5 Marketing Strategies That Work and Cost You Nothing But Time
Marketing is a big, expensive industry and can be daunting to businesses that don’t or can’t put big bucks into a marketing program. Hiring a PR firm can put many businesses in the red doing intense marketing programs that many startups or local businesses simply do not need.
Local businesses have to work harder to reach and retain customers, often with little to no marketing dollars. It’s hard work starting from scratch. Fortunately, the basics of business marketing can be achieved at no cost, other than time.
1. Create Local Awareness and Relationships
Creating local awareness of your business is the first step to take when breaking into a new environment. It can be as simple as contacting local newspapers and industry reporters to pitch an article on your new business. Take the time to do some research on local reporters, bloggers and trade writers – every town has a paper, but you’ll often find community members rely on local blogs and trade magazines for information as well. Get to know the local news market and be prepared to provide business information and insights as well as customers who will talk you up as well. If you present the whole package to a reporter or blogger, you’re more likely to get interested.
You can also work to create relationships, and possibly partnerships, with other local businesses in your area. Partnering with another business to offer coupons, specials or just to feature their information near your register or on your bulletin board can help send your existing customers to another local spot and vice versa. And while you’re at it, ask those owners how they stepped into the market and became a name around town. Local business owners know how difficult it can be and can be great allies.
2. Leverage Free Social Media
Social media is a wonderful, free tool to become a known business in a new territory. Create profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram to start. It may be slow going at first, but once you get off the ground and get some followers – ask friends and family to share your posts! – share content that is unique, fun, and interesting. Social Media is all about sharing what you’re reading and watching with your friends, so create shareable content or content followers want to interact with.
Types of content that is shareable and free on social media:
- Contests. Create a giveaway contest. It doesn’t have to be big – maybe the winner receives $5 off their next purchase or wins a scarf from your boutique. Contests are a great way to get your followers involved and to gain more followers – one of the caveats to the contest could be to like your business page, share the post, or tag friends in the post. These are quick and simple ways to get more followers and to engage current followers to turn into customers.
- Post Tips/Tricks. Social media posts with tips and tricks or advice to make life just a little easier or safer are easily shareable and appreciated, such as an organic/natural store sharing instructions for making homemade, organic cleaning solutions or a flower shop posting an instructional video on how to properly cut flowers from your garden and creating arrangements.
- Personalize your brand. Create a brand you would want to follow on social media. A unique, corky voice with appealing photos can go a long way. People can relate to you and want to visit the store to see what’s going on!
3. Email Marketing
That title may scare you, but simple email marketing can be done at no cost and can be very beneficial. You can start this by simply encouraging customers to sign up for your emails/newsletters. Creating a monthly email newsletter will keep your business in the back of their minds and will also give you the opportunity to promote any specials you are offering or offer those signed up to the newsletter a special promotion, such as a birthday coupon or a coupon that expires the next week – these small and easy things will bring you returning customers and it will be easy for you to see what is working.
Services such as MailChimp allow small business owners to send marketing emails, create automated messages, and targeted campaigns to customers. HubSpot is a service that allows you to send one-on-one messages with customers and will send you a notification when the customer has opened the email.
4. Use Your Reviews
People use reviews and peer opinions to help decide what companies they want to give their business to. Ask and encourage customers to write reviews on websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato, Google My Business, and more (depending on what line of business you’re in) and respond to them all – good, bad, neutral, all of them. This not only makes your business look positive, but it also creates a rapport with your customers. Responding to reviews shows current customers you care about their experience even afterward, and it shows future customers you’re willing to put yourself in an uncomfortable position (i.e., responding to a negative review) to make right whatever it is the customer believes you did wrong. You aren’t just a business anymore, but a business owner with feelings and integrity.
5. Be Philanthropic
Giving back to your community, even in a small way, is always a positive attribute for any business. Supporting a positive cause shows you are in the community to make it better and not just there to make money. Simply posting photos to your social media profiles of employees volunteering around the community can make a positive impact on your followers. Doing simple, positive activities for the community you are located in can make great waves for your business.
Being a small business owner has its challenges, but don’t let marketing be one of them. Use what you have available to you – social media, email, relationships – to help build a positive customer experience in-store and outside. Connect with customers and future customers through your current support, creating easily shareable and helpful ideas for your followers. Providing customers with benefits for already shopping your store will bring them back again and again.