is to add your business to Google Places.
You can include your phone number, your address (if your business is brick and mortar), and a link to your website.
This makes it very easy for someone to find you when they do a search online for your type of business. I am sure you have seen these types of listings on Google Maps when you have looked for a new restaurant or something online.
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 new business.
Check your local newspapers and local magazines 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 editors of your local newspapers and magazines to talk about your new business.
Quite often they want to support local businesses and the editor may send a reporter out to do a story about you and 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. You will make so many new connections and even some good friends.
Use Social Media to Market Your Small Business
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 and Instagram account too.
Use giveaways to increase your followers. You can giveaway 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.
Treat each person you connect with as a new friend so that you can build that “know, like and trust factor” with them.
The more that people feel comfortable about your new business the more likely they are to purchase and \ or send you referrals.
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 small 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.