Some Low-Cost Ideas to Help You Market Your Small Business That You Can Start Doing Right Now.
In celebration of Elite Office Solutions’ 35th anniversary, we’re sharing some of the business insights we’ve learned along the way. These are the things they don’t teach you in business school that make such a crucial difference – things we wish someone had told us! Some topics like social media and email didn’t even exist back in 1986.
But as we always say here at Elite Office Solutions, although some of the tools have changed, the principles are always the same:
- Engage your customers
- Make them feel confident in your products and services
- Make them want to buy from you
Running (and marketing) a small business is not always easy. Sometimes, you’ll have to try different ways to crack that nut. But persistence really does pay off, so keep at it!
This blog series will help. We’ll show you how to keep yourself motivated, how to avoid mistakes, and how to find every way possible to make your small business a success.
8 Low-Cost Ideas to Market Your Small Business
In this, our first post, we talk about how to market yourself like a rock star on an air band budget. These low-cost marketing ideas for small business will help you attract and engage new customers, and re-engage the customers you already have.
Make sure your have the basics first.
- A logo
- A website
- Business cards!
If you don’t have any of these items yet, getting them is Step 1! (Our friendly Marketing Services team can help.)
You should also have a strong brand and good customer appeal. If you’re unsure, do some research to see how you can improve yours.
Create a marketing plan.
- Sales goals
- Number of new customers
- Launch a new product or service
- Number of new visitors to your website
…or whatever metrics make sense for you.
You can have multiple metrics as well. However, the best metrics come back to sales. For example, getting 1,000 new likes on your Facebook page is nice, but it’s of little use to your business if it doesn’t generate any extra sales.
Go to where your customers are.
Hang out socially in online or in-person hobby groups, at your local Chamber of Commerce, and at similar social events. You can call this networking. You can call this self-promotion. You can call this whatever you want. But at its core, what you are doing is simply meeting other people.
You don’t want to hard-sell yourself at every encounter. But don’t hide, either. People are going to ask you what you do for a living at some point. Have a 15- or 30-second elevator pitch that says:
- Who you are
- What you do
- How you help people
Chances are, you’ll find someone who needs exactly what you offer. And it’s probably one of the most effective low-cost marketing ideas for small business out there.
Get on social media.
More and more people are finding businesses like yours through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more. This is an extension of the step above – go where your customers are. Well, your customers are on social media!
Social media is one of the newest low-cost marketing ideas for small business. Learning how to use social media to market your business is fairly easy. There are tons of resources online, so we won’t rehash them here. But here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Post images of people using your products (you can get them to submit them – see the next step below!)
- Share posts from other people on topics that align with your business AND will be of interest to your customers
- Start a Twitter or Instagram feed featuring your pet
One thing you shouldn’t do though is a hard sell all the time. It’s kind of like showing up to a cocktail party and asking everyone to buy your product. People mostly want to relax and interact with their friends. It’s not the right time or place to give them a sales pitch.
However, sharing personal news about your business or even about your day is perfectly acceptable. People will find out what you do through your stories, and they’ll find you if they need to.
(Read here about the 80/20 Rule for social media marketing posts.)
Engage your customers.
Don’t just talk to your customers; engage them. Intrusive advertising isn’t always going to win you sales.
For example, you can engage people through Instagram and Facebook by posting incredible photos or asking pointed (but fun!) questions. Share your blog posts on social media too, so people know where you’re coming from. It’s a fun way for customers to engage with you, and a great way for you to market your small business.
Some other quick ideas:
- Set up a contest in your storefront or on your website to collect names and emails of potential clients
- Create a free download such as a white paper or printable quotation from a famous person
- Ask customers to submit photos of themselves enjoying your product
The idea is to create a fun and/or informative activity for your customers. This will prompt them to reach out to you (by entering your contest, submitting their photos, etc.) AND will reinforce your name, brand, and product/service offerings in the process.
If you’re holding a drawing or a contest, be sure your web address is somewhere in your post so that they can reach you.
Become a thought leader.
You trust your doctor. You trust the woman in the TEDTalk video. You trust the guy who has a book on the bestseller list. These are all examples of thought leaders – experts in their fields who are passing along information you care about.
Becoming a thought leader is one of the best ways you can build credibility with your customers. If you come across as authoritative and engaging, your customers will start to see you as “the best” in your field. And it doesn’t matter what you do. Engineers, medical professionals, lawyers – they are all obvious thought leaders.
But what if you run a hot dog stand on the corner of Main and 1st Avenue? Maybe you can make insightful observations about the people you see every day, and the news they’re talking about. Suddenly, people will want to buy your hot dogs, simply because you’re engaging them with interesting information.
You can become a thought leader by:
- Writing a blog
- Creating a video blog (or “vlog”) – people love watching videos!
- Start a podcast
- Start an Instagram feed centered on your industry with an image and a pithy insight
- Creating a newsletter or email mailing list people can sign up to with tips, specials, or other content related to your industry
There are many other ideas that are just a Google away…
Get testimonials and referrals.
Referrals and testimonials are another example of a low-cost (or even zero-cost!)) way to market your small business. Most customers react positively to “social proof” – proof that another customer before them had a great experience with you. There are several easy ways to get that social proof:
- Ask past customers/clients to give you a testimonial to post on your website
- Put your Business Profile on Google My Business
- Once your Google Business Profile is up, ask customers to give you a five-star rating
- Ask customers/clients to give you a referral – you can even give incentives like a percentage off their next purchase
Partner with other businesses.
This step is overlooked by many small businesses. Some owners see themselves in competition with each other. Of course, in many ways this is true. But there can be some advantages to partnering – food courts flourish because everyone goes to that one spot, boosting sales for all restaurants.
However, there are also opportunities to partner with complementary businesses. For example, if you own an ice cream parlor, maybe you can do a cross-promotion with the nearby movie theater, pretzel vendor, or steak house.
Partnering with other businesses helps you:
- Boost business for each other
- Double (or triple, or quadruple…!) your marketing reach
- Provide word of mouth advertising – much like referrals above
- Use extremely low-cost marketing ideas for small business – especially if you are splitting costs
- Create an image of your small business as part of a larger community
And really, isn’t that what engaging customers is all about? Serving and being part of their community?
Start Rocking Your Small Business Marketing Right Now!
This is a short list of things you can do to start marketing yourself like a rock star. It’s meant to inspire you – there are a TON of low-cost marketing ideas for small business you can use to get your name out there.
But if you’re overwhelmed with your own day-to-day tasks or would like the professional guidance of marketing professionals, Elite Office Solutions can take the reins. Hey, even rock bands need help from time to time!
Find out more about our Marketing Services or contact us for a free 15-minute initial consultation. We can discuss your business, give you suggestions, and show you how we can help you attract new customers and retain the ones you have.