When you hang out the “open for business” sign for your venture, it would be nice if people noticed and customers simply walked in the door. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Whether you’re an ecommerce site, a home-based business or a retail merchant with a storefront location, you have to get people’s attention and tell your story, making creative and consistent small business marketing ideas a vital part of your business strategy.
Traditional advertising can be expensive, and in an uncertain economy, many small businesses have had to slash their marketing budgets because of cash flow concerns. However, when times are tough, it’s even more important to keep your business brand front and center.
When the economy is struggling, clients and customers have less money to spend. This means that when they’re ready to buy, you want your business to be at the top of their list. Social media is undoubtedly one of the most effective and affordable ways to engage your customers and keep your brand top-of-mind, but it’s not the only way. Here are five of my favorite tried and true small business marketing ideas that can help you promote your business without breaking the bank.
1. Ask for reviews and referrals.
A satisfied customer can be your best source of new business, so don’t be shy about asking for referrals. The majority of people say they are willing to provide a referral if asked, but very few take the initiative to do it on their own. Referrals make it easier to get your ‘foot in the door’ with new customers, so ask existing patrons for positive reviews online or to just tell their friends in passing. If you aren’t asking, then you’re missing opportunities to build your business.
2. Network all around town.
One of my social media followers recently asked me what I thought about attending local networking events, such as those held by the community chamber of commerce. My answer: love them! I’m a huge fan of networking. I don’t think there is any better way to build a business than to get out there, shake some hands and get to know people. Networking requires a time commitment, and it doesn’t provide instant gratification, but a strong network is one of the greatest assets any independent business owner can have.
3. Become a subject matter expert.
Many people hate the thought of giving a speech in front of a group. However, there are myriad organizations looking for qualified, subject-matter experts who can make a presentation. So my advice is to take a deep breath and volunteer. You don’t have to be a pro as long as the information you share is helpful to the audience. And the upside is the more you do it, the easier it gets. Plus, giving a speech positions you as a credible authority in your field. A word of caution: Don’t make your presentation a sales pitch. You’ll never get asked back, and you’ll turn your audience off!
If the thought of public speaking makes you nervous, try implementing these 11 public-speaking tips to qualm your nerves and knock your presentation out of the park.
4. Give away free samples/trials.
When a potential customer has the opportunity to experience your product or service and likes it, chances are they’ll want to purchase more. Don’t be afraid to give someone a free trial or a sample, as there’s a good chance you’ll get your money back and then some. In today’s economy, people are more comfortable purchasing something they’ve been able to experience first.
5. Create buzz with public relations.
I started my corporate career in the field of public relations, and the industry has changed dramatically because of technology. Today, a small business owner can accomplish a lot without hiring a professional firm. Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out, where you can respond to reporters’ queries who are looking for story ideas and resources. Some are small media opportunities, but others are major media outlets. Getting your business mentioned in the media builds credibility and helps you stand out from the competition.
These five, inexpensive small business marketing ideas will help you engage customers, build relationships and ultimately keep your brand top-of-mind. It’s not always about the money you spend with marketing; it’s about the time and effort you put into it and above all, the relevance it has for your customers.