Too many small business owners look at their marketing budgets as just conglomerations of expenses. But marketing isn’t simply an expense for a small business. It’s really an investment because your company will fail unless you get the word out to your customers. However, you want to do this in the most cost-effective way possible. Here's how:
Use Free Publicity
Publicity builds awareness of your business. If you use publicity correctly, it can also get you active in your community. Sponsor a community activity that is somehow tied in with your business.
When something new crops up within your business, such as the release of a new product or service or a different use for an existing one, issue a press release. Your local newspaper will likely be glad to run it. Include it on your website. Sponsor a customer appreciation day. Do a customer survey. Newspapers love surveys and will likely publish your results.
Use Social Media
Whether it's photos on Instagram, Snap-chatting specials, or blogging on your Facebook page, use social media to brand your business and create a consumer buzz around your products. Both Facebook and Twitter are great for announcing specials and sales, while Instagram is a good place to post photos showcasing your store or business.
Create Partnerships With Other Organizations
Small businesses with low or non-existent marketing budgets can organize a partnership and pool their marketing budgets to make good things happen. Perhaps a small business would like to hold a conference to increase the visibility of their firm and draw advertisers. But, one small business would probably not have the marketing budget necessary to finance such a conference. If several complementary small businesses got together, then they might be able to manage the costs of the conference and draw advertisers to the event. It would be a win-win situation for everyone.
Outsource It When You Can't-Do It Yourself
If you have a small staff and you’re only experienced at certain things, then outsource the things you need help with. If you aren’t good with numbers, hire an accountant. Can’t set up a computer network? Hire a computer expert. Can’t write? Hire a writer to write your press pieces and do your blogging. It may sound expensive but think of the alternative. If you hire permanent employees with these skills, not only will you be paying professional full-time salaries, you’ll be paying benefits. It’s much cheaper to outsource and pay on a freelance basis.
Join Local Clubs and Organizations
As a business person in a community, it is important to be visible, particularly if your business has a storefront in the community and is not entirely online. Join the local Kiwanis Club and the local Rotary Club and any other service clubs that exist in your community. A must-join is the local Chamber of Commerce. Such service clubs are always looking for speakers for their meetings, and you are going to be an expert in whatever product or service you sell. Not only will this be a great networking opportunity, but you may be called on to speak which will really increase the visibility of your business.
Build a Website for Your Business
Every business must have a website. A website domain can be bought for cheap and, if you can’t build it and maintain it yourself, outsource it. A presence on the web is a very cost-effective way of letting people know about your business even if your business is mostly a storefront operation. You can publish a newsletter about your business on the web virtually for free and create articles about your business to publish there.
Engage in Frequent Communication With Your Customers
The importance of communication with your customers cannot be overstated. Your customers are in a belt-tightening mindset. Items that were once considered necessities may now be considered luxuries. You cannot effectively market your product or service unless you know how your customers think about what you have to offer.
For example, what about the business of a small spa that offers whirlpool baths and massages? Usually, such services are considered luxuries. But, think about it again. Maybe customers need those services more than ever for stress relief. Doctors even prescribe such services for stress management. You need to do a survey to find out what your customers think so you can plan for the future financially. Perhaps writing a letter to each customer asking what they need would be a good strategy.
Network and Network Some More
The fact of the matter is that people like to do business with people they know. That’s even true in the online world where everyone uses Facebook and Twitter. Use your organizational contacts and partnerships to network. Figure out where to spend your time networking. Don’t network where it isn’t paying off.