One of the greatest challenges for small businesses is how to execute marketing strategies on a tight budget. Though difficult, a small business can get its message out to the world in a variety of ways without spending a cent. Networking and building relationships are cost-free and critical to developing a market for your products or services, no matter how large your marketing budget becomes.
Start doing these initiatives now if you want to grow your business.
Networking in person:
- Attend local chamber of commerce meetings (you often can go as a guest). Chambers of commerce often offer other business conferences and social gatherings where potential customers come together.
- If you have expertise in a specific area, offer to be a speaker on your specialized topic at business meetings or a conference. Or, write an article on a relevant topic using your expertise for local online or print news media and send it around to editors and reporters. You may be turned down several times, but being accepted just once will gain attention for your business.
- Volunteer for school, church or charitable events. You will meet other businesspeople as well as potential clients, and will establish yourself as someone who cares about the community.
- Organizations like chambers of commerce and charitable groups are often looking for board members. Joining a board provides an excellent platform to meet new people and introduce your business in a myriad of ways.
- Set up Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, both for yourself and for your business. Post photos of yourself, your products and your operations.
- Twitter may also be useful, but first be sure you have the resources to devote to maintaining this “of the moment” channel.
- YouTube is a great vehicle for presenting videos of what your company does. If you are not familiar with putting together an interesting, professional-looking video, perhaps a tech-savvy friend or family member can help you for free. Do not post a poorly done or overly amateur video; it will create a bad impression of your company.
- There are many other social media options. No need to go crazy and jump into all of them. Take your time, research the options and talk to friends and customers about their social media preferences before you move beyond Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Develop a short, smart description of your firm and submit it to free online directories and local publications with business listings.
- Online publications are always hunting for good content. Find an online magazine, newsletter or blog site that is relevant to your customers and clients and contribute articles relevant to your business and expertise.
Before diving into any of these initiatives, make sure you:
- Prepare and memorize an “elevator speech” – a concise, 30-second summary of what your business does and how it solves problems for customers or clients.
- Have a supply of attractive business cards printed on quality paper stock. Your local printing service can help you choose a standout design, and there are also many easy-to-use options available online.
Another useful tool that requires some monetary investment: Build a professional website and a clear brand image
You probably already have a website for your business, but is it meeting your needs? Look at other websites for small and large businesses and see how they present themselves:
- Does your site give the impression that your business is a modern, highly professional organization?
- Do you have a clear brand—a symbol, name, design or logo—that uniquely identifies your business?
- Does your website effectively communicate what your enterprise does, telling people why its products and services stand out from the competition and how you’re going to provide customers with superior, reliable products or service?
Developing an effective website is a process. But that process gets a good start with a unique logo and clear online messaging about your company’s mission, attractive images of its products or services and comments from satisfied customers.
If your company website looks pale in comparison to others, find a good web designer and upgrade your site.
Sources: Entrepreneur, Kabbage, Wordstream, Constant Contact, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).