Giant, multinational corporations have plenty of problems, but generally speaking, the budget for promotion isn’t one of them. As a small, independent business owner, however, your ability to stay afloat relies on raising awareness of your company, increasing your customer base and sales, and finding ways to retain business and encourage repeat visits and purchases. This requires some level of promotion. And this is one instance where you’re probably going to have to spend some money to make money. But when you’re managing a small operation, you might not have a lot to work with – certainly not as much as your corporate competitors. What can you do when you’re stuck with a shoestring budget?
The good news is that you no longer have to rely solely on traditional means of promotion. Although print, radio, and TV ads are still a valid marketing strategy, they aren’t cheap by any means. So it’s nice to know that the internet and mobile media offer a slew of new options that can be much more affordable for the small business owner. Just look at social media. It will take time to build up a following, but over time you can definitely use your social media platforms as a means of relatively non-invasive and innocuous promotion. You don’t have to be pushy or use a hard sell – all you have to do is tweet or post to Facebook, say, offering an exclusive promotion for followers only. This could not only bring in loyal customers but if they share, it could prompt their contacts to sign up to follow you, as well. And this is just one example of virtually free promotion (it costs you only time).
Of course, there are plenty of other ways to save money when you promote your business and/or specific products. You could, for example, post a rotating slate of featured products on the home page of your website, perhaps complete with video tutorials or testimonials from satisfied customers (not paid actors). You can create an email newsletter for those who sign up for membership and use it not only to discuss new products or industry happenings, but also to offer coupons or specials. You could even use it as a platform to humanize your brand and engage customers on a personal level by highlighting employees or community outreach.
You might also want to consider the prospect of cross-promotion. When you team up with adjacent businesses (either those near your location or those in related industries) you have the opportunity to reach a whole new audience while splitting advertising costs. Say you run a photography studio. You could team up with wedding planners, bridal salons, or limo services, just for example, to cross-promote and offer deals.
At some point you may find that you have the money to hire SEO specialists, advertising agencies, and sales teams to help you take your promotional efforts to the next level. But when you’re on a shoestring budget, you have to stretch every dollar. This means getting creative and often, taking a DIY approach to marketing strategies. But you might be surprised by what you can do with very little moola or even for free.