Being a small business owner is a lot of work, especially if you’re a solo-entrepreneur. In such a case, everything is on your head with only some occasional help from your friends and family.
And it’s not that I’m just talking without actually having experienced those difficulties myself. I owned (together with a friend) a small design business not more than three years ago. Even though the job description was rather straightforward, we still found it difficult to handle all the mandatory tasks to get the business going.
As it turns out, having a business is an awful lot of work on top of the things that define your main offering. For instance, in our case, designing websites was one area, but finding new clients was a completely different ballgame.
Since client acquisition is a challenge all small businesses have to face, I’ve decided to write this post and list some “promotional methods on a budget.”
Therefore, I won’t be focusing on paid promotions, various kinds of advertising, hiring marketing consultants, and so on. This is about spending little money, but getting good results.
# 1. Launch a blog or a website
I bet this sounds very obvious to some of you. But I just want to make the advice complete and begin this list with the most crucial thing possible. Quite simply, in this day and age, your small business doesn’t exist if it has no website.
Even if you run a traditional brick-and-mortar business, you can still experience better results by using a website as a marketing and promotional tool. The simple fact of the 21st century is that people (your prospective clients or customers) prefer to research various things on the web before ever leaving home. And this goes on all levels, from searching for a nice place to have a lunch, to getting the cat neutered, to buying a car, to finding a wife.
To put it plainly, if your business can’t be found on the web, people won’t visit you in real life. And this is only going to get worse in the future.
Now, actually launching a website doesn’t have to be expensive. You don’t even have to hire anyone:-
– Easy WebContent
One of the more sensible solutions is going to a service like Easy WebContent and using their site builder. You don’t need any computer skills, experience registering domain names, or maintaining hosting accounts. There’s a handy visual editor, so you can tweak the design of your site yourself (very beginner-friendly).
If you’re a more tech savvy person, you can try WordPress – one of the most popular website management platforms online. But this time you also have to take care of getting a hosting account, a custom domain, and connecting the two together.
– Tumblr blog
One final possibility is a Tumblr blog. Even though the platform is very VERY easy to use, and launching a site takes minutes, the list of features is not that impressive, and it’s actually more suitable for a company blog rather than a full-blown site for your business.
(Personal being the keyword here.)
Social media is a big thing nowadays and it’s not difficult to see why. The two most common activities on the web are: watching videos and spending time on social media sites.
Many small businesses have social media profiles already, but the main problem is that they are mostly brand-focused. For instance, if your name is Steve and you have a dentist’s office in La Jolla, CA, you might feel the need to name your social media profiles something along the lines of: @lajolladentist, which in my opinion is not a very good idea.
Having brand profiles usually works just for the biggest and most recognizable brands. For example, everyone wants to follow Coca Cola, no one wants to follow La Jolla dentist, but many people would probably like to follow Steve (the dentist), personally.
Treat social media as a place where you can be you, not your brand. This means that you should use your actual name, photos, and talk about things as you’d normally do in real life. Of course, talk about your business whenever it makes sense and engage with your potential audience, but don’t act like you’re at work all the time.
# 3. Utilize local services
By local services, I actually mean online local services.
Possibilities such as:
- Google Places,
A listing on each of these sites can give you additional recognition and result in more people coming through the door.
– Google Places has a very friendly interface for claiming your listing. It’s free, you get to customize the details describing your business, and you even get to respond to reviews other people write about your business. You can get started here (click the “Get started now” button).
– Foursquare is all about checking in to different places, becoming a mayor, and receiving some special local deals. As a business owner, you can start by going to this page and adding your listing (you need to have an account first). After creating the listing, the key to success is launching some special deals for people who check in. If you can afford to add a small bonus, it can become a good enough reason for people to visit you.
– Yelp is a great site for finding local businesses offering their services in many different areas of activity. To create your own listing you can start by checking out this tutorial on wikiHow.
The biggest strength of such services is that they allow you to show up right where people expect you to be.
# 4. Yahoo! Answers
Yahoo! Answers is still not among the first ideas people get when thinking about promoting a business. For me, it’s hard to see why because the site is full of people looking for answers revolving around hundreds of different issues.
The idea of YA is pretty basic. If someone has a question, any question, they can submit it to YA and wait for other users to answer it. Then the best answer gets picked by the users and stays on top of the page for other, future visitors to see.
This has one great business application. You can monitor categories related to your business and to your areas of expertise, and search for questions you can answer. The best questions are ones that allow you to mention your small business as part of the answer. If such an answer gets picked as the top one, you get a free quality backlink, which can bring visitors for months, if not years to come.
# 5. Email signatures
This last method is on the list purely because of its ease of implementation. Granted, it won’t probably bring you a massive stream of new clients or customers, but it’s still worth setting in place anyway. Email signatures are those couple of lines of text that sit at the bottom of every email you send. No matter what the nature of your business is, you should always spend a while to craft a proper email signature.
Consider listing the following information:
- Your physical address,
- phone numbers,
- website address,
- addresses of the selected social media profiles (not all of them),
- other contact info that might come in useful.
As you can see, the methods presented in this post contain very little elements that require any sort of money spending, and even if they do, it’s a very small amount.
Of course, if you want to bring your promotion to the next level, you’ll probably have to prepare a bigger budget, but you surely don’t have to do it from day one. Make money first, so you can fund your promotional efforts along the way, without any bank loans or anything.
Now it’s your turn to speak up. What methods of promotion do you use to spread the word about your small business?