|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Low-Cost Small Business Marketing
Small businesses looking to grow their revenue and market share have a variety of free and low-cost marketing options that will require spending time instead of a lot of money. While that offers small companies potential advantages, it also requires small business owners to think carefully about how they can make the most effective investments of their time.
For small businesses, effective marketing involves a blend of online and offline activities that increase the visibility of their company, promote their expertise and help them build engagement with prospects and customers.
Start With a Plan
An important first step in any marketing program is thinking about your customers to make sure your efforts will reach the right audience. Are your customers mostly local? Are they other businesses? Where do they connect online? Can you interact in person?
If, for instance, your services are mostly B2B, you’ll want to focus your efforts on LinkedIn. This will likely entail producing content and participating in groups dedicated to your industry, or your city or region. Groups will offer a way to connect with peers and potential customers. If your city doesn’t have a LinkedIn group, consider starting one.
Your content should be a mix of articles and videos that offer educational content for your potential prospects and customers. These can be explanations of best practices or how-tos that help them in their jobs, or answers to common questions you receive from customers.
You can also provide educational content by hosting webinars where you discuss an interesting topic for a half-hour to 45 minutes. Webinars can help your business in a variety of ways, including attracting new prospects, collecting email addresses for your promotional lists, and providing content you can excerpt for other platforms.
Ask for Referrals
Another powerful tool that a lot of companies overlook is asking for referrals. Regardless of whether you serve businesses or consumers, asking your current customers for the names of, or introductions to, people who could also benefit from your services or prospects is great way to generate leads.
If your business is consumer-focused, consider a small incentive, such as a discount coupon, to thank existing customers for incentives.
You can promote your business by building informal partnerships with businesses that offer complementary services. For instance, a wedding photographer can work with a catering hall or a printer to share joint referrals, or to plan a webinar or an in-person event that helps each company attract new customers.
Think about what your customers need in addition to your products or services, and think about the companies that provide those services. There could be an opportunity for you to work together.
Hosting in-person events has long been a marketing staple for small businesses in a variety of industries, such as a financial planners holding seminars that include a lunch or a dinner.
These classes can be a good way to introduce yourself to prospects while promoting your expertise about a specific topic. In addition, a good class can help build word-of-mouth about your business.
Similarly, sponsoring local charity events — such as road races, youth sports teams and church carnivals — is another great way to meet potential customers and to promote your business in the community.
Any of these efforts can provide great opportunities to generate leads, connect with prospects and help your business grow.
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