Promoting a business is an ongoing challenge for small businesses. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years, these 20 proven advertising and marketing strategies will help your business find new customers without spending a fortune.
1 Plan your marketing
You’ll waste precious time and money if your marketing activities are random and unstructured. The key to success – not matter how big or small your budget- is to define your marketing strategy before doing anything else. Start by identifying who your best prospects are, and then determine the best way to reach them. Be as specific as possible. Is the decision maker the CTO of the company, the director of human resources, or a 37-year-old working mom? Will you find them on Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram? What about in-person networking at local business meetings? Will you find people at those meeting who are likely prospects or who know and could recommend you to likely prospects? What about advertising? Will customers be searching for your type of product on Google or Bing? Do they look for coupons in newspapers? Do you want to start promoting your business to them at the start of their buying cycle, or when they’re about ready to pull out their credit card and make the purchase? Write your answers down and refer to them before you start any new marketing tactic. Use this marketing plan worksheet to gather your information.
2 Start a blog.
A blog (or other written articles on your site) serves two functions. It informs your customers and prospects, and the content, in turn,improves your chances of being found in search engines. You don’t have to be a professional writer to add a blog. Just write information your customers will find helpful at different stages of the buying cycle or provide tips and hints on using what you sell.
3 Set up a business profile.
Set up your business profile or page on social media sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Be sure your business profile includes a good description, keywords and a link to your website. Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don’t spam them with constant promos for what you sell.
4 If you don’t have a website, get one!
Having a working website is important for marketing a business. Depending what you sell, your website serves as a lead generation tool, online brochure, catalog, and information source for your potential customers. If you can’t afford to have someone custom-design your website, put your site up using one of the companies like Wix, SquareSpace or Godaddy that provide templates and tools that make it easy to create a basic website. Whether you choose a ready-to- use template, or have someone build a site for you, be sure the design is responsive. (In other words, that it looks good and is easy to read on mobile devices as well as on desktop and laptop computers.)
5 Use basic SEO.
SEO stands for search engine optimization – in other words, setting up your web pages so the search engines understand the content of the pages and may link to you when someone searches for what you sell or the kind of information you provide. Although some companies spend a lot of money on SEO, there are a number of things you can do yourself to improve the SEO of your site. Among them:
- using a different title for each page on your website.
- using phrases people search for in the page title.
- including your business name, location and phone number on all pages on your site.
6 Tell people about your business.
Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
7 Get branded stationary.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have a business card and business stationery, have them made up — immediately. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your website address on your business card, letterhead and any handouts you create. Include your main social media profile link, too, if possible.
8 Set up a listing.
Set up a listing for your business in search engine local directories. Google and Bing both offer a free listing for local businesses. To get listed on Google, go to Google My Business To get listed on Bing, go to Bing Places for Business. Yahoo charges for local listings, but you get listed on more than Yahoo if you buy their service. The service, called Yahoo Localworks,costs between $8.25 a month(billed annually) and $41.58 depending on the number of directories you want to be listed in and what additional services you want to purchase. The benefit of paying: You have a single location to enter your data to make it consistent and available on multiple online directories that your customers might search to find what you sell.
9 Talk to your suppliers.
Talk to all the suppliers from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.
10 Give business card to your customers.
Give several business cards to your customers if you are a service provider. That way, when their friends and neighbors ask them for a recommendation, they have an easy way to pass on your business name and contact information.
11 Post engaging and valuable content.
Post Interesting information and pictures regularly to your social media accounts. The information or photos should be interesting to your audience. Tips on how they can improve their life or business or special offers are likely to get the most likes and shares.
12 Start an email campaign.
Sign up for an email service, and send an email newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects for your business. Be sure you ask for permission to send email before putting any person’s email name on your list. One good way to build a permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give something away. It could be a free ebook, or even a free tip-sheet on how to do something related to your business. If you’re a health coach, for instance, you might offer people who sign up for your free newsletter a tip sheet with “10 Easy Ways To Lose Weight Without Going on a Diet.” If you don’t have anything to give away, try offering a signup discount on products or services as an incentive. An email service like Constant Contact* makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.
Attend meetings of professional groups, and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, other local business groups, local chapters of national groups or civic associations. Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Don’t forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They’ll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you because of it.
14 pay for Membership.
Pay for membership in those groups that attract your target customers. If the group has a website and publishes a list members on the site, make sure your name and website link get added. Once it is added double check to be sure your contact information is correct and your website link isn’t broken.
15 Get active in groups.
Become actively involved in 2 or 3 of these groups. That will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. But remember: opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get little business. While you won’t want to become involved in many organizations that require a lot of your time in, you can –and should– make real contributions to all of them by offering useful ideas and helping with projects when possible.
16 Boost your posts.
Pay to boost your most popular posts on social media sites. Target the boosted posts at groups of people who are most like your customers. This can be an inexpensive way of getting your business in front of potential customers in very targeted locations or who have interests that match what you sell.
17 Help Reporters Find You.
Reporters are constantly looking for sources to quote in their stories. One way they find those sources is to use services that distribute their request for sources to publicists, experts, marketers and others who want to be sources. To find out when reporters are looking for information you can provide, sign up for these lists and scan them regularly. One such service is HARO (short for Help a reporter out), and is free another is press quest in the U.K.
18 Highlight your USP’s.
Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicize it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, and magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Post the press releases on one or more online press release services, too, being sure to include links to your website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of “art” (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.
19 Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field.
Send it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name, phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free, too.
20 Publicize your publicity.
Whenever you do get publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article containing the publicity. Make photocopies and mail the copies out with sales letters or any other literature you use to market your product or service. The publicity clips lend credibility to the claims you make for your products or services.
If you can take action on any or all of the above points then you are on your way to building your business into the success it should be, some of these suggestions may take you out of your comfort zone but that is always a positive thing and will make you a more capable business person.