Promotion is an ongoing challenge for small businesses. Whether you're just starting out or have been in business for years, these proven marketing strategies will help you find new customers without spending a fortune.
1) If you don't have a website, get one. If you haven't updated it in 4 years— rebrand it.
2) Set up a free listing for your business in search engine local directories. You can do this at Google.com/local/; Bing.com/local/; and listings.local.yahoo.com/ Be sure to include your website link and business description.
3) Set your business profile or page up on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Be sure your business profile includes a good description, and a link to your website. Look for groups or conversations that talk about your type of products or services and participate in the conversations, but don't spam them with constant promos for what you sell.
4) If you're just starting out and don't have a business card and business stationery, have them made up- immediately. If you have cards and they don’t match you image, toss them now and get new ones. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your website address on your business card and, letterhead and any handouts you create.
5) Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
6) Offer to be a speaker. Industry conferences, volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need speakers for meetings. You'll benefit from the name recognition, contacts and publicity.
7) If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested. Or, teach others how to use some tool you use in your work.
8) Put videos of your product or service on YouTube and other video-sharing and slide-sharing sites.
9) Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.
10) Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out. Follow up periodically with postcard mailings.
11) If you use a car or truck in your business have your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of the vehicle. That way your means of transportation becomes a vehicle for advertising your business. If you don't want the business name painted on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs.
12) Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
13) Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people you think could use your services. During each consultation offer some practical suggestions or ideas- and before you leave ask for an "order" to implement the ideas.
14) Learn to ask for referrals. Ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances. When you get them, follow up on the leads.
15) Get together with businesses who serve the same market, but sell different products and services. Make arrangements to pass leads back and forth, or share mailings.
16) Have sales letters, flyers and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: "Would you like me to send information?" Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that says, "Here is the information you asked me to send.
17) Run a contest. Make the prize something desirable and related to your business - it could be a free gift basket of your products, for instance, or free services.