With the economic condition getting tighter and tighter as time passes business owners from all genres need to tighten their proverbial belt. Nevertheless, marketing is not one of the areas that should suffer. Cutting back on your marketing will ensure an untimely demise for your business. However, there are ways to promote your business without breaking the bank. In my thirty plus years as an entrepreneur I have been though times of boom and bust. It is through this experience that I have come to realize that throwing money only is not the most profitable means of business promotion.
I have listed below several ways that you too can promote your business, products and services without incurring great expense. I hope you too will find these suggestions useful.
Reward Loyal Customers
One of the best ways to market your business is to let your loyal customers know how important they are to you. Something as simple as a quick note-not an email-or as complex as a gift sent in a timely manner will do two positive things for your business. First, it brings your name back to the forefront of their thoughts, and second, it solidifies their loyalty. Yes, an email may suffice, but a card in their hands will have a greater impact. In your card you could offer them an incentive, or not. The choice is up to you.
When considering what type of thank you gift to send, whether it is a discounted event ticket to one of your events or a physical product, think like your customer. What would they be more apt to remember you for sending them? What would they find useful? Sometimes a branded pen or other item is exactly what is called for. While for the very best customers you might consider a box of yummy chocolates. If your gift is from a fellow small business owner or joint venture partner, so much the better. Which brings us to the next suggestion; joint ventures.
Joint Ventures with Cross-over Business Partners
Joint ventures (JV) are one of the most overlooked marketing ideas in the small to medium-sized business owner’s marketing arsenal. Why this is the case is simple, they are often thought of as competition. However, you might be surprised to learn that even similar businesses often don’t offer some of the services or products that you do. Therefore, consider not only cross-over businesses but similar ones as well when looking into the possibilities of participating in JV opportunities.
As an example, often I JV with writing coaches and editors. While I offer publishing and design services, over the years I have discovered my dislike for editing. I spent many years search for qualified editors. Then, one day about two years ago, I was approached by an editor and not too long after that we formed an alliance. She now refers me to her writers, and when I have the opportunity I reciprocate.
Offer Referral Incentives
One easy way to take advantage of the aforementioned JV experience is to offer referral incentives. For many years now I have offered a bonus referral of 10 percent off first invoice. This has been both beneficial for the referring person and me. Giving back, in a real and tangible fashion is an excellent way of genuinely showing my thankfulness for referrals and generating additional referrals. In the last couple of years, I have noticed a marked increase in business; do in great part to referrals.
Put Your Business Card on Bulletin Boards
Have you been out and about and seen a bulletin board in a place of business, college or library with business cards tacked on it? Have you ever taken one down to use? I have personally done both. Even the restaurants in my local area have tabletop business card promotions that I have asked the waiter for a card or two more than once. These are excellent free and inexpensive ways to market your business. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Put your card or flyer up and check back often to make sure you to replace it when you see it is missing.
Become a Joiner
Online and offline alike, there are many groups and organizations that the business owner has at their disposal. No matter what your business or interests are you will find a plethora of choices. When you get an email that mentions one of your ‘keywords’ do you sit up and take notice? As you read the email do you decide that it isn’t worth your time? We all have to pick and choose wisely, but when you join groups that include your target information or audience you might be pleasantly surprised by the content and opportunities that arise.
Just joining is not enough. Once you join, if you don’t participate you’ll have wasted your time and money. Get involved, offer to help in any way you can and you will soon find the members more inclined to include you in their circle of friends. Think about the clubs and organizations in which you currently participate. If you aren’t making headway, is it due to a lack of participation, or is it just not working. Clean house, chose again, and participate.
Provide Quality Content
Good content is paramount to good marketing. Misspellings in your marketing pieces, no matter where they are found, only makes you look sloppy and unprofessional. After all, who would hire you if they see the lack of care in your own information products and ads? Yet, typos and grammar errors are not the only things that can count against you. Stale or overused content too can create a sense that you aren’t providing your reader with the information they seek. Yes, do your research, quote sources, but keep the content relevant and fresh.
Article writing is an excellent way to promote your business, products, and services. Not only is this cost-effective but your contact information will always be included. However, you aren’t getting the full benefit of article writing if you are only submitting them to online article houses. Your local newspaper or magazine is always searching for good content. Why not consider submitting content to them? First, find out who the contact person is for the section of the newspaper or magazine you want to provide content for and then jot them a quick note, or better yet, call them to find out their production schedule and required format. Then as mentioned before, provide well written, production ready articles on a timely basis.
Get Active Online
Facebook and Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, Four Square and LinkedIn, just to name a few, social media has taken hold. If you aren’t participating you are missing the mark. Each time you comment or post you have the chance to go ‘viral’. But, if you don’t participate, you never will! Yes, these things take time. Schedule an hour a day to post on the forums and social media; that would be a good start. If you truly don’t have time to get involved it is well worth your marketing dollars to hire a virtual assistant that specializes in social media to do it for you. You can even use tools that are available to automate your posts. Seek and ye shall find!
Update Your Blog
Speaking of activity, it is imperative that you keep your blog fresh. If you can’t come up with content yourself why not invite others to supply content for you. Hosting an author or business owner interview or blog tour are just a couple of ways to bring new visitors and keep your blog fresh. And, whatever you do, make sure your content is free of grammatical and spelling errors. Before you publish, read and rewrite your content. It isn’t going to do you any good if your content is not relevant or of high quality.
Comment on Blogs
Here again is another oft overlooked marketing method. When you comment on another person’s blog you usually have the opportunity to include your website link. These unreciprocated links are seen as some of the best SEO (Search Engine Marketing) boosters. Not only will you enjoy this benefit, but you will be opening your comments to a whole different set of eyes. So, go now and search for blogs where your comments will be welcome and useful. Then, comment yourself into a new community of readers who just might become your best fans.
Google and Visit Online Marketing Sites
Good Marketing Ideas and Small Business Association are just two of the terrific websites offering business owners marketing and business advice. With a simple Google search you will discover that there are a whole host of websites that can help in this regard. Spend some time reading their content and take advantage of their advice. You’ll find it well worth the time taken.
Spruce up your Website
When you look at your web presence does it make you smile? Is it well designed and easy to navigate? If you can’t see beyond your current website or think it can’t be improved, ask your customers. Their feedback may clue you into changes that you may not be aware of that need to be made. Sometimes, just updating or adding another page is all you need to do. At other times, you may want to give your site a complete makeover. Just like getting a new dress, a website makeover takes time and consideration, but once the choice is made the thrill can be invigorating. Besides which, it gives you the reason to have a press release written and distributed, which is your bonus marketing suggestion.
Never Give Up
If you are in need of additional ideas to either implement or just to spark your imagination, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the award-winning annual Weird & Wacky Holiday Marketing Guide. In it you will find a whole year’s worth of marketing opportunities and even the tool and tips to implement them. Remember, winning new and potential customer’s business is an ongoing battle. It takes time and effort, but in the end you will reach your goal. Figure out what works for you and repeat the process.