Time to Startup!

The BizFilings blog covering business tips and trends.

5 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring

Published on Mar 3, 2011

Summary

Read 5 Ways to Market Your Small Business on a Shoestring at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
Small Business MarketingEffective marketing does not require a fat wallet. Apply a few basic principles and use them to spread the word about your company in a few simple ways, and a great marketing plan can happen with a very small investment. The most effective marketing starts with a strong grasp of the basics:
  1. Tell the truth. If your products or services aren't good enough to compete in the marketplace, improve them, DON'T misrepresent them. Sure, you'll want to present them in the best possible light, but don't pull out the airbrush. Even if the increasingly stringent regulations against deceptive advertising don't catch up with you, unhappy customers eventually will. And it can take years to shake off an online review that claims you are dishonest.
  2. Keep it simple. You've heard it a thousand times because it's true. Advertising messages must be short and simple to be remembered. The currency in today's marketplace is not information but attention. To grab it AND keep it, you must use short, simple messaging.
  3. Close the deal. When you can move the customer to the moment of sale on the spot—a window display that draws the customer inside, or "Click here to buy!" on a website—do it. But even when you can't draw a straight line, there are countless ways to encourage the customer forward—location or contact information, store hours, coupons, limited time offers.
  4. Be consistent. The name of your business is not enough. Choose a logo, a font, a graphic identity, and a clear message and stick with them to anchor your identity in the mind of the potential customer.
  5. Be professional. Don't skimp on the quality of your print and web materials. Extra dollars invested in professional presentation are well-spent.
Once you've internalized the basics, here are a few ways to get a big marketing bang from a very few bucks:
  1. Business cards and letterhead. Keep your graphic identity unified and in front of your audience of current and potential customers by investing a small amount in professional-quality cards and stationery. Use them consistently and at every opportunity.
  2. Gift certificates allow your current customers to bring you new ones. And once the certificate is bought, you've made the sale.
  3. Brochures, doorhangers, flyers, buttons, bumper stickers, balloons… All of these can represent the essence of your products and services when you're not around to do it yourself. Countless local businesses (the bank, the local grocery, the photo shop) and meeting spaces offer a place for brochures and notices, and a clever or catchy bumper sticker can literally send your name all over town. At the very least, it's another opportunity to "touch" potential customers with your name and identity.
  4. "ValPak"-style mailbox campaigns are extremely effective for certain types of businesses, and the cost per unit is low.
  5. Google and Facebook ads. Again, these are more effective for some businesses than others. If yours includes a customer base that is identifiable by location, age, gender, religion, taste in books, movies, or television shows, politics, or any of a dozen other demographic identifiers, look into these targeted online ads. Pay per click rather than per impression for the best per-dollar return.
Above all, remember that marketing is not just about making the sale. It's also about that "touch," the opportunity to get your name in front of potential customers as often as possible. A well-conceived, low-cost marketing plan can do exactly that. Have you discovered cost effective ways to market your business?  We'd love to hear your stories. More advertising ideas at Toolkit.com