You own a small business and you are trying to build it. You are earning enough to keep going, but it is still early, and there isn’t a lot of extra money for marketing after you pay bills and reinvest in the business. You know, though, that marketing is critical to helping the business grow. Sound familiar? It should, because it is a dilemma faced by so many small business owners who did not have a huge infusion of cash to invest when they started up. For those business owners in that situation, here are some simple steps you can take to market your business with little or no cash outlay.
Develop a “Quick Pitch”
Quick pitches are very brief speeches that are packed with carefully-chosen power words and phrases that immediately define your business. They are also called elevator pitches, because they should be no longer than it takes to ride with someone in an elevator – no more than about 30 seconds.
One of their great benefits is that they don’t over-tax the ever-shortening attention span of the average listener. The challenge is to generate interest in your product or service, so it is important to put the time into making every word count. Done well, this technique can translate into a great return on an investment of less than a minute!
Offer Reciprocal Promotion
Your community is filled with other small businesses, all trying to accomplish the same thing you are. Try to develop relationships with some of these business owners and see if you can agree to cross-promote. This means they will promote your business to their customers and vice versa. This technique works especially well in businesses that are somewhat related but not direct competitors. For example, I know of a locksmith service in Ft Lauderdale who developed cross-promotional relationships with several local used car dealers.
Remember, you are a member of a community. One of the most powerful ways to get the attention of the people in that community who could (and should) be your customers, is to give them something useful. Perhaps there is a particular cause that is important to the community to which you can contribute some volunteer time. Maybe there is a children’s sports team you can sponsor. Whatever it is you choose to do, try to make it something that will resonate with the segment of the community you are trying to win as customers.
Network – and Network Some More
Networking is a constant process, and you don’t see immediate results, but over time, this is a powerful way to build your business. Start with people you know. They can introduce you to others who can be helpful. Networking can help you raise you profile in the community which can lead to referrals, and increased business. And, speaking of referrals, don’t be shy! Ask for them. Most people like to be helpful, and you may be surprised by how many referrals you get if you just ask for them.
Coupons are a simple way to help attract new or repeat customers to your business. The more times a customer comes in, the more chances you have at building lasting relationships that will be the mainstay of your business.
The nice thing about coupons is the financial control you have. Sure, you are giving something away, but only if someone makes a purchase, and you can set the percentage of discount so that your sale is still financially sound. Sometimes you may decide to take a bit of a loss on a coupon drive in order to generate a bigger splash, but that choice is always yours to make.
Offer Free Samples
You know what you have to offer has value. You are positive that once people use your product or service, they will want to use it again. So, give it away! Whether you are selling products or services, people find “free” hard to resist. Done right, you will make it up in growth before you know it.