The whole point of starting up a business is to make money. In order to do that, you need customers, and in order to get customers, you need to advertise. This is usually the part in the planning phase where entrepreneurial hopefuls lose heart, and consider abandoning the idea altogether. The sticker shock associated with some advertising packages can be pretty severe, especially if your business is a small, or at-home project. There must be a better way of doing this that doesn’t involve so much up-front risk.
This is where free advertising comes in, and yes it definitely exists! While it’s true that going this route might require a little more elbow grease on your part (since you’re not paying a firm to handle it), free or very inexpensive advertising still pays off for your business. Get ready to take some notes, and see which of the following strategies sound like a good fit for you.
This is one of those things that’s so obvious, it’s actually easy to forget. Business cards are so ubiquitous, they almost seem like they materialize out of thin air. In a way, that’s right. There are many business card printing services out there which offer free runs of anywhere from 100 – 500 cards. That is plenty to get you started. The art of designing a good business card should not be taken for granted though. Don’t forget to choose an eye-catching card with all of your information on it. You don’t want to find out after the fact that you ordered 500 cards with no phone number. Woops!
This approach is “free”, meaning you spend no money on advertising, but make sure you are comfortable parting with a decent bit of your product in order to hook new customers. There are a few great things about free samples: everybody likes them, your product gets out to lots of people, and you can hand the samples out alongside your company info. Where people might not want to stop to take a flyer full of information about your business, they might take it if there is a goodie attached. This boosts goodwill among potential customers too. People tend to remember when they got something for free.
Build a Website
Nothing says “I have arrived” quite like a professional looking website for your business. People like to access everything online nowadays, and not having a website can sometimes send the message that you’re not quite up and running yet. Learning to build your own website is not as difficult as it once was. Ever hear the phrase “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself?” When you take charge of your website design, you get to control every last detail, and personally monitor your web traffic. That is a valuable thing to many entrepreneurs.
Utilize Social Media
Every bit as important as a website is a social media presence. Opening up accounts for your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, FourSquare, etc. is an excellent way to not only advertise, but also stay in touch with your customers. Social media offers entrepreneurs more opportunity than ever to interact with, and respond directly to customers. When your customers feel personally valued, they are not only more likely to give you repeat business, but also spread your business name via word of mouth.
Social media can be leveraged in so many ways, having a good understanding of all its benefits is going to be key. You can use Facebook to launch giveaways for “Liking” and “Sharing” your posts, you can encourage customers to “check in” on Foursquare, and you can tweet out coupons, contests or any number calls to action. These tactics keep your customers personally involved, and all for free.
Start a Blog
If you have the gift of gab, put it to good use talking your own business up. When you have a blog for your business you accomplish several things. First off, you are reinforcing your brand, and keeping your readers informed about new developments or products. Secondly, you are keeping up a relatively informal rapport with your readers, which many customers appreciate. Not everyone wants to be on the receiving end of a sales pitch all the time, so go ahead and throw in funny stories about your day, personal observations or even cute jokes. You can learn how to keep your blog writing appropriate while still being effective as a marketing tool. Setting aside a little time each week to cook up a new post can really help bring in new customers.
Make Use of Free Posting Opportunities
Is there a community bulletin board at your local grocery store, church, school or park? Taking the time to design a great company flyer can lead to new customer leads and new connections. Bus stops, restaurants and some retail establishments may allow postings, so be sure to ask. While it’s true that this may require that you drive around town a little, it will help your name and logo be seen all around. Don’t forget to include your contact information in the flyer!
Become a Community Name
Can you begin sending press releases to the local newspaper? Often these will be printed at no charge, and it will get your name out to their entire readership. Furthermore, there are often opportunities to give talks (perhaps on owning a small business, or some other aspect of your expertise) at libraries, or other community buildings. These can help get your name recognized as part of the community, and this can have great impact on customers who prefer to deal with local establishments.
With a little guidance to get you started, you could be maximizing your advertising potential without putting out a lot of money. Check out these courses at Udemy for more help getting started: