Five Cheap Ways to Market Your Business

Think good marketing will cost big? Think again. Here's how to make a splash without getting soaked!

Eager to expand your client base and spread the word about yourproducts and services? Wondering if you should even bother withmarketing programs if you don't have thousands of dollars tospend?

The answer, of course, is yes. It's financially riskier fora business not to market. And there are literally hundreds ofcost-effective ideas you can use to increase your revenue. Here arefive high-impact marketing approaches that don't cost a bundleand that can work for virtually every business.

1. Talk to your clients. It's amazing how much moneybusinesses spend to gather market information and attract newclients when they have a wealth of opportunity and information intheir existing client base. One of the best ways to increaserevenue is to talk to existing customers. Ideally, this should bedone by someone outside your company so clients are willing to behonest and open.

When you assess perceptions, you don't need to talk tohundreds of individuals; simply choose 5 to ten clients and contactthem to ask if they'd participate in a phone interview.Here's how it works:

1. Send a letter asking permission to have someone contact themabout your company.

2. Have the interviewer call and ask value-based questions suchas:

  • What problems were you trying to solve or what challenges wereyou facing when you considered the services of Company ABC?
  • How important were Company ABC's services in solving yourproblems or addressing your challenges?
  • What did you value most about this company's work?
  • What other products or services do you wish they offered thatcould help you with other business challenges?

3. After all the interviews have been conducted, compile theinformation to discover trends and themes.

4. Send a thank-you letter to every client who participated.Include key lessons from the interviews and explain the specificchanges you plan to make to your business based on thisinformation.

The important part here is to use what you learn. If youdon't make changes to your business, then you've wastedeveryone's time. One company that recently did this tripled itsbusiness in one year-the owners learned what people wanted, howtheir solution made a difference, how to present it, and how toprice it, and then proceeded to make changes that improved thoseareas.

Keys to success: The conversation with your customers isjust that, a conversation. Don't fire questions at them;instead, have the interviewer engage in a conversation and gatheras much valuable data as you can. Remember, it's not about howsatisfied they are-it's about how much they valued your productor service.

2. Creatively package your marketing campaigns. Apostcard is one way to market your business. But how about puttinga small box together with a fork, knife, spoon and a custom printednapkin that invites your prospect to "have lunch on us?"Think outside the box, and your marketing campaigns will have moreimpact.

And don't be afraid to see what other people in otherindustries are doing and adapt that to your business. Think aboutthe little details that will get attention. I once did a marketingprogram to the food industry that had a brochure vacuum-sealed inthe same plastic used to wrap bacon. The same piece sent totechnology companies used static shield envelopes. This campaignearned 96% recognition when follow-up calls were placed.

Keys to success: Set a clear objective for your marketingcampaign, and identify how you'll measure its success. Thenfollow up to measure the results and adjust the program ifnecessary.

3. Get the word out with publicity. Think you can'tdo PR or publicity without employing the services of a high-pricedfirm? You can! Although a good firm brings tremendous contacts andexperience, most small companies can do enough PR on their own tospark the public's interest. One great resource for the mediaunsavvy comes from Shock PR, a Holliston, Massachusetts-based publicrelations firm. Their product, PR in a Box, delivers templates,tips and step-by-step instructions on how to prepare releases andpitch stories that will intrigue the media.

Keys to success: In one word, leverage. Though it doeshappen, don't expect one story placement to generate thousandsin revenue. Your success depends on leveraging each press release,each article and each published mention. Put it all on your Website: Create a news page and add a What's New area on your homepage. Add it to your marketing kit and send the piece to clients,colleagues and professional organizations. Include a note in yournewsletter that says 'Recently Seen In...' And remember: PRis more cost-effective and more credible than advertising.

4. Leverage existing relationships. Most people know atleast 200 people. Do the math: If you know 200 people and they eachknow 200 people, that's 40,000 potential contacts! Spend timedeveloping relationships with the people you already know-clients,colleagues, people you meet through professional networkingorganizations, friends and even family.

Start by making a list of all the people you know. Next,prioritize your list into As, Bs and Cs. As are your advocates.These are the people who feel strongly about you. They're the"cheerleaders" who would refer business to you right now.Bs could become advocates if they knew more about you, so you needto spend time with these people to educate them. Cs are thosepeople you don't communicate with often enough. You may keepthem in the loop, but they need more time and nurturing beforethey'd refer any business your way. If there are any names thatremain, delete them.

Keys to success: Educate, don't sell. The key here isto build relationships. These develop over time as you createcredibility and trust. To be truly effective, you must always be onthe lookout for ways you can help your network. Start from theperspective of giving more than you ask, and your network willbecome your most valuable marketing tool.

5. Commit to e-mail marketing. Marketing through e-mailis flexible, cost-effective, easy to measure (assuming you put theright tracking in place), and high impact. It allows you to easilydrive traffic to your Web site, reach a broad geographic audienceand stay in frequent contact with your customers and prospects.E-mail marketing allows you to market your services andestablish your expertise with your audience.

Use it for newsletters, new product announcements or to shareyour publicity success-the ideas are endless. But know that thisflexibility and ease-of-use can cause problems. Remember, this is amarketing campaign. So be sure to think it through, develop anappropriate message, create a piece that reflects your brand, knowyour objectives, and make sure the information is valuable for yourmarket, or people will quickly unsubscribe.

Keys to success: Don't be seen as a"spammer"! Send e-mail only to those people who havegiven permission. When someone asks to be removed, respondimmediately.

Susan LaPlante-Dube is president of Precision Marketing Groupin Upton, Massachusetts, where she focuses on creating customizedmarketing solutions that deliver solid business results fororganizations ranging from solo practitioners to Fortune 500companies. To sign up for Susan's "Matters ofMarketing" newsletter, or to learn more, visit

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