As the owner of a small business, marketing generally consumes the majority of your time. Regardless of you're selling, by failing to properly market your business your potential customers simply don't know that you're about, and as a result, you miss out on vital sales. Luckily there are several ways to get yourself known on a small budget.
1. Start a website
One of the most important things you can do is to a get a website up and running; even if you just have basic contact information. In today's' world having an internet presence isn't just important, it's vital. Try to ensure that your design looks as professional as possible, but don't forget to keep it functional. Everything else you do online such as social media should link back to your website as much as they can. This will help drive traffic to your website and boost the reputation of your site on search engines (read more).
2. Social media
Think about where your potential customers spend their time; the likelihood is that they will be using social media. Not only is this a free method of promoting your business, but it's also a great way to interact with your customers of a more personal level. Spend a few hours thinking about a description of your business, what you stand for and what you sell. You can then use this on every social media site that you register on.
3. Start blogging
Blogging is a great way to not only to promote yourself but your business at the same time. It also helps keep your site up to date and the content relevant, a big factor when it comes to search engines. When your visitors read your posts you have the ideal opportunity to get your company's message across, and build relationships with your customers. Remember to keep the content original and interesting; badly written blogs can have the opposite effect.
4. Press release
Do you have an exciting product you're just about to launch? Or perhaps you have a unique selling point that others would be interested in. Either way, writing to relevant newspapers , websites, magazines and radio stations could be the perfect solution.
You can advertise your business as much as you want, but the power of word of mouth will trump it every time. The only problem with this, however, is that the process takes a long time. But why not speed it up a little bit? Offer your existing customers free discounts or products if they recommend someone that buys something from you. You will have the benefit of both more customers, and satisfied existing customers who get free products.
Another cheap (and sometimes free) way of establishing your business is to get on every review website you can find. You can also try contacting newspapers or magazines and ask them to write a review, in return for a free product. Once you have a few high-quality reviews around people are much more likely to trust your brand. A good place to start is the Review Centre. Not only is it free to create an account, but it is simple to use and Google factors it when determining your place in search rankings.
7. Business cards & leaflets
Think about all the people that you've met in the past month, did you give any of them anyway of contacting you? Even if they are not directly interested, they may have a friend that needs your services, or they themselves may need your services later on. Get some cheap business cards printed (not too cheap!) and give them out at every opportunity available.
8. Help local charities
This is a particularly useful method if most of your business is done locally, but is equally applicable if it is not. You also have the chance to boost your own portfolio and it always looks great on a CV. Make a big thing about it on your website, social media, or even get the press in on the action. If it doesn't lead to any sales, at least you have done something good.
9. Start mailing lists
E-newsletters are a very cost-effective and can be used to find new customers and keep your existing customers engaged (read more). If you need the advantage over your competitors you could consider sending actual letters (those papery things that go through letter boxes, just in case you've forgotten) and signing each one yourself. People are much more likely to read something that comes through their letter box than an email. Consider who you send letters to, however, since it is more expensive than other methods and doesn't guarantee a return.
10. Become an expert
By managing your own business you are by default an expert in your field (exception for Del Boy perhaps). Try writing for other websites, or getting involved at trade conferences. Just make sure that you know your business inside out, and you have an ample supply of marketing material. You normally only have one shot at these type of events so make it count. If this doesn't work out, you could join an online forum and include links to your site on every question you answer (if the forum rules allow).