I could tell you about dozens of marketing ideas that will work really well in your business if you’ve got a ton of cash to spend on it.
But as a business owner, you’re probably wondering if there aren’t less expensive ways to promote yourself. It’s in our nature to be cost effective whether we’ve just launched our business or when we’re in our fifth consecutive year of growth.
But the truth is that when you’re a small business, new customer acquisition is a real challenge. The mere thought of getting your business “out there” makes some people panic.
The reason for this?
You’ve been taught to think that marketing requires a huuuge budget that you just can’t afford right now.
But that’s not always the case.
While there are methods that require you to have a ton of cash, there are many inexpensive ways that will get your business in front of the people that matter – your current and potential customers.
Let’s look at five of them…
Low Cost Way #1 – Exhibitions
Want a marketing method that gives you a really important marketing advantage – interacting one-on-one with your existing and potential customers?
I know this seems like a really big investment on your part but if you do it right, an exhibition show could give you lasting benefits that can give you a tenfold return on your investment.
To reduce the exhibition cost (which is what gives most SMEs a headache), there are a few things you need to do. First, track the early bird rates and see which ones work for you.
I’d keep a list of all the upcoming shows in the next year or so and keep them in one place for easy access. Of course, keep in mind your annual financial plan so you don’t get any surprise expenses.
Secondly, try to stay away from services (e.g. stand carpets) offered by official vendors and suppliers of the show organizers. Sometimes these services go for as much as 100% more than those from local independent suppliers.
Those are just two of the many tips that could help you reduce the cost so your exhibition doesn’t have to be a costly affair.
If you exhibit at the right show, you can increase your brand awareness, acquire new customers and cement customer loyalty.
Check out Exhibitions.co.uk to see any upcoming events.
Low Cost Way #2 – Referrals
Referral marketing or word-of-mouth marketing as it is often referred to is one of the most effective marketing methods.
Rather than involving traditional and other mainstream marketing methods, this involves simply spreading the word.
Of course you know what it is.
What you might not know is the kind of boost it can give your business.
According to a study by New York Times, on average, 65% of customers buy because someone recommended the product or service. This means that more than a third of your customers are likely to come from referrals. Another report by Nielsen suggests that 83% of consumers “completely or somewhat trust recommendations of friends and family.”
You should be convinced by now that if you’re not actively doing referral marketing then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
So, how do you do it?
The first and most obvious thing to do is to ask for the referrals from customers and other people you know. Make sure that you mention the referral program to as many of you customers as you come across.
When’s the best time to ask?
When you have a happy customer in front of you! You just need to get in the habit of asking them.
Of course you don’t want to be too pushy about your programme – there is a balance. You can also train your employees so they know how to effectively market the program to customers at the different touch points with your company.
You should consider rewarding those that refer new customers to your business. And this doesn’t have to be in cash.
In fact, avoid giving out cash for referrals. A study by the University of Chicago found non-cash incentives to be 24% more effective than cash rewards. So, when you think of rewards, think of extra amounts of the product, extra features, etc.
Low Cost Way #3 – Cross Promotion
I’m sure you’ve seen Visa or MasterCard being promoted alongside credit and debit cards. Or being offered a free trial of a product because you bought another. This is referred to as cross-promotion and is a marketing method that involves two or more non-competing companies marketing their products to the same customers.
More accurately, cross-promotion is a marketing method where different but related (often complementary) products are promoted to the same customers. It’s one of the most innovative marketing strategies you can come up with.
Another example of cross-promotion is where you earn redeemable miles from an airline for staying at a particular hotel or using a certain credit card.
So, why does it work so well?
The first reason is because it’s cost-effective. While the total cost of the particular marketing campaign doesn’t change (at least not by much), the strain isn’t much because this cost is shared between the companies.
Secondly, cross-promotion presents a win-win situation. Each company gets to ride on the other’s reputation and in the same way establish its credibility.
To do it right, you have to be careful whom you enter into the arrangement with. Besides the products being complimentary, you need to make sure that the potential partner is a natural fit. Do they have the same image as you? How’s their type of clientele?
Does the company enhance your credibility and you theirs?
This can be particularly effective for small businesses trying to grow in similar markets.
Low Cost Way #4 – Surprise Your (Top) Clients
Do you always wait till the holidays so you can send gifts to your clients?
Sorry – I should have asked – do you even send them gifts? Oh, I know. It’s the economic crunch.
But if you want to remain on top of your clients’ minds, you’ll want to send them something at least once a year to your top clients. This gets them talking about you and is one of the most effective marketing methods.
Why your best clients? Because they will be your brand ambassadors – your real life, walking, talking adverts.
And the best thing about it is that the gifts don’t have to be too fancy or expensive. Just something to show your appreciation.
Forbes contributor, John Hall says that these gifts should show the recipient (client) that you genuinely appreciate them and not that you’re trying to bribe them to keep them coming back.
If your business has a small number of clients or a few top clients, make an effort to customise the gifts. If you have so many clients that it would be hard to customise the gifts, it’s okay to send small more general items.
Low Cost Way #5 – Featuring in Local News
Whenever you are mentioned in the news, your brand awareness increases.
But how do you get your business on local news?
Just being a great local business doesn’t warrant a news feature. However, the chances of your business being a news feature are more than you might realize.
Most local reporters are desperate for news. You just have to know how to convince them that you’re newsworthy.
One of the most important things to do is to build relationship with the reporters. Connect on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and make sure to follow up on what they’re up to. Tag them whenever you share their stories and maintain regular interaction. When you have some rapport, it’s easy to reach out for a feature.
You can also identify local events that get frequent news coverage and support them. You might not get a full feature but you’ll most probably get mentioned along with the event.
Getting your business noticed doesn’t have to be that expensive task you’re always unprepared to do. You can start with ways that are (almost) free to get a decent amount of exposure and slowly build up the awareness.
Most of the above methods are applicable whatever your budget – big or small. The point is to be creative and start getting noticed.
So how’re you getting your business noticed? Are you getting results on a budget or is it costing you too much? Let’s talk in the comments.