Your business needs a marketing budget, but it probably feels like you can't spare a single penny for marketing. Well, without advertising, there's a good chance you'll never get the audience you need to grow and increase sales.
Even if your marketing budget is very slim, there are some avenues open to you, and it's important to explore your options. Remember that the marketing dollars you spend today come back to you in the future through increased sales and visibility.
Here are five savvy ways you can market your company without putting a huge dent in your yearly marketing budget.
1. Use Direct Mail and Postcards
The average homeowner or apartment dweller probably complains a lot about junk mail, and the same is true about the SPAM that ends up in email inboxes each day. However, direct mail is an effective marketing tool.
A contributor to Forbes reveals that in some circumstances, you can actually use quick and simple postcards to great effect:
"Postcards work when you can combine a simple story with a visual element, an absolutely irresistible bargain, a targeted audience and an event."
For example, imagine you're a retailer with a small business on "Main Street," and you just scored an amazing deal on some merchandise. Maybe it's a skirt from a trendy designer that you bought in bulk for a low price.
To move your inventory swiftly and without great cost to advertising, you might consider a postcard campaign. Simple, to-the-point, and visually engaging, a postcard can help you share information quickly and inexpensively. Don't assume you need to dig deeply into your marketing budget to make simple announcements in town.
Also, you don't need a huge mailing list to send out postcards to your community's families. Although it's more effective to send out targeted advertising with postcards, the USPS does have a direct mail program that send mail to every address in a designated area.
Hint: Always work at growing your mailing list – digital and physical – so you can take advantage of highly effective, targeted marketing campaigns.
2. Become a filmmaker
You probably already know that YouTube scores hundreds of millions of views a month, but their statistics are incredible when you consider usage and other viewing habits. According to the YouTube's statistics page, the average amount of time a person spends on YouTube while on their mobile device is 40 minutes. In addition, there are over a billion active users on YouTube.
That's a seriously huge and amazingly active audience.
The good news is that you don't have to be an Academy Award-winning filmmaker to use YouTube for great benefit and virtually zero cost. Although spending a few hundred dollars on a professional video is always a good idea, you can also make your own videos with equipment that's as simple as a smartphone camera that has high definition video.
According to an article on Entrepreneur:
"According to a Shareaholic.com, between September 2013 and February 2014, YouTube generated the highest post-click engagement and lowest post-click bounce rate of any social media platform. Likewise, while Facebook activity plummets and Twitter remains constant, visual platforms like Instagram and Vine are still on the rise."
What does this mean for your small business? It means Instagram, Vine, and even Pinterest should have a spot in your online/mobile marketing plan. You'll also want to get familiar with the hashtag (that's a word preceded by a number or pound sign) because the addition of a hashtag to your campaign can send its visibility into the stratosphere.
3. Use your customers for promotion.
You don't have to be the only one participating in your small business's marketing plan. One of the best tools you have at your disposal is your customer base. Consider how meaningful a simple recommendation is over a standard advertisement. Who/what do you trust more: the advertisement you see in the Sunday paper or the recommendation you get from a friend?
According to Smarta:
"Potential customers are a million times more likely to use your business if it's been recommended by a friend. So why not turn your customers into brand ambassadors? Give them a discount on products if someone they recommended buys something from you. That way they'll be singing your praises and getting you more customers in the process."
You have many ways to encourage your customers to "work" for you by advertising your brand. In addition to the discount as mentioned above on products, you can also employ reusable packaging or promotional products.
Encourage your customers to reuse your company's bags so that when they carry around that tote in the future, people will see your logo, and you'll build brand recognition.
4. Set up local search for online listings.
If you carry out all the "standard" projects required of an online marketing campaign, one part of the package should include creating profiles on all the major social media sites. However, it's important to go a step further if you want to reach local consumers.
According to Small Business Trends:
"Local search is one of the most important things a small business with a physical location should consider. It may even be the most important thing. Think about the last 10 years and how the yellow pages — do you use them anymore — barely exist. The local yellow pages in some places used to be this three pound book! Now, it’s a quarter of the width and height and is about 200 pages."
The incredibly valuable thing about local search is that it's absolutely free to set up your business's local listing on Goolge. If you're willing to spend just a few more dollars (somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 to $75), you can even think about running a Google AdWords Campaign to make your local listing even more impactful.
5. Organize local events
Much of the inexpensive marketing you may employ will probably feature online projects, but local businesses should also consider the lasting and valuable impact of face-to-face meetings.
Organizing a local meeting or event doesn't have to cost a fortune, and you might even be able to charge participants a modest fee to recoup your costs while also promoting your brand. Local meetings are also great for networking with other businesses and finding new talent.
According to an article published with Wall Street's NASDAQ:
"Everybody knows that networking is a great way to establish relationships that potentially lead to new business, valuable partnerships, the latest information, and fresh talent."
The bottom line: it's important to spend as much time in the "real world" as possible when you're trying to market your brand. Don't rely solely on internet marketing unless you're an online business – and even then, it's possible that local events could provide value to your online business.
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