Monday

Promote Your Small Business

Top 10 Low-Cost Or Free Ways To Promote Your Small Business
By Margie Fisher

Whether you have been in business for years or are just starting out, marketing your business is always critical to your business success. Here are my Top 10 ways to promote your business inexpensively:

1. Send an E-mail newsletter.
This is my top marketing tool.All this costs you is your time, but the benefits can be huge. You will be perceived as an expert, and you may get direct business or referrals from people who see your name often. You can send your newsletter once a week, twice a month or once a month. Just make sure to keep to a schedule. And offer information to help your readers, as well as promotion for your business. Tip: for those of you who hate to write, there are lots of people who will do the writing for you, inexpensively. Check out Guru.com and FreelanceWriting.com.
2. Offer your product for free.
A local chocolate manufacturer I know carries around gold chocolate coins wherever he goes. Letting others sample his delectable product is a great way to promote his business. If you provide a professional service, such as law or marketing services, offer a special report or some of your time for free. An initial phone or in-person hour to 1 hour consultation should be standard.
3. Co-market with complementary businesses.
Share costs and prospect lists with a complementary, non-competing business. For instance, if you are a realtor, you could share the cost of a direct mail postcard with a mortgage company. Or put links to a complementary business site on your Web site, and ask the other business to do the same.
4. Offer a money-back guarantee.
This is an extremely powerful strategy, and one you can offer on both products and services. While most businesses are afraid that many people will ask for their money back, studies have shown that only a handful of people will ever take you up on this offer (unless, of course, you have a truly defective product or service). Offering this guarantee lets others know you stand behind your product or service, and is basically a risk-free proposition for prospects, which is a strong motivator to buy.
5. Speak to groups about your product/service.
In your local area alone there are probably hundreds of business, community and social groups that are looking for speakers. Many of these groups offer excellent opportunities for you to showcase your expertise while providing valuable information. Find groups that contain your target market, and speak to them about something that interests them, and relates to your business. You will be perceived as an expert and may get business or referrals.
6. Use testimonials.
What's more powerful you tooting your own horn or someone else tooting it? I think you know the answer. Use testimonials as much as possible in marketing materials, on your Web site, during promotional activities.
7. Send a personal thank-you note and/or gift.
Most people feel like they are under-appreciated. And have you ever known anyone who got mad when you thanked him or her? E-mail thank-you notes are fine, and hand-written, snail-mail notes are even better. You have to decide whether or not to send a gift some industries or businesses are not allowed to accept gifts. But a thank-you note is always welcome.
8. Remember birthdays.
I can think of only one company that sends me a birthday card every year. It's a local spa that offers me a 20% discount on spa services during the month of my birthday. And every year I use it, even though I have several other spa clients. The moral of this story? Everyone likes to be remembered on their special day.
9. Donate to charity.
You have lots of options here. First, you can sponsor an event or a local kids' sports team. You can donate your products or services for a silent or live auction. You can donate services or products that charities use, such as printing services and food. All of these ideas help you brand your business and establish you as a contributor to the community, and studies have shown that people would rather do business with people who help the community. Plus it's the right thing to do.
10. Get nominated for an award.
This guarantees publicity (as award nominees and winners are always published) and cements your credibility as a solid member of the community. Many awards are offered through business and industry-specific groups, but don't forget civic awards. Plus, research shows that people would rather do business with people who help the community.

Implementing these ideas will help you increase sales. So start today!

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