Every business needs a marketing plan. Without it, potential customers won’t know who you are or what you offer.
However, when many small business owners first start marketing, they are often most aware of traditional advertising options which prove to be expensive (e.g. local radio spots, local TV ads, or outdoor billboards). Not every business has a robust marketing budget to launch a slick campaign and reach the masses.
Thankfully, there are plenty of creative and cost-effective ways to reach customers and get your business noticed.
1. Get involved in your community
Most communities have an active calendar of events. This could be official city functions at parks, various festivals, or charity groups fundraising for a cause. Aligning your brand with key community leaders, groups, and events can be an excellent and cost-effective way to raise brand awareness.
Most community venues are always looking for sponsors — monetary and in-kind. For a nominal fee or value exchange you can get your company’s brand name mentioned on their promotional, event, and/or marketing assets. Meanwhile, your business becomes actively engaged with the local community.
2. Master your elevator pitch
Your elevator pitch is a powerful way to convey your marketing message on a regular basis in different settings. Consider stepping into an elevator with someone you want to meet. You have a very short amount of time to hold their attention and pique interest. The rule of thumb is 8 seconds to get their attention; and a whole whopping 60 seconds to get your message across before their attention taps out.
Create the perfect elevator pitch. Run it by your colleagues and friends for honest feedback. Then modify and adjust until you get it right.
3. Use PPC advertising
Online marketing is cost effective. One of the most powerful tactics is search engine marketing (SEM) and an important tool in the toolkit — pay per click ads.
PPC advertising (e.g., Google AdWords) allows you to target people who have searched for terms related to your business and share relevant ads that link to your website. You are only charged when someone clicks on your ad, so there is little waste. And you can set your budget. The only caveat: It’s important to know PPC fundamentals, how keyword research works and how to optimize your PPC campaign.
The goal is two-fold: to get your ads seen and ensure the the right people see them. So, don’t try to ride an unrelated trending keyword to gain visibility. You will reach the wrong audience and waste precious marketing dollars.
4. Network and build relationships
People often say, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This adage is truer than most people think. Rubbing shoulders with the right people requires showing up and adding real value.
Get to know your customers, business owners, and even your competition. A good first step is to join your local chamber of commerce and introduce yourself to local entrepreneurs. This can result in new partnerships or even more business.
5. Consider guerilla marketing
Guerrilla marketing is a proven tactic that still works. Many business owners shy away from it because it is often unconventional, grassroots and breaks the rules.
Some creative examples include reverse graffiti, stickers, publicity stunts, flash mobs. “The real investment here is a creative, intellectual one — its implementation,” according to HubSpot. “[H]owever, doesn’t have to be expensive. Michael Brenner summarizes it nicely in his article on “guerrilla content,” where he frames this style of marketing in the same context as repurposing your existing content, like taking certain segments of a report, and expanding each one into a blog post. It’s an investment of time, but not money, per se.”
6. Go mobile
Believe it or not, the cost of app development for your small business is well within a shoestring budget range.
There are app makers (much like what Wix and Squarespace have done in the website builder space) that enable you to build the perfect app for your business, no coding skills required.
Mobile apps deliver on a number of business objectives, ranging from awareness and productivity to engagement and mCommerce.
If you want to stay ahead in your industry, learn how to build an app for your small business. Integrate reward programs, track customer loyalty, or send push notifications with discounts to customers – or use location-based services when customers are close. Mobile apps empower businesses to engage with customers in real time and increase visibility on “near me” searches. Apps are an invaluable tool for small businesses.
This article has been edited.
Andrew Gazdecki is the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps — making mobile apps affordable and simple for small businesses. They’re a do-it-yourself iPhone, iPad, Android & HTML5 app platform that allows any small business to simultaneously create, edit, and manage mobile apps without any programming knowledge needed. Think of it as “WordPress for mobile app creation.” Many of their customers are mobile app resellers — marketing or design agencies that use their platform to cost effectively build mobile apps for small business clients. Connect with @BiznessApps on Twitter.