I’ve found that when first starting up, marketing is such an important component of your business success, for both attracting and retaining customers. The good news is that you don't have to spend a lot. I've seen many great business ideas fail because they thought that they needed to- and did- drop a bucket load of cash on expensive advertisements on TV, radio, in print or in other expensive marketing strategies. Whether you're thinking about starting a business or you’re already in the process of starting up, there are many activities that you should take advantage of to get the word out about your product or service. And, you can succeed without the billion-dollar muscle! Below are 7 low cost marketing strategies.
1. Word of Mouth: Provide your customer with a great product, service, and experience and they'll tell their friends and family about it - hence, "word-of-mouth." The best part is, word-of-mouth marketing won't cost you a thing!
2. Referrals: Bonuses are a low-cost incentive that reward customers with discounts for referring their friends or family. Create brochures or coupons to hand out to customers. Give some thought to ways you can create buzz for your product or service; focus on a unique attribute or selling point. Even if it's just a beautifully printed 5-by-7 post card, any copy shop (such as FedEx or Kinko's) can print them in next to no time and for a small fee.
3. Social Media: This strategy is about connecting with your potential and existing customers in an informal way. The goal is to create a connection, sometimes emotional, with the person that is separate from the company website, which can be more formal and structured. For starters, create a Facebook fan page, which is free. This will allow you to post company developments and articles of interest to your prospective and current clients. With millions of users, setting up your business profile on Facebook is a no brainer (Example: Wicked Start's Facebook). If you like to write, consider a blog and write about topics that are of interest to your target market (Example: Wicked Start's blogs). Other social media to consider are YouTube where you can post videos about your product or service which creates an opportunity for customers to see you (Example: Wicked Start's YouTube channel). And finally, set up a twitter account and build a following by offering links to interesting sites, stories, research or articles that your ‘fan’ base will find useful (Example: Wicked Start’s Twitter account).
4. Marketing Partners: Marketing partners are other businesses with which you cultivate a business relationship to cross-promote products. The expectation is that you will increase business for each other due to the relationship. Generally, you'll share some characteristics with your marketing partner, such as common customers in different markets, but you won't be direct competitors. Cross-promotion can be as simple as providing brochures to each other's customers. An example might be a cleaning service leaving brochures in a high rise rental building in New York.
5. Website: Every business needs a website. This is your calling card. It’s how customers are going to find out about you and learn about your product or service. Today, everyone searches online for everything. Make sure that you have a web presence as this can be your primary sales channel. There are many low costs solutions for setting up a website such as Intuit.com, 1and1.com, Wordpress.com. Remember to “Optimize” your website. This is known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO. The goal is to make sure that when a potential customer types in search terms on Google, Yahoo or Bing, that are relevant to your business, you want to be one of the first businesses results to be returned. Getting a top listing will mean making sure that keywords relevant to your business are included on the pages in your website.
6. Public Relations (PR) : Public relations is something that you can do to get the word out to your community about your business. Start by issuing a press release, which is a document detailing something new or unique about your product or service along with contact information. You can provide this to the local newspapers; national newspapers or any other media outlet that might like to write about you. Further, reach out directly to reporters, writers, and bloggers and offer them a ‘hook’, which is a unique angle to make it newsworthy. Your goal is to get them to write about you. This strategy can take some time but doesn’t really cost you anything. You can pay $200 or more to put your press release on PRWeb.com but it’s hit or miss. I recently put out a release on PRWeb and ultimately got a feature published in Entrepreneur Magazine so in my case, it was well worth the $200.
All of these strategies can be found in more detail in a Guide that I wrote. Happy Reading!