Market On Shoestring Budget 825


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How to market your small business for less than $1,000 per month

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Market On Shoestring Budget 825

  1. 1. Market Your Business on a Shoestring BudgetWritten by: Ken Mair, Founder 180 Degrees Consultants Inc.Marketing is a daunting task for most entrepreneurs. It is a grey area only understood by those in agencies and PR firms. Thetruth is, with the tools available today, you can effectively market your business without spending huge sums of money. Hereare a number of suggestions on marketing your business with a reasonable investment of time and on a limited budget. Webelieve that most small businesses can run an effective marketing program with an up front investment of less than $3,000and ongoing expenses of less than $1,000 per month. As your business grows that budget will need to increase but still doesnot require a major financial commitment to effectively promote your company, product or service.The first step is to have a plan. 1. Define your target geography. 2. Profile your Ideal Customer in as much detail as you can. 3. Understand where they are found. 4. What’s the easiest and fastest way to get their attention; traditional media, social media, trade and business associations? 5. How do your target customers traditionally seek out the services or products that you sell? 6. How does your competition market to attract customers? 7. Where does the industry hang out?Make sure you understand where to look for new business. Once you have an idea of where you need to look then assess allavailable methods to reach new prospects. Once you have a list of all methods select the ones that fit your business, theamount of time you have to invest and your budget. From there document a brief marketing plan and build a marketingcalendar for the next twelve months.In no particular order here are some places and ideas to market your small business cost effectively. Electronic Media For many entrepreneurs, especially those of us born before 1970, effectively using electronic and social media is nothing more than a maze. However, it is the new media, it is here to stay and it is the lowest cost way to market your business. You need to first establish that your target customer uses and can be found on the web. There are still many industries that are slow to adopt electronic media. Once you have established that your target customer can be found online spend some time understanding what media they use and how electronic media can help you grow your business. Then build a plan to take advantage of this powerful tool. The following is just a small cross section of electronic media available to the small business owner. 1. Website A website is an absolute must in today’s business environment. You have to have one and it is inexpensive to get set up. You should be able to get a basic website and email addresses set up for $500. Make it a priority. 2. Support your Website there are several things you can do to support your website. If you are not web savvy, hire someone to list your site with major search engines and indexes, set up free listings in search engine local directories and submit your site to the various firms that promote new sites on the web. This can be done for less than $250. 3. Set up a Linked In Account invite friends, customers, suppliers and prospects to connect, be active in the business groups that attract contacts who would be interested in your product or service. 4. Facebook set up a Facebook page for your business and publish the page to clients, partners, friends and family. Facebook is becoming a powerful business tool.180 Degrees Consultants Inc. 2000 Appleby Line, Suite 406, Burlington, Ontario. L7L 7H7
  2. 2. Market Your Business on a Shoestring Budget 5. Twitter set up a Twitter account for your business and link it to your Facebook page. There are companies who will manage your social media program for as little as $150.00 per month. This is a new advertising medium and you should explore its applicability to your business. 6. YouTube Create a YouTube video about your business and or each of your products or services. This is a great way to promote your business and products, attract new clients and have some fun. Be sure to determine effective keywords to facilitate searching on YouTube. 7. SlideShare Build a PowerPoint presentation about your business and publish the link on your Linked In profile. 8. CRM you should have a Customer Relationship Management tool to assist with the management of client and prospect activities. It can be as simple as using Microsoft Outlook or one of the many web based products such as 9. Electronic Newsletter Now that you have a CRM tool, publish a monthly newsletter. Remember this should contain more valuable information than sales pitches. 10. Webcasts and Webinars Use webinars and webcasts to announce new products, new promotions, and assist with customer training. 11. Blog Add a blog to your website and discuss key industry topics and how your products and services address these issues. 12. Online Directories use the online directories to promote your business. Pay attention to the local directories in your target geography which should include;; a. YellowPages – Make it easier for your users to find you by creating a free basic listing. b. CitySearch – Receive ad placement on top search engines with their online advertising tools. c. Yahoo! Local – The basic plan is free and helps your customers find you when theyre searching for local listings. d. Craigslist – Posting is free and its not just for buyers and sellers. Reach the estimated 10 million unique visitors per day by posting your product/service. 13. Online Publications and EZines these sites are always looking for content. Find the sites that are relevant to your customers and prospects and submit interesting articles and press releases. A low cost and effective way to build an online profile. 14. Industry Bloggers Does your industry have bloggers? If so, find out who the most active and most followed are and tell them about your product or service. They have influence. 15. Profile your company in Wikipedia Its important to build an online presence and adding an entry in Wikipedia can help you accomplish that. Check out how other companies profile themselves and use the same format. Be sure to include links to your site so people can find you. 16. Add an E-mail Signature Sounds simple but you are probably constantly e-mailing vendors, clients, partners, etc. Did you know you can also market your new services in them? Add a signature line at the end of your e-mail with a link to your site, or a tag line to promote your new service, a special promotion or blog post. Its easy to do and can prove to be fruitful. Utilizing electronic media does not have to be expensive or horribly time consuming. An effective website for a small business shouldn’t cost much more than $500. Add an ecommerce section for another $250. There are several companies who will manage your business on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter for $150 per month. Putting up a blog on your site is free but does come with a requirement that you have relevant content and that you are posting consistently. Linked In is free and the groups are a great way to quickly expand your network. (Some of the content of this white paper was provided by my fellow group members on Linked In).180 Degrees Consultants Inc. 2000 Appleby Line, Suite 406, Burlington, Ontario. L7L 7H7
  3. 3. Market Your Business on a Shoestring Budget Budget $1,000 for start up costs and $250 per month for management of content and you can build a strong electronic media presence. Traditional Media Most entrepreneurs think of traditional media (Print, TV and Radio), as being extremely expensive and out of reach financially. While this can be true, traditional media also includes basics such as business cards, letterhead, brochures and signage. Customer communications is also a form of traditional media. There are several ways to take advantage of traditional media without having to blow your budget. 1. The Basics - If youre just starting out and dont have a business card and business stationery, have them made up -- immediately. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your website address on your business card, letterhead and any handouts you create. 2. If you use a car or truck in your business and are marketing to consumers in your local area have your contact information professionally painted on the side of the vehicle or use a magnetic sign to promote your business. 3. Build a simple sales brochure that outlines your product or service and highlights the benefits to your prospective customer or client. 4. Create a PowerPoint presentation around your business, product or service. Make sure you have a slide about yourself, successful customer installations, customer references and contact information. 5. Carry brochures about your company in your car at all times. When you are out doing personal errands if you see a business that could use your product or service drop in quickly and introduce yourself. Plan to arrive twenty minutes early to your appointments and use the time to find a new prospect. 6. Public Relations - Look for something unique about your product or service and write about it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV stations and magazines, whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. Be sure to post the press releases on one or more online press release services as well, being sure to include links to your website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of "art" (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text. 7. Communications - Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to non-competing newspapers, magazines and websites in your field that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name, phone number and a reference to your product or service is included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free as well. 8. Guest Appearances - Depending on your product or service you may be able to get guest appearances on local and community television and radio shows. 9. Remember you are not just marketing your product or service to new prospects, you must also market to your existing clients. When you get a new client send them a personal note thanking them for their business, a handwritten note is far more memorable than an email. After a meeting or conference call thank clients for their time and recap each meeting to make sure there are no miscommunications. A new order from an existing client requires a follow up note. Existing clients are not just a source of revenue; they are your references and best source of referrals. They are the most important part of your business. Don’t overlook traditional media as a way to promote your company, product or service. The basics are essential in establishing credibility for your business. PR and Communications programs can increase your industry profile and make you appear as a larger company. This is also a great way to advertise your successes. There are many small PR firms in the market who will run your PR and communications program for as little as $300.00 per month. Remember that the content created for traditional media can be used in your electronic, association and community marketing as well.180 Degrees Consultants Inc. 2000 Appleby Line, Suite 406, Burlington, Ontario. L7L 7H7
  4. 4. Market Your Business on a Shoestring Budget Associations Participating in community, business and industry associations is an excellent way to expand your personal network and get added exposure for your business. There are several easy ways to get started; 1. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and/or Board of Trade. Attend the meetings and events. Be a participant and volunteer. Be a guest speaker. Meet as many people as you can. 2. Join the trade associations that your customers join. Attend their events and be an active participant. Your customers will appreciate your support and these events are a great opportunity to meet new prospects. Most associations provide members with member lists which can be added to your database to expand your CRM marketing. Take advantage of any website linking or co-marketing opportunities that come from association membership. 3. Exhibit in the trade shows that your customers attend. Contact show management and offer to be a guest speaker. Become a “citizen of the industry” in your clients’ industry. Build a profile through participation. Become a member of your local business community. It is very inexpensive and an excellent way to build profile for yourself and your business. Community Building a profile in your community is a great way to promote yourself and your business. There are several opportunities to participate; 1. Community Newspapers – If your product or service has relevance to the general community, contact the editor of the local community newspaper and offer to write a guest column on an interesting topic. If the column gains popularity you can then offer it to local newspapers in neighboring communities. 2. Community Events – Participate in community events as a volunteer. Volunteer a bit of your time and you’ll be surprised at who you might meet. 3. Charity Work – Do some charity work. Support the local food bank. Work in a shelter. Participate in kids sports. It will be both personally rewarding and again you will be surprised at who you meet. 4. Free Information Seminars – Again, depending on your product or service, offer to do free information seminars at the local library, schools and colleges or the SBDC. You provide the time and content, they do the marketing for the event. Community participation is a great way to build a local profile for yourself and your business. Government Don’t overlook government programs as a way to get your marketing programs subsidized. There are many programs available to entrepreneurs and some are quite lucrative. 1. Small Business Development Centres – find out where the local SBDC is and drop in to inquire about support for local small business. They offer a myriad of programs and tools designed to assist small business owners. 2. Grants – there are many grant programs available and your SBDC representative should be able to assist you. If you are a female entrepreneur or a visible minority, there are many programs offered. If you are in the development business don’t overlook programs such as SRED to help you recover a significant portion of your development costs. Recovered development costs can be re-deployed to bolster your marketing budget! 3. Export Assistance – if you are exporting your product or service, there are programs such as Export Marketing Assistance, Trade Commissioners and Export Development Corporation who are there to support your export business. 4. Online Directories – there are several online directories where you can register your business and your company will get promoted within the government and into the general community. These are free and usually beneficial.180 Degrees Consultants Inc. 2000 Appleby Line, Suite 406, Burlington, Ontario. L7L 7H7
  5. 5. Market Your Business on a Shoestring Budget 5. Hiring Subsidies – the hiring subsidy programs are typically run through community colleges. Make sure you register your business before you begin any hiring process as up to 60% of first year salaries may be covered. Take advantage of the government programs where you can with one word of caution, these programs can be time consuming. If you believe that you qualify for one or more programs consider engaging a government grants consultant who will take you through the process for a minimal fee. Universities and Colleges Contact the Business Departments of your local colleges and universities. In many cases the marketing students have a requirement to put in 120 hours service (free of charge) at a local company in order to graduate. Your only requirement is to provide them with relevant work and to complete a brief report at the conclusion of their tenure. If you can get on the program you can get access to a student for three weeks, typically three times a year and it is a great way to complete special marketing projects that you otherwise wouldn’t have time for. Corporate When marketing your product or service directly to corporations try to set yourself apart from your competitors. 1. Offer a free no obligation consultation to people who fit your target customer profile. (As a consultant this is a regular strategy for us.) 2. Provide free information seminars. Do the seminars via webcast or webinar so the prospect doesn’t have to leave their office. Record the seminar and stream it from your website so the prospect can view it at their convenience. 3. Provide free samples of your products. 4. Sponsor their golf tournaments and charity events simply by donating a prize or your time. 5. Show commitment and provide some real value before asking for the order. Corporate buyers are inundated by companies and sales people trying to sell them product. Be a little creative in your marketing approach and the selling will become a lot easier. Strategic Alliances Look for opportunities with non competing businesses selling into the same markets. Co-promotion can extend your market reach and stretch your budget. 1. Co-promote on each others websites. 2. Implement a referral program and pay finders fees for leads that turn into business. 3. Share trade show and event expenses. 4. Share the costs of mailings. 5. Share access to databases. 6. Combine products and services into a single promotion. Strategic Alliances are a very effective way to increase your market presence. Look for companies with a similar market approach and corporate values and be creative in your approach to co-marketing.180 Degrees Consultants Inc. 2000 Appleby Line, Suite 406, Burlington, Ontario. L7L 7H7
  6. 6. Market Your Business on a Shoestring Budget Customers Your customers should be your best source of leads and your least expensive marketing cost. There are several simple programs you can implement at little or no cost. − Referral Programs offer your customers an incentive for referring new clients to you. If they are pleased with your product or service they will be happy to share with their friends and acquaintances. − Revival Programs do you have dormant customers? Offer them an incentive to come back. Send them a free sample. Introduce a new product. − Coupons and Incentives use coupons and incentives to encourage customers to purchase new products, sell over inventoried products or increase sales in slow months. − Loyalty Programs implement a loyalty program to reward your best clients. These do not have to be complicated or expensive but are very effective. − Corporate Gifts plan ahead and send your customers unique and memorable gifts for the holiday season. Be different and you will be memorable. Remember to never give anything you wouldn’t want to receive yourself. − Customer Satisfaction Surveys show your customers you care how they feel and ask them how you are doing. If you get negative feedback, act on it and communicate that action. − Say Thank You don’t forget to say thank you to your customers from time to time. A hand written note, a lunch where no business is discussed, remembering a birthday, tickets to an event, all are easy to do and cost very little if you are creative. − Customer Relationship Management build a customer and prospect database and use it to effectively communicate with your customers. All staff should be aware of the critical nature of this data. You worked hard to get your existing customers. Recognize their value. Thank them. Ask them for help in growing your business. They should be happy to help. If they aren’t, ask yourself why? Friends and Family Don’t forget to ask friends, family and acquaintances to help you market your business. Each has a personal network and an automatic willingness to help. Some simple steps include; 1. Send everyone an email asking them for their assistance. Clearly articulate what your ideal client looks like and the benefit of your product or service. Attach an electronic brochure. 2. For those that indicate an opportunity or an interest, send them several of your business cards. 3. If appropriate send everyone a sample of your product. 4. If they send you a lead, follow up immediately and send a note to the referring person with an update and a thank you. 5. When you get some referrals that result in business send a note to everyone thanking them for their help and praising the sources that provided leads that resulted in business. This will incent those who promised but forgot! Friends, family and acquaintances want you to succeed. They will market your business aggressively and ask for nothing in return. Leverage this opportunity!180 Degrees Consultants Inc. 2000 Appleby Line, Suite 406, Burlington, Ontario. L7L 7H7
  7. 7. Market Your Business on a Shoestring BudgetConclusionMarketing requires working on your business not in your business. Most owners of small to medium sized businesses spendthe majority of their time working in their businesses. Effective marketing WILL grow your business and there are a vastnumber of opportunities for entrepreneurs to market their products and businesses without having to spend a lot of time ormoney.There is a significant amount of content in this paper and we are not suggesting that every business must do everything.However, if you pick the tasks that are appropriate to your market and meet your time and financial budget, you can build aneffective marketing plan for less than $1,000 per month.180 Degrees Consultants Inc. is an Oakville based company dedicated to helping emerging businesses manage andmaximize rapid growth. We offer a complete range of sales, marketing and financial planning services to small andmedium sized businesses. In conjunction with our associates, we offer Web Design, Social Media Management, PR andCommunications and Database Management services.Ken Mair is the founder of 180 Degrees Consultants Inc. and has been an independent consultant since 2001. In that timehe has worked with almost 200 businesses to assist them in building tactical sales and marketing plans to grow theirbusinesses, launch new products or open new markets.We intend to upgrade this paper on a regular basis and your comments and suggestions are appreciated.For additional information please contact Ken Mair at or 416-809-8120.180 Degrees Consultants Inc. 2000 Appleby Line, Suite 406, Burlington, Ontario. L7L 7H7