Like Mark Twain said long ago, "Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising." This is so true. Advertising can be costly and many small businesses cut back on their marketing budget due to cash flow concerns. But it's essential for you to find the right ways to advertise and make sure your business is at the top of your consumers' list when they decide to buy.
Recent data proves what we already suspect: that the ideal place to seed your marketing campaigns and connect with potential customers is online. Take a look at these six effective and affordable ways to get big results on a small marketing budget.
1. Leverage Your Community
When it comes to marketing, you don't have to think big but instead, think locally (Tweet This!). What are some upcoming activities in your community? Get involved and sponsor a 5K charity walk or a Little League team. Take the time to get to know your ideal customer and figure out where they spend their time. Are they at the library? The Laundromat? Fine-dining restaurants? Once you identify where your customers are, start exploring local marketing tools and brainstorm ways to get in front of them.
2. Collaborate With Other Businesses
Get together with other local businesses and cross-promote with each other (Tweet This!). Think about the use of coupons, fliers, bundled promotions and make sure to utilize website links to one another's businesses. An alliance with surrounding businesses is a great way to expand your customer base and reach new people, and it's simple too. For instance, a photographer could share links to photography props such as headbands and bow ties for children, or a landscaper could give out a name of a business that does exterior home painting.
3. Ask for Referrals
It's okay, and actually a good thing, to ask for referrals. Most people will refer your business if you ask them to, but may not take the initiative to do so on their own. Customer referrals are a great way to get new customers in the door and people are more likely to shop at a business that a friend or family told them about. Ask your satisfied customers to share their experience with your business on their Facebook page or a big review site like Yelp. If you aren't asking your customers for referrals, you are missing out on valuable business (Tweet This!).
4. Offer Discounts and Coupons
People go out of their way to use a coupon; therefore you can expand your customer base with this simple tactic. You can do so by using cost-effective coupon apps like Kapture or simply just making it a policy to collect your customers email addresses (Tweet This!). If you go the email route, make the promise of emailed discounts and then use these email addresses to share special offers on a consistent basis. Be smart about your emailed offers too -- time your emails with peak shopping times. For instance, if you own a flower shop, make sure you send out discounts around Valentines and Mother's Day. Coupons are an excellent way to generate return visits and build customer loyalty.
5. Give Away a Sample
In today's economy, people want to try things before they commit. If possible based on what you offer, give a sample or trial to your customers free of charge. If you own a sandwich shop, hand out a small portion to your customers. A sample may be just what your customer needs to feel comfortable enough to purchase your products or utilize your services. Remember to focus on the customer, not the money.
6. Offer to Speak
Most people don't love public speaking -- in fact many people avoid it. However, it's a great chance to get the name of your business out there and build credibility as an expert in your field. As an entrepreneur, you may have to speak publicly for a number of things including a television interview, hosting customer seminars, or simply representing your company at industry events. You don't have to be a professional; you just need to share information that is helpful to your audience. Take a deep breath and remember, the more times you do it, the more comfortable you will become.
Related: Speak to a marketing expert today and get the ball rolling.
These inexpensive and simple marketing strategies are great ways to help you engage your customers, build lasting relationships and keep your brand at the top of your consumers minds. Don't forget, it isn't always about how much money you spend on marketing your business -- it is about the effort you put into it and the relevance your marketing has for your customers.
What affordable and effective marketing strategies have you implemented to advertise your small business?
Image via Flickr
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.