Small business owners often find their hands full and their pockets empty. When you’re busy hiring new employees, ensuring your product or service is best in class, and performing customer service, tasks like marketing can fall by the wayside.
Here, we discuss several ways for entrepreneurs to market their small businesses cheaply.
Think about your area of expertise. Do you own a sewing shop? A mechanic’s garage? Maybe a hardware store? Regardless of your business, you probably know more than the average person about your industry. Launch a blog on your website and start writing about what you know best. Explain your top ten tips for knitting the perfect sweater, how to change a tire in under five minutes, or colorful ideas for home decorating.
Once you have a few posts on your blog, start an email newsletter that includes these articles and send it out weekly to everyone on your mailing list. Build this list by asking your customers to sign up, either in-store, or online, but you should keep in mind that marketing emails are subject to regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act, so you may want to consult an attorney to make sure your email campaigns are in compliance.
Don’t have a blog or website yet? There are a variety of free tools to get you started, including Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress. But before launching your blog, make sure your website looks professional and the design matches your business cards. Check out Vistaprint for free business card options.
Get Out of the Office
Schedule a few hours a week to network with the people and businesses around you. Position yourself as an expert in your field by speaking at your local chamber of commerce (look up your chapter here) and offer to hold free classes that highlight your expertise. For example, if you run an accounting firm, schedule a class on tax preparation at the beginning of every year, either in your office or at the Chamber.
Talk with other business owners whose interests may overlap with yours, and consider working with a few of them on joint partnerships. If you’re an interior designer, you could partner with a contractor and offer discounted packages. Network online via LinkedIn and through BNI, an international network of businesses.
Identify local charities in your community and start volunteering. Talk about your business and pass out business cards when you meet new people. Once you have a little more cash, consider supporting local charities and sponsoring sporting events. Pass out fliers promoting your business and include discounts or special offer.
Buy a Reporter Lunch
Pick up your local newspaper and get in touch with the business editor or one of their reporters. Ask them to lunch and come ready with a few story ideas. Make sure these ideas are not entirely self-serving and can provide a service to their readers. Reporters are often happy to write about upcoming events in the community. For instance, if you have an event scheduled at your shop that will benefit a charity, that’s an excellent news hook.
Identify ten of your best and favorite customers—the people who regularly frequent your business. Ask each of them to write a testimonial on what they love about your company. Post these prominently on your website, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Before long, you could see more customers coming through your doors and excited to experience the same great service.