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5 ways to promote your business on a shoestring

  1. marketing a business
    Francois Badenhorst

    Francois Badenhorst Business Editor, UKBF & AWEB Staff Member

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    Perhaps no aspect of business ownership is as riven with B.S. and cheap wisdom as marketing.

    There’s an army of ‘experts’ yelling at you, all trying to sell their method. It’s overwhelming. Partly because you know marketing is important, and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

    But it doesn’t need to be hard or expensive. You can get your name out there without all nonsense. Let’s look at just five ways to promote your business that won't break the bank or swallow all your time.

    Start with the marketing basics

    When you just start marketing, you won’t have a massive budget. But gaining some marketing momentum isn’t necessarily difficult or expensive.

    The best place to begin is always at the beginning. As UKBF member Yelsha64 puts it, “Start getting yourself out there. Network, cold email, make sure the emails are small and to the point.”

    Networking is indeed a fantastic way to get traction, but don’t just take blind potshots in the dark. Choose wisely. As Dan (CE) explains: “The best events to go to aren’t the ones with networking in the title though, as everyone is trying so hard to sell themselves that they don’t pay much attention to other people.

    “Better events are those related to your services, as you can talk to people afterwards and use the soft sell approach while handing out business cards.”

    Don’t let a good conversation go to waste, either. Build your email list and plan regular contact.

    Many email services charge monthly service fees, but mass mailing service MailChimp is free for businesses with fewer than 2,000 subscribers and mailings are easy to customise. Make sure every email clearly represents your brand and use links and loyalty offers to entice recipients to respond or interact with your homepage.

    Think about your local market

    Take a look around. You are surrounded, literally, by potential clients.

    “If you want to look into more local promotion why don't you try working with other local business owners,” writes Certa-Hosting. “If you don’t know the other local business owners in your area yet, make it a point to go introduce yourself.”

    And what about your own network? Never underestimate the power of referrals. Tap up friends and family: do they know someone who could use your expertise?

    Leverage social media

    “Online has a much bigger reach, and it is much cheaper and effective than traditional advertisements,” explains JACreative. “We recommend online advertisements for new businesses. Depending on your industry, Google AdWords could work well, too.”

    You’re spoilt for choice. That can be a curse and a blessing since initially you might not quite know what works best for you. It’s iterative (try AdWords, try Facebook or Twitter). See what works.

    That said, online isn’t really free anymore. You can go the free route, sure. But organic reach has weakened a lot, so if you’d like real results, you’ll need to part with cash.

    Share information to create interest

    What do you do? What problem are you solving? What’s your expertise? Your business exists for a purpose. Your marketing doesn’t need to just be “buy this”.

    Instead of selling to potential customers, speak to them. For example, a tutoring service might start a group called Tutoring Help for Parents and post a weekly study tip. At no cost, you can cultivate interest in your service, shape your clients’ opinions and increase exposure.

    Think about the press, too. WebshopMechanic suggests contacting “industry press (maybe for small business and start-ups) and write an opinion piece demonstrating your expertise on a tricky topic”. Journalists will also prize a source that’s easy to contact and reliable.

    If you’re not sure where to start: sign up with services like JournoLink, which help journalists find businesses, and get free PR in national media outlets. Keep an eye on the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter.

    And don’t forget about online communities (like, I dunno, UKBF). “Use business forums (like this one) to offer advice and show people you can help,” writes WebshopMechanic.

    Don’t forget directories!

    This one comes from Andrew Gadecki, the CEO of Bizness Apps:

    “Did you ever wonder why some businesses show up on Google maps and others don’t? Create a Google My Business account and guarantee your business will show up in local searches, on Google Maps, and on Google+. When people are checking out the local area on the map, you want your business to be one of the little red pins they see.

    “List with Yelp for increased exposure. Yelp’s user base is growing, and it has become a go-to site for mobile users searching for local businesses. Your town’s web page might offer links to local businesses; if it does, make sure yours is listed.”

    What are your favourite marketing methods? Is there anything that hasn't worked for you? Let us know in the comments below.