Trying to make a small business succeed on a tight budget can be frustrating, especially when you have to decide where to trim a few bucks to reallocate the money into more important avenues. One place that many business owners skimp on is marketing, but a small business cannot be successful without clients and customers, and there are ways to promote your small business for free so you can put your funds where they're needed without sacrificing marketing.
The Internet is filled with free opportunities to promote your small business online. From blogs and websites to social media profiles and directories, the Internet provides plenty of free attention to those who are willing to go for it. There are also numerous ways to promote your business offline, so find a good balance of online and in-person marketing to make sure you reach your target clientele.
- Set up a website.
If your company doesn't already have a website, then creating a site should be your first priority in order to promote your small business. In today's world, a company without a website simply can't compete. Whether your demographic is local, national or worldwide, clients and consumers want to be able to look up your company, read your mission statement, and find contact information easily. Many host sites charge less than $10 a month for a website that includes a template for those who don't have a designer on the payroll. A cheaper option is to take advantage of free trials, offered by sites like Homestead.com. Some sites, like Freehostingcloud.com and Webs.com, recognize that small businesses are faced with plenty of hardships, so they offer free web hosting.
- Start a blog.
For those who are unfamiliar, a blog is a site set up in order to express oneself, provide information or address specific topics. Blogs have become extremely popular, and as a small business owner, you can address your target audience with authority and creativity while touting your business. Join blog directories like Technorati.com which catalog blog posts so that you can reach a larger audience.
- Join social media sites.
Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn all provide a platform to promote awareness about your small business while providing clients and consumers a way to connect with your business. It's a fast, easy way to provide information about your company, events, promotions or anything else you can think of. Squidoo.com allows users to create a page for free, and the content is up to you, so you can write about your small business and provide contact information.
- Get in with Yahoo! and Google.
Most consumers search for businesses online, so you should let the two search engine giants promote your small business for you. Google Local marks your location and contact information so the business is easy to find, and customers can write reviews of your small business with ease. Google Places for Business provides a similar service at no charge. Yahoo! Local lists any business for free in its directory.
- Sign up with a directory site.
The hand-held Yellow Pages may not be as popular as it was 20 or 30 years ago, but the online version still packs a punch when searching for contact information or a business name. It's a good idea to make sure you're included in online directories so clients and customers can find you quickly.
- Use word of mouth.
Tell your friends, tell your family, tell the members of your congregation. Word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most trusted sources of marketing. People trust that their friends, co-workers, family members and associates will steer them in the right direction.
- Print business cards.
Head to an office supply store and pick up some quality paper or have them print business cards for you. You'll want to be able to pass out these cards at events, meetings, and even on the street if your business comes up in conversation. Make sure you have enough for you and your employees to pass around. Although you'll end up paying for the materials or the cards, business cards are vital low-cost marketing for small businesses.
- Attend conventions, seminars and conferences.
Networking is key in business promotion. The majority of seminars, conferences and conventions charge an entrance fee and probably a fee for accommodations if it's a weekend event. While this price might seem steep, consider all of the professionals with which you can network, build a working relationship and hand a business card. Aside from the promotion opportunity, these events often offer a wealth of information to help businesses succeed.
- Get involved in the community.
It can be beneficial to volunteer, join local organizations that relate to your company's interests, or run for public office to get your name, and the name of your business, in the news. Also, recognize that you can be an expert in your field. For example, if you're in the technology field, let your local newspaper's tech writer know that you'd be happy to serve as a source for upcoming articles. Building this media-based relationship will get your name out there, as well as your business. Also, serving as an expert on a related topic can bump up your company's integrity as viewed by the public.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to promote your small business for free or at a low cost, but you can't solely rely on others to do the work for you. A little shameless self promotion can go a long way, so take advantage of every opportunity you're faced with and soon your business will common knowledge.
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