Marketing is key for any business to expand its customer base and profits, but it can also cost a chunk of change. We assume you’re already leveraging a Facebook page and tweeting on Twitter. What about some other ways to promote your business with little or no money outlaid? Here are 10 ideas almost any small-business owner can use for maximum marketing power.
- Donate to nonprofits. Give your products or services (often in coupon form) to a nonprofit organization sponsoring an auction, with proceeds going to charity. The name of your business will be prominently displayed, you help others, and donations are tax-deductible. Virtually every school in your area throws at least one of these events every year.
- Get interns to do the work for you. College and grad school students majoring in business need experience and are often willing (and excited) to help you market your business for free. Contact your nearby college and ask if its business department has an internship program. Students can get class credit, and you get some of the latest marketing techniques out there applied to your business, free of charge.
- Help other employees. Offer incentives to the employees of nearby big businesses. Say your restaurant is down the street from a telecom customer-service call center; offer them 20 percent off meals if they flash their business card. Call corporate headquarters and ask how you can offer discounts to employees. They’ll do the promoting for you.
- Host educational events. Partner with companies that target the same audience to host seminars and classes. For example, your marketing company can partner with an accounting or law firm to hold a seminar for other small businesses about “strategies for surviving the recession.” It’s a cost-effective way to build a relationship with partners, gain referrals and build up your client list.
- Leverage existing customers. Use current clients as a marketing tool to gain new ones. Give people a discount or a free gift if they bring a friend to one of your events. If someone buys your wares, give them a coupon and suggest they send it to someone who could use it.
- Make a video. Create a short but compelling video (three minutes or less) that succinctly explains your product or service. Make sure it not only informs, but also entertains viewers, and personalizes you and your company. No expensive video gear required — all you need is a cheap video camera and a sense of humor. Then post the video on your website, your business’ Facebook page, YouTube, and other video-sharing sites.
- Send out hand-written cards. Whether it’s to say “thanks for taking a meeting with me” or “I appreciate your business,” the personal touch does wonders in the digital age. An old-fashioned, handwritten card really helps you stick out and remain memorable in people’s minds.
- Sponsor a local sports team. Buy team uniforms or gear for a soccer, baseball or other sports team in your community. You get the team’s members, families, and fans as potential customers.
- Use charity to grow your mailing list. Combine a charity drive with a bonus for customers when they give you their mailing information. One example: Soldiers in Afghanistan often go days without the luxury of a shower. Have customers bring in a package of wet wipes to get entered into a prize drawing (be generous with the prize) if they sign up for your email newsletter. The troops benefit, customers benefit, and your mailing list expands.
- Write for trade publications. An article in your local business publication, a blog, or a trade magazine focused on your industry magazine demonstrates your expertise, and positions you as the go-to person for your product or service.
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