Lace 'em up! Marketing on a Shoestring Budget

Category: Business Advice

You need to market your small business. Ok, call a meeting with your Marketing Director, your Creative Team, and your Public Relations guy. Sitting at the table alone? Not to worry, you don’t have to have a budget worthy of its’ own Excel spreadsheet in order to successfully market your business. Here are five tips for getting it done.

 

1. Get promotional business cards from an affordable printing service (like Vistaprint).

Take them with you wherever you go, and leave them everywhere. If someone asks for your number, give them a business card en lieu of inputting it into their phone. Also consider putting something on the back on the card instead of leaving it blank (like a quote or a hashtag).

Canvas your neighborhood for local coffee shops or diners; many of them have a community board. You can also take it one step further and leave your business card in some ingenious places, like subway/bus/taxi seats – the person sitting down next is sure to look at it!

Another idea is to trade a handful of business cards with someone else, and agree to hand out theirs if the opportunity presents itself. Small business owners gotta’ stick together!

 

2. Commit to email marketing.

Be careful here, you don’t want your customers to think of you as spam in their inbox. I’m sure many your customers have shared their email address with you; email marketing is a way for you to send newsletters, promotions, new service announcements or event invitations. Just make sure your content is relevant and interesting, that you aren’t just selling.

With email, everything can be tracked. You can get valuable insight as you grow your business. Try using a site like MailChimp instead of blasting emails from a traditional inbox. You can segment, schedule, and even trigger emails (if this sounds like a different language, don’t worry). MailChimp is extremely user friendly and is utilized by thousands of small businesses.

 

3. Create a referral program with your existing customers.

Your customers love you, so they’re probably already talking about you (this is what we call free marketing). Now it’s time to incentivize and reward them. Offer a coupon, discount, or some other perk each time they send a new customer your way.

When you do this, you’re generating leads within the scope of your satisfied customers’ circles of influence. You’re also quickly generating more satisfied customers, ensuring a continuous cycle of repeat customers and referrals.

 

4. Go where your customers go.

Take a look at your target market, and do a little digging on where your customers are hanging out. Go there (with your business cards, of course). Talk to people, mingle, be cool. Don’t be too concerned with selling or pitching your business. Focus on having genuine conversations first.

Use apps like MeetUp to find groups of people that fit your target audience. When they have an outing or an event, go (again, with those business cards!). Talk to people, mingle, be cool.

 

5. Join the conversation.

It’s pretty clear that you’re an expert in your field; don’t be shy about it. There are a couple key ways you can share your knowledge.

Join online forums that are relevant to your companies’ niche. Offer insightful and helpful answers to questions.

Answering questions is a great way to build relationships and your expertise while helping. You can do this on social sites like Facebook, Google+, and Quora.

Don’t overwhelm yourself or spread your marketing efforts too thin. It’s best to pick a few channels and do them well. Be patient. You may not see instant results, but think of it as planting little marketing seeds that will yield new customers in the long run.

(Article written by guest blogger, Naomi Watson)