Marketing is often the first thing to take a hit when you’re running a business on a tight budget. However, a lack of funds doesn’t need to result in poor advertising campaigns and floundering sales. Here are some practical ways you can market your start-up for little to no expense.
1. Get listed
Offline listings in local phone books and directories are still relevant for small businesses today, particularly if your target demographic is the over 60s.
However, 81% of people will research online before making a purchase. It’s vital to get your business listed on Google places, Bing local and Yahoo local as a minimum. But there are many more website directories that will allow you to list your business or services for free. The more listings you can generate the better. Not only will they boost your online visibility, but they’ll also give your brand authority and trustworthiness as a respected business.
Try starting with LocalTabs, FourSquare, Yelp, Merchant Circle, Web Local, Yellowpages.com, Local.com, Bizjournals.com, Insider Pages and Super pages.
2. Sign-up to social media and chat forums
Building your online community costs nothing but your time. Set-up business profiles on all the platforms that are relevant to your business: Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter are a must for any business; B2B works well on LinkedIn and creative industries do well on Instagram and Pinterest.
Build your community by joining local groups and engaging with discussions. Find influencers in your industry and local area, follow them and comment on their posts. Offer useful advice in relevant groups and become a respected and trusted expert in your field. You can extend your reach by becoming a regular voice in chat forums and blogs that are relevant to your industry.
3. Go guerilla
With a little creativity and flexibility guerrilla marketing can be a great way for businesses to connect with customers and get media attention at very little cost. It could involve placing adverts in unusual or unexpected places, engaging with consumers through various forms of street marketing, or using your imagination to create some sort of viral buzz online.
A great example of successful guerrilla marketing is the buzz created online about The Blair Witch Project. With very little budget, the creators set-up an internet campaign that focused on spreading rumours about the fictitious legend of the Blair Witch. As a result the movie grossed $250 million – all with a budget of just $50,000 to make and promote the film.
4. Rent a billboard
Many local businesses can make efficient use of outdoor advertising to reach thousands of potential customers.
Just one billboard or bus shelter ad in the right location allows you to target specific demographics in a local area. Advertising your business in a prominent place is also a powerful way to build brand recognition in your local area as well as ensuring guaranteed exposure.
In the past renting billboards, bus shelter panels or similar was an expensive and fairly inflexible way of marketing that only big budget brands had access to. However, small businesses now have access to online platforms that rent individual advertising spots by the week, making the medium much more suitable for smaller budgets.
5. Build a relationship with local press & bloggers
Local press are a powerful tool to get your business noticed, and you don’t always have to pay through the nose for paid advertising. Open a dialogue with local journalists by enquiring about paid advertising and move on to ask about any free business listings.
Your local press is likely to be running on a tight budget, so free content and article ideas are often gratefully accepted by journalists. Submit press releases for any events or community work with which you’re involved, pitch stories via helpareporter.com and network wherever possible.
Similarly, reach out to local bloggers to benefit from their influence on niche communities. You can support local bloggers by offering your products and services for free. For example, a family restaurant might offer a local ‘mummy blogger’ a free meal for her family in exchange for a write-up on her blog and shares on social media. Develop this beyond a single review and foster a relationship of guest posting and linking to each other’s blogs.
6. Keep in touch with existing customers
Keeping an existing customer is much easier than winning a new customer. Some great ways to foster customer loyalty are to keep in touch with regular email updates and exclusive discounts, offer vouchers on Facebook messenger bots, provide free on-going customer support or add customer loyalty cards to mobile apps.
7. Earn referrals
Referrals and good reviews are worth their weight in gold. They offer potential customers an unbiased account of your reliability and capability as a business. Encourage customers to refer you by writing reviews on websites like Facebook, Google Places, or Yelp.
You could offer an incentive to do so with a referral scheme. For example, many hair salons offer discounts for those who refer customers.
8. Get involved in your community
Be prominent in your local community by attending and volunteering at events, joining local business forums and sponsoring local charities. You could run a stall at a school fair, offer your products or services as a raffle prize, or sponsor a high school football team.
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Be a good citizen, make new connections and build the profile of your company in doing so. And don’t forget to shout about your community involvement on social media – consumers are pleased to support a local business that benefits their own community.