It can be kind of a chicken-and-egg question: how do you build your business to increase revenue when you have no money for marketing? I hear this all the time from businesses large and small. The bottom line is, you’d really better free up some dollars for marketing or you’re in trouble. But in the meantime, here are some low-cost or no-cost techniques to grow your audience and start building your business to start getting the cash flowing.
1. Have a plan.
Carl Sandburg said “Nothing happens unless first we dream”, but the second half of that quote is “and have a marketing plan”. Okay, I made that up. But really, the very first thing you have to do to get your business moving is to create a marketing plan. That means putting some hard thought into defining your brand, your mission, and your message. Then write out your goals for your business, short term and long term, and set up strategies for how you’re going to achieve them. Your plan should include schedules, budget (there’s that money thing again!) and metrics for evaluating your progress. You should revisit your plan periodically, monthly or quarterly, to see how you’re doing and adjust. The business environment changes quickly, and to succeed, your business needs to be flexible and responsive.
2. Make yourself visible.
The single biggest element to your business being found online is great SEO (search engine optimization). We’re making the leap here that you’ve already created a well-designed website full of useful content. SEO is complicated, and a lot of the technical stuff is best left to developers, but if you know your way around the back-end of your website, you should take some time to make sure your site has some basic SEO implemented. I’ll get into SEO in more depth in another post, but make sure you’ve registered with the major search engines, and have used your keywords in all your titles, meta descriptions, image alt text and page copy.3. Make yourself known.
Seeing someone is not the same as knowing them. People like to do business with people or businesses they know. That’s just in our DNA. So making yourself known, authentic, and approachable to more people is key to your success. That is the role of social media. You don’t have to have a presence on every social media outlet, but you should create business pages on the channels that make sense for your business. A blog is a great way to generate conversation. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter make sense for a majority of businesses. Instagram and Pinterest are great for many businesses too. The channels you choose should be based on an understanding of your audience and your brand message. But the important thing is to let your customers and potential customers get to know and trust you and your brand. How you think, what you do, who you are.
You know your business. Let your audience get a glimpse of the knowledge you’ve acquired. Show your expertise in your field. Be a speaker at industry or networking events. Offer a class. Participate in online forums. When you establish yourself as an expert in your field, you rise above your competition when someone is shopping for your product or service.5. Give your stuff away.
What?! I can hear you gasping right now. I know it sounds counter-intuitive when money is tight to give your goods away, but sampling is one of the most effective marketing tactics there is. If your product (or service) is good, giving them a little taste will have them coming back for more. If you donate to a philanthropic cause you should get some good exposure through that charity’s media coverage and marketing materials. Depending on the circumstances, you can develop press releases and circulate them with appropriate media to get some press coverage. Or, create your own fundraiser for a real win-win. Generate funds for a good cause and get some great exposure at the same time.6. Stay in touch. Your current customers are your best asset. So stay in touch. Develop an email plan to keep current customers abreast of what you’re doing, tell them about successes and provide useful information. And make sure it always leads back to your website or encourages the reader to get in touch. Find the right pace of communication so that you stay on their minds without getting under their skin. Use every opportunity to grow your email list of potential customers – have a sign-up form on your website, and ask for email addresses at events. Always use best practices in collecting addresses to avoid ending up on the dreaded spam blacklist and getting your email blocked. Make sure you have permission, and offer information the recipient is likely to find useful. The more useful your content is, the more it will be forwarded and shared and lead to new, appreciative customers.
In the end, you’re going to need to put some money into your marketing – advertising, print materials, displays, signage, etc. – to really grow your business. But trust me, if you follow these 6 free or cheap tactics for marketing your business, you’ll have laid the groundwork for real growth.
If you’d like some help getting your marketing going, please get in touch.