You’ve scraped together every cent that you have to get your business up and running but have you included marketing costs in your budget?
If not, know that there is a way for you to still promote your business and not have to try and find additional funds. There is always an opportunity available, regardless of the industry that you are in.
“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas will not get you anywhere.” – Lee Iacocca
How to Evaluate Small Business Marketing Ideas
Before you start trying to tick every marketing box possible you need to take the time to understand which marketing ideas are going to give you the fastest and best return on investment.
Consider the following points before you decide which marketing opportunities will work best for your business:
- Objectives. Your marketing needs to match your objectives so refer back to your marketing plan to remind yourself what these are. Do you want to build strong relationships with clients, do you want to increase your sales by a large percentage in the next 6 months or do you want to establish your brand as an expert in your industry?
- Customers. It might seem obvious but many entrepreneurs tend to overlook their customers and don’t analyse exactly how they are spending their time. Another aspect that needs to be considered is when you want to reach your customers. This will also help you to decide on your marketing options.
- Product. The type of product or service that you will be marketing will also play a role in how and when you should market it to potential customers. When would your users be in the best frame of mind to receive information on your offering?
- Cost. Obviously cost is not going to be your biggest concern if you have a very small or no budget at all but there might be some small business marketing ideas that will require you to fork out a small amount of money to get the benefits that you’re looking for so keep this in mind and perhaps see where you could possible get the funds for this.
- Time. You need to ask yourself how much time you have available to spend on your marketing efforts as this too will contribute to the marketing ideas that you decide on. Some platforms such as social media require daily monitoring and activity while getting someone to hand out brochures is a whole other ball game.
- Competition. Where are your competitors currently advertising? If you’re looking at the same marketing platforms that they are currently present on then ask yourself how you can be better. Otherwise, take the time to consider options that they might not have considered yet.
Small Business Marketing Idea Options
By deciding on the right mix of marketing ideas you can really give your start-up a fighting chance so forget the idea of marketing being expensive and difficult and check out some of the many free small business marketing ideas that you can take advantage of.
1. Get Networking
You’ll be surprised at how many small business networking events are taking place all over the country every week so take advantage of this. These events will not only give you access to potential customers but they offer you an opportunity to market your business for the price of an admission fee if anything. Contact your local chamber of commerce or keep an eye on websites like the National Small Business Chamber.
- Don’t try too hard to impress people at a networking event. Being yourself will earn you more respect.
- Avoid interrupting others. Listening is important as it shows you are genuinely interested in what someone has to say. Don’t answer your cellphone or stop to greet someone else while they’re speaking either.
- Be prepared. Walk into an event with business cards and be able to answer basic questions about your business to avoid looking like an amateur.
2. Design a Free Website
Almost every business you come across today as some sort of a website because most consumers tend to turn to the web when they need information. Luckily, setting up a basic website is a lot easier than you think. Sites such as WordPress, Wix, Weebly and Yola are all perfect options for creating a simple online presence for your business. If you are looking for something more advanced, you can choose to purchase a specific WordPress template for a small cost that will give you the online features that you need.
- Choose a website address that explains or gives browsers an idea of what your website is about.
- Simpler is better. Don’t go overboard with colours or how much information you include on your site.
- Make it easy for browsers to contact you.
3. Create a Business Card
Many entrepreneurs tend to overlook the smaller, tried and tested marketing ideas that are still very effective. Business cards are very affordable to print and it could mean the difference between missing an opportunity at a networking event and building a relationship with a long term client.
- Colours and fonts are important so think twice before you choose a font that is hard to read.
- Provide the receiver with more than one way to contact you so think about including your landline, cell and email address.
- Present your card properly. Don’t push it towards someone over a table or leave it on their notebook. Hand it to them face-to-face wherever possible.
- Business cards don’t need to be boring. You can really get creative and design it in an unusual shape that represents your brand.
4. Write Up a Storm
A great way to establish yourself and your brand as an industry expert is to find blogs that you might be able to contribute to. Create a list of some key blogs that have good amounts of traffic and create a few pieces that you can submit to the blog owner but make sure that whatever you write is of benefit to their readers and that you’re not just punting your own product. Another option is to start your own blog if you already have a website. Update it weekly with content that your users will enjoy reading and will pass onto their friends, family and colleagues.
- Always make your content relevant to your audience as well as to what your business does.
- Online content is usually scanned so take advantages of sub-headers and bullet points where possible
- If you’re submitting a blog post to another website try and get the email of the person who will be making the decision to publish it or not to find out if they have any criteria that you’ll need to meet
- There is always a way to draw a reader in regardless of what you are writing about. Find your uniqueness.
5. Become the Talk of the Town
Having a presence on social media is another free small business marketing idea to take advantage of. This doesn’t mean that you should register your business on every social network possible but instead select one or two where you know that potential customers like to spend their time. Social media pages need to be monitored and updated on a regular basis so make sure that you have the time to do this or at least have someone who can attend to any queries that you might receive.
- Make sure that your social media pages are complete. Don’t leave your avatar blank, fill in your profile and include a way for users to get in touch with you
- Always respond to comments, questions or complaints directed at you within 24 hours
- Thank users for good feedback and find out how you can assist them when the feedback isn’t so great
- Keep promotional tweets to a minimum or you won’t end up with much of an online following
6. Create Loyalty
Loyalty programmes are the perfect way to keep customers coming back and it doesn’t have to cost much either. Decide whether your loyalty card will be printed or online and how customers will earn points. You should also make sure that the reward you are offering is something that you can actually deliver on. Another benefit of loyalty programmes is that they usually have a knock-on word of mouth effect.
- Keep the tasks realistic. If customers are finding it difficult to complete a task to receive a reward then they will lose interest in your programme
- Rewards don’t need to cost you a fortune but spend what you can to make the incentive worthwhile for your customers.
- Partner with another brand or business. This way you can save costs and you both benefit from it.
- Make sure that the rewards suite your business. Cash rewards and discounts are perfect for a retail business while the same approach won’t necessarily work for a gardening business.
7. Pop Them An Email
Your website can have so many other benefits besides your customers finding you online. Why not setup a newsletter sign up box to start building an email database. You can then use this to send out a weekly or bi-weekly mailer to your list informing them about your latest specials, interesting content or a new competition that you are currently running. Everyone hates spam so put some time into making your mailers stand out and be worth the open.
- Put some thought into the design and layout of your newsletter. Does it properly represent your business?
- Don’t overwhelm your readers with a busy mailer that is purely promotional. They will more than likely delete it.
- Make it easy to subscribe and unsubscribe from your marketing mailers.
- Use powerful wording to get more people to open your emails.
8. Don’t Forget the End Bit
Every bit of exposure for your brand is going to count so don’t forget to add a good looking email signature to everything you send out. Having links in your email signature is a completely free marketing tool and will generate website and social media traffic.
- Add your logo to your signature to give it a visual element.
- Add social media logos to your signature so that people can follow and like your pages.
- Go easy on the disclaimers. Make it short, simple and professional.
9. Make them Winners
Customers and potential customers are always keen to win something so why not take advantage of the excitement of a competition and run one on your site or even your social media pages. You can even take it a step further and get users to fill in a survey in exchange for an entry into a draw. This way your business benefits in more ways than one.
- Don’t make your competition entry instructions overly complicated, it puts users off.
- Make the prize worth their while.
- Try to run your competition on your website instead of directly on your social media pages. Advertise the competition on your social media platforms so that they can be shared and execute the competition on your website to increase visitors and product/services exposure.
10. Ramp Up Your Customer Service
Customers remember where they have received outstanding service and tend to recommend these brands to people they know more often than a brand that gave them average service. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and a marketing idea that will never cost you anything. It doesn’t take much to provide your customers with a memorable experience so capitalise on this whether you run an online store or a B2B company.
- Aim to please your customer but not to an extent where you are jumping through hoops and jeopardising relationships with other clients or your employees
- Get your team onboard with excellent customer service so that customers have a great experience regardless of who they’re dealing with.
- Always be polite and professional, even when you’re having a bad day. This is your business afterall.