Three inexpensive ways to market your small business

You’re on a tight budget when you open a small business. You’ve put in the majority of your resources into your core business. Is it even possible to market effectively with minimal resources? How can you get the word out about your business without going broke?
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort (i.e. sweat equity), you can market your small business without spending much. Really, I repeat …if you’re working with a small budget you can still get the word out about your business, you just have to be very tactical about each decision on where to spend your marketing dollars and make sure you marketing efforts can be tracked and measured.

Here are three tips to get the word out about your small business on a limited budget:

Make sure your business can be found online.

First of all, remember you are building your business in an era of consumerism. Seventy percent or more of your potential customers are looking for your type of business online. They are searching for you and typically that is on search engines such as Google or Bing. Google is known for their mission of organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful. You want to make sure when they search – they find your business listing first. Participating in most online directories is free to do. You just need a few hours set aside to claim your listings and then add your information and images.

Why are these listings necessary you ask? Well, potential customers are doing four types of searches. They are either searching for your business by name, by type of service you offer (like massage or barbering). They could be searching on location such as barber shops in Philadelphia or they may be searching based upon a problem they need to solve “full yard cleanup landscapers”.
Create content on your directory listings that has the specific search terms and information that your potential customers will be searching for online. You can create your own custom content or you can repurpose content from credible sources to get you started. Make sure you give credit to the original content creator.

Take your best guess on covering the majority of their search needs by defining your audience and how you will reach them. You may need to start with a smaller audience to learn the best way to attract and then convert them to your business. You may find that your ideal customer is using Google and Yelp for business searches. Therefore, claim the social sites that will have the greatest impact on your ideal customer.

Read more about improving your small business visibility online and online directory listings for small business.

Leverage your business connections, start networking and ask for referrals.

This activity will take more time but it’s worth the effort. Start by attend networking events. When you network you’re building business connections and gaining exposure. Start by participating in one or two networking events. Choose events where you know the type of customer you want to attract is participating. If attending is cost prohibitive ask the organizers for alternatives. Many events you can try before you buy- ask if you can attend for free or at a discount as a first time attendee. For chamber events association conferences- always go as an attendee first to get a pulse on the event.

Practice your patter i.e. know how to explain what you do in 5 seconds or less. THEN spend the rest of your time listening. This is the time to listen up and look for synergies- this is not the time to sell. There is no stronger way to build relationships than taking a genuine interest in other human beings and allowing them to share their stories with you. It’s human nature for people to take precisely as much interest in you as they believe you’re taking in them.

You can use relationship marketing tools such as eNurturing by to follow up on the new found contacts. You’ll want to foster these new relationships and see how many new customers or referrals you get from each networking event. This will help you decide which events are worthwhile for you to attend again in the future.
Always practice reciprocity when you attend networking events. If you want someone to help you with a new business connection then you must equally open the door for them and introduce them to a connection you have. In essence, you need to make a referral to get a referral.

Read more on networking opportunities for your small business.

Use relationship marketing tools like eNurturing email marketing.

When your run your own business- time is at a premium and you need to calculate opportunity costs. Ask yourself what is the value of what I’m doing right now versus the value of the next best alternative.
Using an easy to use CRM system can automate many of your business and marketing workflows. Client relationship marketing systems can help you get the word out by keeping up with the necessary customer follow-up.
By definition a CRM system is an internet based software solution that helps organize the components of your service business and relationship building tools for clients and prospects.
A good CRM system should offer the following features:

  • Online scheduling including appointment reminders and confirmations
  • Notes management to keep not only session notes but also allow for open comments to add key information about your client that you learn over time. You can use this new intelligence to create WOW moments.
  • Service management- services and descriptions for your online booking website
  • Relationship marketing- keeps your business top of mind with customers in a non-sales and more authentic way in between appointments.

A good example of effective relationship marketing is eNurturing by Effective marketing is all about staying connected, building rapport and elevating your brand. GoNotes will keep you connected with your clients and sphere of influence by sending relevant and timely emails that are designed to engage, start conversations and get your customers to take action. eNurturing by GoNotes will strengthen your client relationships and can be passed along to generate referrals.

Read more about essential business and marketing tools for solopreneurs.