Starting your own small business is a thrilling experience, but it’s also somewhat terrifying. The first problem most new small businesses face is attracting customers. You need a healthy customer base to turn profits, after all, without which your business will fail. The good news is that you can easily market your small business, especially on a local level, without investing much money at all. Low-cost startup marketing is the way to go for budget-strapped businesses, particularly of the home-based variety. The following five must-have marketing tools for startups are low-investment, highly effective ways to spread the word about your new business and generate response from paying customers.
1. Business cards
Every business professional should have business cards. They’re not only expected, they’re what potential customers will refer to when they need to contact you. Business cards are cheap to print, so you can hand them out to everyone you meet and also leave stacks of them where your target customers will find them. Don’t just print any business card; make sure your design is striking, well-branded, lists the benefits of buying from you, and even includes and introductory offer and call to action to motivate customers to give your business a try.
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More people search for local services online than anywhere else today, which is why it’s critical to have an online presence for your business. To start, all you need is a web page that lists the benefits of buying from you and a call to action to motivate response. A basic website is low-cost (nearly free, in fact), and will show up in local searches if you follow basic search engine optimization best practices.
3. Facebook page
Social media is huge, and my preferred small business social media starting point is Facebook. Facebook lends itself to a grassroots effort in which your company is socially supported by loyal customers who live your company culture and are happy to promote you via word-of-mouth. It’s entirely possible for a small, home-based business to grow from a single-like to a multi-million-dollar empire using the power of Facebook alone. Plus, Facebook pages are free.
If you’re looking for a cheap and easy way to put your brand in front of the masses, print a couple of vinyl banners and place them at busy intersections in your city. Vinyl banners are low-investment marketing tools, especially given their reach (how many people see them). Make sure you keep your banner message simple yet powerful, and include an easy-to-remember call to action (such as a memorable URL) to maximize response.
5. Door hangers
One of my favorite pieces for advice for startup businesses is to print 1,000 door hangers (about $100) and distribute them to neighborhoods full of people who fit your target customer profiles. You can recruit volunteers to do the legwork, so long as you reward them with a pizza or cocktail party afterward. Measure the response of your campaign, then try a different version to a similar neighborhood. Do this a few times, and you’ll be able to tell which version of your door hangers worked, and you’ll be able to predict your response rate and return on investment. Now, you can get a targeted mailing list of people with the same demographics and launch a large-scale direct-mail postcard marketing campaign with minimal risk, given you can predict your return on investment.
Marketing your small business doesn’t have to be inefficient. With a strategic approach (and the right offer) you can have your startup business off the ground and running – profitably – in just a few weeks.