Starting a business is easy, growing a successful business is hard.
One of the biggest challenges new business owners face is how to market their business without going broke. luckily there are lots of free and low-cost ways to get your name out into the community without spending thousands of dollars on newspaper ads, despite what the newspaper rep tells you.
Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that’s exactly what it is. – Anita Roddick
Today, consumers aren't looking for advertisements pushed into their face, they want to choose how and when they do business with you. This “self select” consumer is almost immune to traditional advertising and the businesses that think and act creatively can grab their attention.
While there is an endless list of ways you can promote your new business, there are some of the ways I have personally found success when promoting a newly launched business.
Create a Master List
Create a list of 50 influential people, bloggers, and businesses in your community that can reach the customer demographic you are looking to attract. Right before or soon after opening your business, reach out to them one at a time and let them know about your new business. I held an invitation only party right before launching one of my businesses and invited the influencers on my list. We told them it was a select crowd of community influencers attending the event and it would be a great way to network with other influential people. Over half attended the party and we gained lots of exposure as all of them helped to spread the word about our new business.
Attend a Community Event
Get a table at the next big event in your community and act like you're the Mayor. Get out and start shaking hands with the people in your community. This is a great way to attach a face to your business. If you have a product based business, giving away free samples is a great way to attract people to your table. If you have a service based business, run a draw to give away a gift certificate to a local restaurant or some movie tickets. It's a great way to draw people to your table and at least start a conversation with them. If you plan on using their information to market to them, make that very clear when they sign up as many people get annoyed when this happens without their knowledge.
Run a Facebook Contest
If you already have fans then go straight to running a content. If not, you will need to build a fan base first. Facebook advertising is a quick and pretty inexpensive way to build a Facebook fan base, though you need to post great content in order to keep them engaged. Learn how to build a fan base organically here. You can learn how to create great Facebook ads here. You don't need a gazillion fans to run a Facebook contest, you can pay for some promoted posts to reach friends of your fans as well as non-connected people in your community for a low price, you just need a decent size base to start with. Some really easy tools you can use to create a great contest are Shortstack and Rafflecopter. Just be sure to give away something that will get people excited.
Write an Article for a Blog or Media Outlet
If you like to write or know a writer you can collaborate with, this is a great way to get exposure. Bloggers are always looking for high quality (emphasis on high quality) content to add to their blog, but it has to be really good. Creating content on a regular basis is hard and it can be a welcome relief for a blogger to have someone helping out. When it comes to local media, getting an article published is easier that you think. They don't have large budgets for investigative journalism and usually welcome contributions from the community. The biggest thing here is quality and timeliness. Don't suggest an article on gardening in the dead of winter. I will spend a few weeks connecting, promoting and sharing content with the editor of a local publication before I suggest contributing an article. It turns a cold call into a warm call, which makes a world of difference.
Attend Networking Events
I have mixed feelings on formal networking events. I find that they're usually full of people looking to promote, but no one is looking to buy. With that said, if you find the right event and group of people, networking can be a solid way to generate new business. The most important thing is looking for events where you have potential to either meet your ideal customer or meet other professionals who can introduce you to them. The best networkers look to give value first before asking for anything and that's a solid strategy to use when attending these events. Just avoid the Multi-Level marketers, they are usually a one-sided proposition.
Run a Joint Promotion with Another Business
Hook up with another business that has a similar customer base and run a joint promotion with them. You can also offer them a prize so they can run a promotion with their own customers. There are lots of creative ways you can work with another business to get more customers, you can read more about this in one of my previous articles. The important thing here is that the other business needs to feel like they will be getting a lot of benefits out of the deal or else most of them will ignore you.
Create Brand ambassadors
If you have a few clients already that love you, get them involved in the mix. Take them out for lunch and turn them into brand ambassadors for your business. educate and incentivize them to go out and spread the word about your business in the community. You don't have to pay them, offering them exclusive deals, free samples and a lot of love will go a long way in getting them excited about promoting your business. Evernote does a great job with turning regular customers into brand ambassadors.
Get involved with Charities
Get involved with local charities to meet people who are connected in your community. Charities and people who volunteer with these groups are usually deeply involved in the community and are a great source of people to meet. Not only are you helping a good cause, you're getting great exposure for your business. When I first opened my business, I contacted several charities and offered them free services that they could either use themselves or raffle off as a fundraiser. They love anything that helps to raise money and are happy to share your generosity with their members. 7 years later and I still have strong ties with many of these groups.
Start a Blog
Yeah you see this one on every list, blog…blog…blog…blog! The thing is, if it's done right, it can be the engine that drives your lead generating machine. The problem is that 99% of people who start a blog, especially business owners, fail miserably at it. For a business owner it's really simple, think of every possible question that a customer might have about your industry and write an article answering each question. That should take up your first 25 blog posts, after that you can start to get more creative. Go here to find out how to market your business with blogging.
Create a Google Pay Per Click Campaign
A properly set up Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign can drive laser focused leads to your website, if it's set up correctly. Many business owners complain that PPC is a waste of money, those are usually the one's who tried to do it themselves and did it totally wrong. If you want to create a proper PPC campaign, it's best to spend a few bucks and have someone who knows what they are doing set up your campaign. If you want to try your hand at it yourself, you can use Google's Adwords Express, which is an easier way to do PPC marketing with them. I've been doing PPC for over 7 years now and will typically see a 10 to 1 return for every dollar I spend on PPC advertising. You'll never see that ROI with a newspaper ad.
Go out and get started
So here are some of the things I've used in the past to help promote my new business. The new ways of marketing reward time and creativity over just spending lots of money, which is a great deal for the new business owner on a tight budget.
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