Q:I'm ready to spread the word about my business but don't have much to spend. How do I promote my business on a budget?
A: Every business needs to promote itself to win new customers, but traditional advertising is expensive, and some forms of promotion--like spam and fliers placed on cars, for example--can make you more enemies than friends.
It's not a bad idea to set aside a small, annual budget for traditional advertising. Decide which advertising medium--radio, TV, direct mail and so on--will best help you reach your target customers, and define your peak times for advertising throughout the year. Also think about how you might team up on promotions with another company that suits your product or service. This company might be a supplier or a well-known local business that has some synergy with yours.
Next, get web-savvy. An easy-to-use website is one of your best promotional tools, as well as a low-cost opportunity to teach customers about what you sell. Think about how you can incorporate certain online tools, such as an opt-in e-mail promotions program, meant to help you reach your target customers. A few other tips for promoting your business on a budget:
- Be able to describe what your company sells in 10 seconds or less.
- Give customers a discount on their next purchase for referring a new customer.
- Generate press coverage by pitching yourself to journalists as an industry expert available for comment.
- Ask customers to provide testimonials for your product or service.
- Sponsor a local event.
- Send thank-you notes to customers, suppliers and other people you come in contact with.
- Relax--building awareness of your brand takes time.