Small start-up businesses don’t usually have the resources to launch huge advertising blitzes in multiple media formats. Unlike the big corporation and well-funded dot-coms, small enterprises do not often have the luxury of buying a full-page spread in a glossy magazine or a spot on primetime television.
For advertising to be effective in creating brand awareness for your products or services, it needs be done regularly. Given the high cost of advertising, even large companies find it hard to develop successful advertising campaigns, despite their deep pockets and huge marketing budgets. And with the seeming avalanche of ads everywhere – every imaginable billboard, empty walls of buildings, and even cars – it has increasingly become harder to attract the attention of consumers. People are simply inundated with ads!
If your small business does not have extensive cash allocation earmarked for promotion, you can stretch your marketing dollars by using non-advertising approaches to promotion. They generally require less money to implement and are often more effective. The only catch is that they require time and creativity to develop.
Whether your target market is based on a limited geographical area, or your business reaches worldwide, here are some low-cost promotional strategies that you can develop for your business.
1. Start a Contest
People love contests: it has never failed to attract people to participate and try their luck to win. Just witness the phenomenal success of game shows like “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” In business, the often used contest ‘You win if you are the 100th, 1000th or 1,000,000th customer” never fails to attract attention. For your contests to generate considerable interest both from the media and the public, you need to infuse it with fun, or even make it silly. Take for example the contest launched by one dot-com: the search for “America’s Ugliest Office.” Contests like these surely will generate considerable media interest – and remember, this is essentially free advertising.
“Free” is such a powerful word in marketing that it never fails to attract buyers. Offer free gifts with your regularly priced items, and chances are the customers become much more receptive to your products. People love to receive something for free, even if they have to pay a premium price for a more expensive item to get the freebie. This technique has been used most successfully in the beauty and cosmetics industry, which offers free gifts if you purchase an x amount of merchandise. It is much easier to entice buyers to purchase your computer systems if you bundle it with free printers, for example. Or offer free CDs for every stereo equipment purchased.
Giveaways never fail to attract customers for your business. If you know that you have an excellent product or service, and you know that consumers will love it if they just see its effectiveness, then the best way to do it is through giveaways! For consumer service businesses, you may want to offer your product for free estimates if you are in a service-oriented business. Retail businesses may hand out balloons or other novelty items to build traffic or retain customer interest.
4. Sponsor Events
Sponsor a community or civic event, or hosting a special event in your business establishment, such as a celebrity appearance or a charity fundraises. Not only is this a terrific way to introduce people to your business or maintain contact with existing customers, you can also leverage your sponsorships for community service ads, which are usually free. It also will create an aura of excitement and goodwill. You may even obtain media coverage!
5. Exclusive Offerings
Offering exclusive purchases or previews or new merchandise to existing customers is a great way to inspire a feeling of excitement and loyalty. To enhance participation, you may wish to offer a discount. If the exclusive offering is in itself extremely attractive, the discount can be small.
6. New customer offers.
Attracting new customers is one of the most difficult marketing challenges to achieve even with powerful advertising or a dedicated sales force. That’s why different businesses – national greeting card manufacturers to local oil delivery services – offer incentive pricing, freebies, or extra advertising allowances for new customers. Macy’s, for example, gives an extra 10 percent discount to new customers who sign up for their charge card. Even lawyers customarily offer a free first consultation.
7. Welcome the Newcomers.
One important market that often flies under the nose of small business owners is the new family that moved into the neighborhood. Your new neighbors are often not familiar with the businesses in the area, yet would have specific needs for products and services. If you are operating a flower shop or a financial planning business, you may want to routinely check who are moving into your area and send them a brochure or packet detailing the products and services that you offer. They may not need your products now, but you would want to be the business at the top of their minds should they need it.
If your main clientele are other businesses, you should get information on the newly formed companies, corporations and partnerships in your area. Some business publications and newspapers offer a listing of new companies, and the leads that you can generate from these listings may be invaluable and easily pay off the cost of subscribing to the publication.
8. Set up a Club.
Looking for ways to network in your community? Start your own club! Having regular get-togethers with people interested in your field allows you to connect with customers, potential partners, even competitors. You get to meet other people, listen to what customers are looking for, get to know the strategies working for your competitors, or even develop profitable business alliances. Plus, it affords you the opportunity to combat the dreaded sense of isolation when working on a home business.
If you do not have time to start your own club, look for one in your area and join them. Check out MeetUp.com, a site that organizes monthly “real life” meetings of like-minded individuals from retailers to stay at home moms in your own cities or localities.
9. Hold a Seminar or Lecture.
Whether you sell products or services, speaking in front of a group establishes yourself as an expert in your field. If you are an experienced seller at eBay, you can hold lectures on how to start an eBay business. If you consider yourself an Internet guru, you can speak about Internet marketing. Or you can give a lecture on how to develop a simple bookkeeping system if you are an accountant or bookkeeper.
Start on a low-key scale in a smaller setting such as public libraries, particularly if you have not had any experience in public speaking (or you may have a fear of public speaking). Many public libraries often hold a weekly schedule of talks, and they are constantly on a lookout for interesting topics to present to their constituents. Whether you will be speaking for 15 minutes or 2 hours, make sure that you prepare a plan organizing your lecture. Having a clear idea of what you will talk about makes you more confident and sure of yourself, and prevents any embarrassing ramblings. The more you speak, the more comfortable you will be speaking in front of an audience and more informed as to their expectations. Who knows, you can even have a second career as a successful lecturer that gets invited to talk in different parts of the country.
10. Give a Speech.
Look for opportunities for speaking engagements. This provides you with an opportunity to tout your services or your products. For example, if you are a financial planner, tailor a speech to a women’s group about retirement planning. If you own an auto shop, you could give a speech on do-it-yourself car repairs at your business.
Regardless of what you do or sell, there are promotions that are right for you. Sit down and create a list of the ones that interest you. Then prioritize them. Determine what you will do the first quarter and so on. In a short matter of time, you will be successfully promoting your business.
11. Don’t Forget Your Car!
It may sound cheesy to some, but putting your business name or website address at the back of your car can be a very inexpensive way to get your name out there. Use your car as your walking advertising billboard. The more mileage your car travels, the more number of people will have seen your ad. Who knows, the person driving right behind you may be your next best customer! People read witty car stickers – make yours instead your business name. Just make sure that the information in your car is big enough to read.
For more inexpensive marketing ideas, read 50 Free or Low Cost Ways to Market Your Small Business
Recommended Books on Marketing on the Cheap:
- Free Marketing: 101 Low and No-Cost Ways to Grow Your Business, Online and Off
- Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
- Guerrilla Social Media Marketing: 100+ Weapons to Grow Your Online Influence, Attract Customers, and Drive Profits
- Startup Guide to Guerrilla Marketing: A Simple Battle Plan for First-Time Marketers
- Small Business Owners Marketing Guide: Discover the Inexpensive, Quick, and Almost Unheard Of Ways To Explode Your Profits… That Your Ad Agency Doesn’ t Want You to Know.