"You don't have to spend a lot of money to have effective marketing," says Martin R. Baird, author of the self-published book Guaranteed Results and founder of marketing management firm Robinson & Associates in Phoenix. "If you can accomplish one small, simple marketing effort every day, it's amazing what kinds of results you can get." As Baird's techniques prove, some of the best marketing methods in life are still free:
Speak at community events. Offering your expertise at a public occasion is an easy way to get the word out about your business. You'll maximize your impact, at the same time lending credibility to your product or service.
Wear a button every day. Sporting an intriguing button on your lapel is a sure-fire conversation starter that can lead to, well, who knows what? Have five or six buttons made up with silly, funny or insightful sayings, and wear them to public events, speaking engagements and business meetings.
Ask customers for referrals. Generating referrals from current customers is one of the best ways to market your business. Don't forget to query your vendors (they're likely to have many contacts) or explain to your customers exactly what kinds of referrals you're looking for and how they can help.
Spend two days in your customers' shoes. To find out what your customers really want, visit a wide range of businesses they're likely to frequent. Observe how customers are treated, as well as the kinds of services that appear important to them; then adapt your business accordingly.
Develop sales scripts. If you know what your customers are looking for (and by now you should), you can develop a sales script that asks them questions leading them to your product or service. Give a copy to everyone on your staff, including customer service and clerical employees.
Use both sides of business cards. Use the back of your cards to let people know about extra services you provide that they may not be aware of. On the front, display your phone number prominently, and include a few words emphasizing the benefits of using your business.
Offer gift certificates. They're an easy, low-cost way to generate immediate revenue you can put to use until they're cashed in. Always ask your customers if they'd like to purchase a gift certificate.
Try trial sizes and sampling. If you can get someone to try your product or service, chances are they'll buy it later. Have employees pass out product samples in front of your business; if you provide a service, you can offer, for example, one free week out of a four-week trial period.
Offer a 100 percent guarantee. If you eliminate the risk, consumers will feel much more comfortable about purchasing your product or service. Emphasize the fact that you offer a 100 percent guarantee--and be sure to honor your promise with a hassle-free return policy.
Contact past customers. Zero in on existing customers because this is where most of your business will continue to come from. Invite them in when you develop new products or when you're offering substantial discounts.
Create external incentives. Offer customers free merchandise or services after they buy a certain amount to get them in the habit of purchasing again and again.