If you have a new local business, what is the best way to get the word out and find customers, especially if you have shoestring budget?
Marketing on a shoestring budget means that you need to be creative, innovative and think WAY outside the box. Marketing doesn’t always mean spending tons of money to get the word out (though of course, it helps as well). There are some things that you can do to reach your target audience and present yourself as a progressive and forward thinking company without breaking the bank.
Here are some shoestring marketing ideas:
Build a website. A website is a must for any new business today. You don’t need a super fancy website with lots of bells and whistles. However, it is important that you create a highly functional and effective website, which you can do even on a shoestring budget as long as you are willing to invest time into it. Read my post about “How I Created an Effective Web Site for Under $100”. The key is to ensure that your website has all the critical elements to succeed.
Optimize your website for local search. You can’t put up a website and expect people to come. You need to put a lot of effort in order to reach your target local market. One important strategy is to make sure that you are visible in Google Maps (read the post “How to Rank Well in Google Maps” ). Also create profiles in various local directories, such as Google Places , Angie’s List , Yelp , Yellow Pages / and other local directories that you can find.
Write a press release targeting your local media. Make sure that you have news worthy release — a creative gimmick, a fresh spin or something very unique that will attract the attention of editors and writers. Start by making a list of journalists, bloggers and writers in your local papers, magazines, radio stations and find out who reports on local human interest stories. Get some ideas from the post “How to Get Press Coverage for Your Business” .
Do work for free. Yes, for free! But even if you don’t get paid for the work, take this opportunity to gain more experience and improve your business. If you’re running a home staging business, for example, request permission to get photos from the work you’ve done that you can put in your portfolio and website. If you’ve just started a lawn mowing service, offer one free service if they can refer you to a paying customer. Make sure that you ask for testimonials – even encourage these customers getting your freebie to post positive reviews in your Yelp or other local directories.
“Opening of Small Business Store” Create opportunities for people to learn what you do. Share tips, tricks and your knowledge as those things can be pretty viral. Create video tutorials or podcasts, always making sure that you highlight the location and target area of your business.
Present yourself as an expert. Partner with a local association or grassroots groups and present seminars. To entice attendance, offer something of value. If you’re a new contractor, for example, you can conduct a seminar on how to conserve energy.
Think coupons. With the tight economy, consumers are looking for ways to save money. What better way to reach out to these customers than offering them with coupons? Your coupons can either be a discount or special offer that you can use to build traffic to your business, lure away customers from your competitors, or make the customer more willing to try you out. There are a number of ways to distribute coupons – you can use companies such as Valpak, put them in your website, or team up with other businesses in the area and do a tit-for-tat arrangement to create a win-win situation for the both of you.
Always look for opportunities to cross promote. Find businesses that compliment — but do not compete with – yours and team up with them. Cross promotions can help you compete with the big boys dominating your market. Your cross promotions can involve swapping packets of business cards and brochures and showing them in each others’ place of businesses. Another way is to be including flyers in customers’ shopping bags. Or it can be cross promotion through bundled services, such as a special discount for customers who buy from you and your partner. There’s a number of ways you can work together with other businesses in the area.
Use car decals to advertise your business. You can also turn your cars into a walking advertising billboard for your business. It sounds cheesy, but it can be very effective in promoting your local business. You can wrap your entire car with the ad, or use a magnetic decal that you can remove at any time. However, you need to consider your zoning laws and restrictions of your homeowner’s associations as some do not allow business vehicles (even if they’re your personal vehicles but if they have advertising on them) to be parked in the streets, or even in the open driveway.
Be active and network with other business owners. Join and actively participate in local business associations, including Chamber of Commerce. Your exposure will allow you to meet other business owners who may be able to work with you to get customers and the word out about your business.
There’s a lot more shoestring strategies out there. Please feel free to add the inexpensive marketing and advertising strategies that have worked for your business.