As a local business owner, marketing should be your number one priority, no matter the size of your budget. Many entrepreneurs argue that they don’t have the money to put into a marketing strategy until their sales improve, but this is the wrong way of looking at it. Without marketing, your business stands little chance of growth, and you’ll have a hard time acquiring new customers or even keeping your existing ones.
However, you don’t need lots of money to market your business. What you do need is time and determination to get your brand name out there. Luckily, small business owners have never had greater access to cost-effective marketing tools, but many of them don’t know where to start. With this in mind, here are four tips to get you started.
If you’ve just launched a local business, it’s important to connect with other like-minded entrepreneurs in your area. Not only will you meet people you may later do business with, but you’ll also get more of a feel for the local market and competition. Networking is also a free way to market your business, so long as you use the opportunity wisely. Spend some time talking to local business owners, shaking hands and swapping cards, and attend all the meet-ups and networking functions you can. Remember: it’s in your interest to make friends in your industry as well as professional contacts.
Leaving comments on small business forums and blogs can be a great way to increase exposure, as can cold email pitches. Just make sure you’ve prepared your elevator pitch before you reach out, as you’ll only have a few seconds to make an impression. If you don’t know where to find business opportunities in your area, spend some time researching. There are plenty of websites advertising promotional business opportunities (as well as advice on growth and networking), so there should be no shortage of useful resources.
Customer relations are the bread and butter of any business, no matter how big or small your operation. Therefore, you’ll want to make a lasting impression on your existing clientele so they will share their experiences with others. Word of mouth marketing is the oldest form of advertising there is, but it does work. It may not provide instant gratification or get you rich overnight, but it will build you a steady stream of local custom that grows with time. Don’t be afraid to ask for customer reviews or referrals either; most people are happy to help out local businesses. You can also keep in touch with your customers through email marketing to make sure they keep coming back.
Giveaways, samples, and coupons are some of the fastest ways to get new customers through your doors, and they could have a significant impact on your profits. Free trials are also a good idea if you offer a subscription service, as most people feel more comfortable purchasing something if they’ve experienced it beforehand. Don’t think of it as giving something away for nothing, as you should always ask for your customers’ email addresses in exchange for freebies or coupons. Just be sure to get permission if you plan to send out marketing materials, and don’t bill anyone without their expressed agreement. After all, you don’t want to lose the trust you’ve spent so long building!