Creative Ways to Market Your Small Business
Marketing can involve costly advertising or a useful toll free number or simple promotions that don't cost you a dime. But there's a key to successful marketing that many small business owners fail to keep in mind: Focus on what the customer wants. Only if people truly desire your product or service your marketing efforts bring lasting success.
Marketing is about a lot more than one catchy idea. The American Marketing Association defines it as "the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives." Step one is to have a plan and a strategy. Marketing your business is not just about one gimmick. You have to commit funds to marketing your business, and of course you'll want to spend that money wisely. [Learn More: How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan ]
Once you have a plan in place, and/or if you're struggling to come up with a fresh way to market your business, check out these ideas — some simple, some creative — from the National Women's Business Center and the Small Business Administration:
- Carry business cards with you (all day, every day) and pass them out.
- Ask clients why they hired you and solicit suggestions for improvement.
- Ask former clients why they left you.
- Identify a new market.
- Join a list-serve (e-mail list) related to your profession.
- Subscribe to an Internet usenet newsgroup or a list-serve that serves your target market.
- Offer a simpler/cheaper/smaller version of your (or existing) product or service.
- Offer a fancier/more expensive/faster/bigger version of your (or existing) product or service.
- Create a suggestion box for employees.
- Give regular clients a discount.
- Offer financing or installment plans.
- Publish a newsletter for customers and prospects (online printing services ).
- Create a poster or calendar to give away to customers and prospects.
- Develop a web site and offer advice that customers find truly useful.
- Send timely and newsworthy press releases (how about celebrating your 1,000th customer?).
- Create an annual award and publicize it.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or trade magazine.
- Take the local newspaper editor to lunch.
- Send handwritten thank you notes.
- Send birthday cards and appropriate seasonal greetings.
- Join a Chamber of Commerce or other local business organization.
- Give away hats, pens, mouse pads, or mugs with your logo on them..
- Consider placing ads in your newspaper's classified section — they tend to be cheap, and to work.
- Get a booth at a fair or trade show.
- Sponsor or host a special event at your business in cooperation with a local non-profit organization.
- Sponsor a local youth sports team.
We like this old-fashioned, tried-and-true piece of advice best: Return phone calls promptly.