Making ends meet in your own life is tough, but if you run a small business then making the book balance there every month can take the challenge to a whole new level.
Whatever kind of business you have, overheads go up while your prices get squeezed tighter by competition.
That doesn’t leave much for you to spend on marketing, but the more competitive things get the more necessary that is.
Don’t panic. Here are ten tips to help you market your business, more or less without spending a penny.
1) Sort out your website
Whatever you do, and however small you are, you need a decent website. It doesn’t have to be flashy, but nor can it be a homemade bodgeyou’ve had for 10 years. Service providers like BT and web hosts like GoDaddy or Wix all provide easily customised business websites, with low-cost hosting. If you need something a bit more sophisticated, ask a local web developer to build you a template-based site you can update yourself easily. The cost should be very modest.
2) Sort out your web presence
Your online presence doesn’t end with your website. Devote a couple of hours to finding half a dozen relevant online directories that list services like you, or services in your area, and list yourself. If you already have these setup, check your contact info is up to date. No cost at all.
3) Sort out your social media.
The modern, online equivalent of word of mouth. Spend a few minutes finding out about Facebook Pages and Google Plus. If you use Twitter, set up a new account for your business. Try to post just once or twice a week. A picture and a few words about the patio you’ve just laid. A note about the new treatment you’re offering at your salon.No cost.
4) Sort out a mailing list.
You need to do this if you haven’t been doing it for several years already. Open a free account on an email service like Campaign Monitor or MailChimp, brand up a template and mail regular newsletters and offers or promotions to everyone who has ever bought from you, or made an enquiry. A basic level account should cost nothing.
5) Decide what you can support and stick to it.
There’s no point in working out a complicated marketing plan if you then can’t find time to stick to it. So decide on two or three things you can actually commit to, and focus on those. Half an hour a week to look after your social media say. And half an hour to email your email list. If that was all you did, you’d still get a massive return on investment. No cost.
6) Develop a two-sentence sell.
No matter what you do, there are times when it’s useful to be able to say, clearly and without rambling on, “We’re a roofing company based over by the park. We specialize in reroofing using traditional materials.” Or “We’re a tanning salon in the shopping centre and we get people up to colour for a special event or holiday.” No cost.
7) Sort out your email, your mobile and your voicemail.
You need your office landline or freephone number, your smartphone and your email locked together, with a good voicemail system or external message service, so that you receive your email and calls as they come in, or as you want to listen to them. Get it sorted so it really works, all the time. Cost? Not much more cost than you already pay.
8) Collect testimonials
Ask every customer to give you a couple of sentences you can use as a testimonial. Check they’re happy for you to use them, and then stick them on your website, in your email footer, on invoice headers, in local press ads, on flyers or anywhere else that you can think of. No cost.
9) Set up some kind of loyalty scheme
Whatever your business is, find a way to reward people for coming back again and again. And offer customers rewards for referring friends, as well. No cost when offset against the extra business created.
10) get your message across clearly.
Work out precisely what your business’s most important message is, and say it using clear, simple, well-written text on your website, leaflets and flyers so that your message gets put across properly.
You could have a freelance copywriter do this for you, but maybe you or a colleague or friend could do it well enough yourself. Assuming you can, no cost.