Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with several small business ventures. Something that experience has taught me is that no matter the type of business, how strong the product or how much the launching cost is going to be the one thing that any small business needs to be successful is customers. For a new or small business getting the word out to your target audience is crucial and generally high cost marketing strategies are out of the question. For the small business owner, quick and low cost marketing strategies are usually the only way to go. Here are some relatively low cost or free marketing plans that have been rather successful.
Coupon or Discount Fliers
For a service based or retail business, this low-tech marketing strategy can be one of the most successful. If you’ve got a computer, printer and paper you have everything you need. When I work with a franchised diner business, handing out a bunch of printed fliers to a group of local factory workers increased his business by 50% in the weeks after handing them out and had a long term increase of around 15%. The fliers simply had a copy of the menu on it and a coupon at the bottom that gave the customer $1 to $3 off any selected entrée.
Those web sites that your kids are on everyday are one of the best marketing tools that a small business owner could ever have. By using social media you achieve two very important marketing goals. First you can reach a nearly endless potential customer base. The only other marketing tool out there that can achieve this is global network TV exposure. The other thing you get is a marketing team. The users of the social media sites become your marketing team by re-posting or re-tweeting your information. The best part of this marketing tool is that it’s absolutely free. I’ve recently started using social networking for my latest business venture and the response has been overwhelming.
Local Business Networking
Other small businesses are always looking to increase their customer base as well. Talk to local business owners that aren’t competitors and see if you can reach some type of agreement that will allow them to get exposure via your business and vice versa. Talking with area businesses can sometimes provide you with little unknown insight into your customer demographics. I was working with a restaurant owner a few years ago that tried this by talking to an ice cream parlor owner. He found that there was a trucking company nearby and the drivers commonly came to the ice cream parlor. By helping each other out, both businesses saw increases in patrons and it didn’t cost either a dime.
Word of Mouth
One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen new business owners make over the years is that they don’t take advantage of the people they know. Don’t be humble. Tell your friends, relatives and associates about your business and how you’re willing to work hard for new customers. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools around. A spoken testimonial is invaluable. I was at school picnic with a friend and her son. I mentioned to the people there that my friend had just started her own staffing company and had just found me a great employee. She was immediately talking to two people who were looking to fill voids in their organizations. Don’t ever be afraid to open your mouth.
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