Famed author Mark Twain once said, "Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising."
But advertising can be expensive, and in a tight economy, many small businesses cut their marketing budgets first because of cash flow concerns. However, when times are tough, it's even more important to keep your business brand front and center.
During an economic downturn, clients, customers, and consumers have less money to spend. This means that when they're ready to buy, you want your brand to be at the top of their list. Social media is undoubtedly one of the most effective and affordable ways to engage your customers and keep your brand top-of-mind, but it's not the only way. Here are ten tried and true marketing strategies that can help you market your business on a shoestring budget.
1. Craft an elevator pitch
You should be marketing all the time — wherever you are. Therefore, you need a compelling elevator pitch. Research shows the average attention span of an adult is about 6 to 8 seconds. That's all the time you have to grab someone's attention. If you successfully engage them, then you only have a little over a minute to really sell them on your product or service. Invest the time to craft a killer elevator pitch. The return on your investment will pay huge dividends in terms of creating business opportunities.
2. Leverage your community
You don't have to think big when it comes to your marketing efforts. Think locally. What's going on in your community? Sponsor a Little League team or a 5k charity walk/run. Print bookmarks and leave them at the local library. Get to know your ideal customer and think about how and where they spend their time. Then search for opportunities to get in front of your customer with your marketing message.
Put together a group of synergistic, non-competitive businesses in your area and agree to cross-promote. You can use coupons, fliers, reciprocal website links, bundled promotions or social media platforms. (Okay, I had to add a little bit of social media to the mix.) By collaborating with each other, you can expand your customer base because you'll be reaching new people.
I'm a huge fan of networking. I don't think there is any better way to build a business than to get out there, shake some hands, and get to know people. Networking requires a time commitment and it doesn't provide instant gratification, but a strong network is one of the greatest assets any business person can have.
5. Give a speech
A lot of people hate public speaking. However, there are many organizations looking for qualified, subject-matter experts who can present to their groups. Take a deep breath and volunteer. You don't have to be a pro as long as the information you share is helpful to the audience. And the upside — the more you do it the easier it gets. Plus, it positions you as a credible authority in your field.
6. Create buzz
I started my corporate career in the field of public relations and the business has changed significantly because of technology. Today, a small business owner can accomplish a lot without hiring a professional firm. Subscribe to Help a Reporter Out www.helpareporter.com. You can respond to reporters' queries that are looking for story ideas and resources. Some are small media opportunities, but others are major media outlets that use this service too.
7. Ask for referrals
Don't be shy about asking for customer referrals. The majority of people say they are willing to provide a referral if asked, but very few take the initiative to do it on their own. Referrals make it easier to get in the door with new customers. If you aren't asking for them, you are missing opportunities.
8. Build relationships
It is a lot less expensive to keep a customer than it is to get a new one. That's why establishing strong relationships with your customer base is crucial. One of the ways you can do that is by launching an email campaign. Make your communications informative and helpful — something your customers will look forward to receiving. Social media campaigns are another way to keep the communication channel open (and there I go again.)
9. Offer coupons
Coupons are a good way for many businesses to attract new customers. Research shows that people will go out of their way to use a coupon, proving that this method is successful in expanding your customer base. Coupons can also generate return visits. For example, if you give a customer a coupon for a discount to use on future business, there's a high probability they'll be back.
10. Give it away
If someone has the opportunity to experience your product or service, chances are they will want to purchase more. Don't be afraid to give someone a free trial or a sample. In today's economy, people are more comfortable purchasing something they have been able to experience first.
These ten, inexpensive marketing strategies will help you engage customers, build relationships, and ultimately keep your brand top-of-mind. It's not always about the money you have to spend on marketing, it's about the time and effort you put into it and above all, the relevance it has for your customers.