Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Week 11: Smart Marketing Tactics to Boost Sales

Regardless of your budget, you can call attention to your business with these effective marketing strategies.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Sometimes choosing the best marketing tactics is like going to a restaurant with an unlimited menu. Even entrepreneurs with tight budgets or small niche markets have dozens of options. And it can be hard to separate the best from the rest. A great tactic meets three criteria:

  • It reaches your most qualified prospects.
  • It puts your message in the right context.
  • It gives you enough space/time to tell prospects what to do.

A business that specializes in cabinet refacing, for example, could run local cable TV spots during home-remodeling programs, including kitchen design shows. The spots would reach a qualified target audience in the appropriate context--when they were in the right frame of mind and most likely to be receptive.

Week 11 quoteEvery great marketing tactic allows space or time for a call to action. This can be as simple as a toll-free number on a billboard or as complex as a direct-mail package with multiple offers. But an effective tactic always tells prospects what to do next. Can't come up with a group of tactics? Here's a virtual smorgasbord of ideas to get you started.

  • Outdoor media: Some examples include billboards, subway and bus signage, taxi tops and skywriting.
  • Online advertising: Display ads on targeted sites, including skyscrapers and the new half-page ads, and ads in online newsletters that reach qualified opt-in lists are often affordable options.
  • Direct marketing: Try direct mail, where individual pieces are sent to rented lists, or marriage mail, such as ValPak, which is a low-cost way to reach households in targeted ZIP codes. E-mail solicitations to opt-in lists are a lower-cost alternative to traditional direct marketing and work best in combination with an effective Web site.
  • Broadcast advertising: Radio advertising can be an excellent choice due to its ability to reach specific target audiences through select programming. Television advertising is more accessible than ever, thanks to local cable systems and a range of networks with niche programming.
  • Print advertising: Whether you use trade or consumer press, you have many options for display and classified ads. You can purchase local, regional or national editions of many consumer magazines. And if you wish to market in select cities but find the major daily newspapers too costly, consider alternative weeklies.
  • Nontraditional media: From stickers on fruit in supermarkets to your message on stadium snack trays, here's your chance to be highly creative.
  • Shows and displays: Consumer expos, trade shows and conferences provide one-on-one time with prospects. For manufacturers and distributors, retail displays make products stand out from others on the shelves.
  • Public relations: There are many forms of PR, such as media relations, special events, promotions and satellite media tours. Lower-cost tactics include articles written for targeted Web sites and participation in discussion lists frequented by your audience.

Low-Cost Marketing Tactics

It's also possible to get the word out about your business without investing in traditional advertising. Using time, energy, knowledge, information and especially imagination will be the best practice of the most successful marketers. Here are some guerrilla marketing tacts that will help you reach your audience with little or no cost.

Local Search

Though we'll discuss globalization later, most small businesses market locally because they tend to do business within their community, suburb or city--typically staying within about a 50- to 100-mile radius. If this sounds like your business, you don't need to invest in marketing that reaches beyond your local audience, like search engines that reach the whole world. The desired goal is to isolate your search engine listings and related online advertising dollars in an area where you do want to do business.

To learn more about targeting your search engine advertising dollars to your local audience, start with the list of local search engines at

Week 11 quotePodcasts

Never before has the online community had such an opportunity to reach its audience offline. On top of that, the spammers and hackers haven't yet found a way to infiltrate podcasting. (They probably will, but not like they've done with e-mail.)

Podcasts, like any information you put out, should be of interest and value to your target market. What do they need to help their businesses or their personal lives? What solutions do you have that they would like to hear more about? These are the things people find interesting in podcasts. A once-a-month delivery promoted through all your other marketing channels will give a real synergistic boost to your marketing.


There are 100 times more blogs than there were three years ago, according Sifry's Alerts' August post on the State of the Blogosphere. At first, it was only the most tech-savvy businesses that had blogs. Now blogging is on the increase with all types of businesses because it's a cost-effective way to create marketing buzz and communities of support.

Blogging is like having a conversation with your target market. It also provides an interactive forum for your target market to talk back to you. And a blog done in conjunction with your website gives you one more way to reach your prospects.

The best part is, many blog programs allow you to set everything up yourself with little or no technical know-how. If you're not sure you'll be able to support a blog on your own, contribute to someone else's. This'll help you gain exposure and position you as an expert in your field.

Online Advertising

Ad dollars are continuing to shift to the internet and will continue to do so as new opportunities such as video open up. Online ad spending increases have been driven by the growing ability to measure campaigns effectively and a relatively high ROI. As a result, for many businesses, the question isn't whether to advertise online or even where or when, but rather how to stretch every dollar spent.

For the everyday entrepreneur and guerrilla marketer, this translates into a focused pay-per-click campaign on Yahoo! or Google AdWords. You can focus on a particular target market searching particular keywords and test your campaign instantly, all for fewer dollars than the old mass-market banner ads and certainly for a lot less than the cost of print ads.

Expanding to Global Markets

Borders are being removed in the business world because international labor rates and talent levels make location irrelevant on the internet. No longer is going global just for large corporations; Sally's e-commerce bead shop that's operating from a home office can now do business in as many countries as have internet access.

For the aggressive entrepreneur, marketing globally is done mostly online. Using pay-per-click campaigns, a focused opt-in e-mail campaign or other traffic-generation techniques, a local entrepreneur can easily reach a global market.

The internet has also greatly reduced language barriers. A lot of e-commerce is done in English, so there's not necessarily a huge need to translate. However, translated websites do open up new opportunities.

Expanding to global markets can be done with your e-commerce website or as an affiliate of the many thousands of retail portals available online, like and eBay.

Direct Marketing

No longer are awareness ads or even branding ads generating enough results to justify their use. Today's consumers want to know what's in it for them. They want a deal, a discount or something special. These all have implications for increased direct marketing. In addition, with all the technology available to us for managing databases, target markets can be more tightly defined, segregated, sorted, compiled and marketed to, providing a higher return to those employing direct marketing.

For today's entrepreneur, direct marketing can start with a simple postcard campaign to 1,000 prospects. Doing this frequently will generate interest and awareness in your products and services and motivate prospects to buy from you. Learn more about direct marketing at our "Direct Mail and Coupons" page.