Is a “marketing plan” only for people with lots of money to spend on a multi-faceted advertising program? Not necessarily. Check out these tips for maximizing your exposure even when you have a shoestring budget.
Every business owner hears it: “You must market your business!” Every business owner knows the importance of marketing, intends to do something about it, but often resists implementing new strategies. One reason for the resistance? Fear of the cost.
Don’t let the misguided assumption that it is expensive to use the hot new marketing strategies prevent you from successfully growing your business. Here are six tips you can use to promote your startup that won’t break the budget.
Start with the Marketing Basics
Business cards never went away and will still help you create an Impression at networking events, but make sure yours are modern and memorable. Fortunately, numerous outlets, including MOO, offer inexpensive and unique designs. Try a square or mini card, and make sure the images make an impact.
Build your email list and plan regular contact. You must dedicate some energy to building and maintaining your contact list. Many email services charge monthly service fees, but mass mailing service MailChimp is free for businesses with fewer than 2,000 subscribers and mailings are easy to customize.
Make sure every email clearly represents your brand and use links and loyalty offers to entice recipients to respond or interact with your homepage.
Think about Your Local Market
Make yourself a valuable part of your community; network with business owners in your local area and work to become a destination by putting on events. If your town has a business owners’ association, see what events they are hosting, otherwise, check out Meetup.com to find local business happenings.
Participate in local holiday shopping days, sidewalk sales and seasonal festivals to increase your visibility in the community. Pair up with another local shop whose product complements yours and hold a contest; you’ll share any cost and work and client list, just make sure to get (free) coverage in the local newspaper.
Offer a free class in your location to attract locals to your door. Making your service or shop an integral participant in your local community will build your loyal customer base.
Leverage Free Social Media
If you are serious about marketing and you are not regularly posting great images on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, you are missing a huge (free) audience. Even better, though, is to create a Facebook group that locals and potential customers want to join. Base your group on a topic or theme related to your business, and provide regular updates and opportunities for users to interact.
For example, a tutoring service might start a group called Tutoring Help for Parents and post a weekly study tip. At no cost, you can cultivate an interest in your service, shape your clients’ opinions and increase exposure.
Additionally, you can comment on blogs that relate to your services and that your potential customers might be reading. Remember, every share on social media is free advertising. Use LinkedIn groups related to your industry to build business connections. Offer valuable advice or expertise and users will seek you out to find out more about your business.
Share Information to Create Interest
Your expertise and knowledge are free. Share timely tidbits of information with potential and current clients to build brand recognition, customer loyalty, and user interaction.
Write a blog and post amazing content. The blog is a centerpiece of most small business marketing efforts. A blog allows you to not only present your services and products, but also to create relationships with clients through posting and commenting, brand recognition, and personalization.
Direct all existing and potential customers to your blog and ask other businesses to link to or share your blog address. Make sure your blog focuses on your business mission, presents a consistent voice, and is regularly updated with information that meets the needs and interests of your audience.
Offer a free info product on your website or blog. Create an e-book or another digital download and give it away on your website. You can generate interest, brand loyalty, and gather user information for free. Include a coupon or offer with it to make sure it is your business these readers return to.
Be the Expert in Your Industry
You might not be able to afford to place an ad in a significant industry publication or local newspaper, but contributing an article is free. Many magazines accept guest contributions, and you get to promote yourself and your business in the bio.
Find other people’s blogs about subjects that overlap with your business and offer to write a guest post. Writing a blog post on someone else’s site will reach a whole new audience.
Build awareness and make sure you include a link in your bio back to your homepage. Teach a class that relates to your service or product at the local library, community center, or community college. While the class can’t be a sales pitch, once your students’ interest is peaked and they are checking out your blog they will quickly find their way to your brand.
Don’t Forget Directories!
Did you ever wonder why some businesses show up on Google maps and others don’t? Create a Google My Business account and guarantee your business will show up in local searches on Google Maps. When people are checking out the local area on the map, you want your business to be one of the little red pins they see.
List with Yelp for increased exposure. Yelp’s user base is growing, and it has become a go-to site for mobile users searching for local businesses. Your town’s web page might offer links to local businesses; if it does, make sure yours is listed.
The best marketing doesn’t need to be expensive. Small businesses all over the country are creating marketing plans that focus on low-cost strategies like these. Look for the opportunities in your community, use free social media to reach an ever-increasing audience, and share your expertise.
Using these inexpensive tips will not just advertise your brand, but will also build the relationships today’s market demands.
6 Ways to Market Your Startup on a Shoestring Budget