When you are running a small business, there often isn’t much room in the budget for promotion, particularly in the beginning. However, there are plenty of methods for getting the word out about your product or service, that won’t cost you a pretty penny. Here, we’ll look at both online and offline methods that you can use to promote your business on a shoestring budget.
Whether or not your business is web-based or right here in the real world, you should probably use a combination of online and offline methods in order to get the maximum amount of exposure. There is nothing wrong with advertising globally online and locally in your own town. Everything you do to draw attention to your business can be counted as a plus.
There are more free and low-cost ways to advertise online than there are offline. You can also reach far more people than you would with a simple flyer, so even if your business is almost completely offline (you should always have at least some form of web presence), you can promote it through the internet.
There are plenty of websites out there that offer free or almost free advertising and it can be difficult to choose which one to go with. However, the best advertising sites are already well-known and rank well in Google. If you go with a site that has very little traffic and that no one knows about, it won’t be a terribly effective method of promotion.
Craigslist is probably one of the most famous ad sites available and it’s free! They offer localized ads so you can promote your business just to people in your area. This isn’t the best option if you are looking to sell to people around the world, but it is still a good start. When you are looking for an internet ad site, check its Google Page Rank (anything over 3 is good) and also where it ranks on Google. This is a good indication of how popular it is.
Advertising in an e-zine can be both cheap and effective. After all, if you choose the e-zine carefully, you are getting a very targeted audience. Look through an e-zine directory to get an idea of what is out there and select the e-zines that fit your business. It’s a good idea to sign up to receive the e-zines before you pay to put an ad in them.
Once you’ve seen a couple of issues of each e-zine, you will have a better idea of which one you should advertise in. Notice if they have ads in the newsletter, since some actually don’t accept outside ads, then send the owner/writer an email asking about ad rates.
There are three types of ads that are available in e-zines:
Solo ad: This will be the most expensive since it goes out on its own. Your ad will be the entire email, so it doesn’t hurt to spend some extra time on writing it.
Sponsor Ad: This ad goes out with the regular newsletter, but it will be featured at the top of the email. You don’t have much space, so you should try to write concisely. This ad will run you more than a classified and bring in more traffic as well.
Classified Ad: The cheapest of all e-zine ads, this one goes way down at the bottom of the email and is often quite economical. You might consider doing your testing with classifieds before moving on to higher paid ads.
You can get a free blog on Blogger or WordPress and use that to promote your business. All you really need to do is post information relevant to your business topic. So, if you have a quilting supply shop, your blog might offer tips for quilters. Then you link back to your business website (which you should already have set up) to make sales. Blogs are a great way to get plenty of traffic, since the search engines love the frequently updated content.
While there are actually websites set up for these exchanges, you may be better off actually approaching another website on your business topic and asking to do an exchange. Whether you include each other in the links section or exchange actual ad space, this can be very beneficial to both of you, giving both access to the web traffic that the other one has.
The reason you should avoid websites set up for this purpose is that they frequently get banned by Google and the sites on them can be penalized as well. Since Google is a great help with traffic, it pays to play by the rules and not start link farming.
While it might be a bit more difficult, you can still get shoestring promotion in the real world. It’s a good idea to use offline marketing, even if you have an online business, simply because some people won’t find you on the internet. There are still a few die-hards who prefer to read an actual piece of paper instead of a flickering computer screen.
Offline promotion methods are often local in nature and work well for businesses that sell to a specific area. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t promote a global business locally, though, you can still end up with some great clients from your very own town.
In most towns, classified ads in the local paper are still pretty cheap. If your business lends itself to this type of promotion, then go for it. You can even buy classifieds from papers in other states by going to their website.
When writing a classified ad, you usually only have between 50-100 words, so you’ll need to be very concise. A good way to write the ad is to state the problem, give a scenario and tell them where to go for more information. For example:
“Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Over 20% of adults suffer from stress-induced insomnia. Stop the cycle now. Learn how to fight insomnia at yoursite.com.”
26 words that grab people’s attention and get them to check out your website. You can try different ad copy and see which version brings in the most traffic, then use that in any and all newspaper ads that you run. Testing is good and to be successful, you will need to try different methods of promotion.
Word of Mouth
People recommending you is the absolute best way to get clients and you can encourage this by using testimonials in your publicity and by offering rewards for referrals. This can work online as well, but we will talk about it for offline here.
Offer a referral program where a customer receives a discount or a bonus product for sending people your way. You will need a way to track this, although it might be as simple as having the referred person say “So and So sent me”, you can also implement more complicated tracking devices, such as coupon codes and the like.
People love a deal. That’s why coupons are so popular, and you can take advantage of that! All you need to do is figure out what product you want to promote and make up some coupons for it. Then it is simply a matter of finding a method to distribute them.
Coupons can be added to existing customers´ orders, or you might consider teaming up with an organization such as Welcome Wagon where the coupons will be distributed to new families and can help introduce them to your products. Another method of distribution is to have them included in the daily paper. Talk to your local newspaper about how much it would cost to include a coupon in the paper. This could be included as a separate flyer or you can just pay for regular ad space, depending on the cost of each.
A press release is a great way to draw attention to your business and work best if you send one out right after the launch of a new product or service. Press releases basically put everything a newspaper would need to know in order to report on your business. You can find plenty of information on writing press releases online, or hire someone to do so if you aren’t confident with your writing skills.
Don’t stop with newspapers, you can also send your press release to radio stations, television stations and even magazines. Also, there is no need to stick to locals, if your business has nationwide interest, why not submit press releases to papers and TV stations across the country?
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to promote your small business without having to take out a second mortgage. These are just to get you started, really, since you are bound to find plenty more on your own. Promotion is a vital part of growing your small business. Without it, you simply won’t be able to build your business. So, don’t let your small budget stop you, start promoting today.