Any start-up or established small business owner will be familiar with the many hats that have to be worn in order to operate and run a small business.  One of the many hats includes marketing activities that offer your business additional exposure and attracts business to yours.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners may consider advertising to be the only form of marketing and would spend a fortune on huge billboard adverts, newspaper and magazine adverts and radio adverts with the hope that it will bring awareness and business through the door.  While advertising has its place, marketing your business extends far beyond advertising activities and as such we have put together a list of 12 affordable ideas to market your small business.  These ideas are easy to implement and (almost all of them) cost next to nothing, apart from your time and effort.

1.  Social Media

It is no surprise that social media tops the list.  Social media, used effectively, can deliver tangible results for your business, however it requires knowledge of how to effectively use the platforms and its tools.  In addition it requires consistency, time, effort and a strategy.

Use social media for customer service, market research, lead generation, promotion as well as for building customer relationships.

2.  Building relationships and networks

People do business with people they know.  Spend time with the people that you know ensuring that you develop genuine relationships with them.  If you feel that you have limited networks, invest time by attending network sessions and joining groups of people who share similar interests.  Consider your local chamber of commerce, business groups and events.  Meetup is another great platform that helps you connect with new people and allows you to share your business.  Be intentional at these network sessions so that you create genuine connections with people.

3.  Strive to become “my guy”

A happy customer will help you reach new customers.  When your customers’ friends, family or work mates require a particular product or service that you are able to provide, you can be assured that your customer will say “Hey, use my guy…” and will refer your business to them.   When a referral comes from a trusted source your chances of obtaining a new customer increase over the efforts made by your competitor to obtain the same customer.

Be aware that an unhappy customer can damage your brand and reputation quickly.  If you do mess up, apologise and attempt to rectify the situation to salvage your reputation and relationship so that the customer can still go on to become one of your best marketing allies.

4. Start a referral programme

Create incentives your existing customers by inviting them to be part of a referral programme.  For every referral that successfully converts, offer your customers a commission or a discount on their next purchase.

5.  Promote a special offer

People love finding really good deals and when you offer an amazing deal, they’ll spread the word for you via word of mouth and social media.

6. Interview the experts

Interview experts and influencers within your industry and write up a blog post summarising key thoughts, opinions and learnings.  Share your blog across various social media platforms.  Ask your influencer to help promote your social media post too.  By doing this, the individuals who follow the influencers will have exposure to your business too.

7.  Create YouTube videos

With video achieving more engagement than other forms of content, why not create a YouTube video or two that explains or demonstrates your product or service.  Embed the video into your website which will help to boost your website ranking too.

8.  Host free training

Offer your existing and potential customers free or affordable training sessions.  At the end of the training session, offer your services so to those who may need more assistance.

9. Write a guest post

Identify an online platform that has a similar target audience as you.  Offer to write a guest post for this online platform as the benefit would be your message, name, business and links to your website and social media platforms will get in front of this new audience. Bizcommunity is an excellent guest post platform that covers a number of different industries.

10.  Say thank you!

Thank and reward your staff for their great work, for their positive attitudes and for helping you build and grow a successful business.  When your staff feel valued and appreciated, they serve your business and its customers better.

Thank your customers, for without their business you may not have a business.  Reward them through a loyalty program; thank them personally through hand-written notes; alternatively host a customer appreciation day offering fantastic discounts and giveaways to your most loyal customers.

Lastly thank your business partners, vendors and/or suppliers by referring business their way.  Host an event to encourage new business connections and partnerships.

11.  Keep your blog updated

Consider the common questions that your target audience asks; what are their pain points?  Creating a buyers persona for your target audience will help you understand their needs more and will help you create blog posts that are aimed specifically at them.

The more often you update your blog page, the more often search engine crawlers visit and index your website; read our blog which provides an easy to understand explanation about search engine optimization.  The benefits of producing quality content more frequently is an improved search engine ranking and more visibility to your target audience.

12.  Offer a give-away

Consider a small giveaway, a free back massage if you run a salon or a free custom-made dress if you are a dressmaker.  Promote it like crazy!

Over to you

Marketing does not have to cost an arm and a leg.  There are various ways to market your business.  What budget marketing tactics have worked for you?

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