The weight of the current economic crisis in the United States is felt by businesses and consumers alike. While the country as a whole is beginning to look towards a brighter future, many businesses are still feeling the effects of a very slow recovery. In particular, small business owners are dealing with the good and bad news that comes from this economic crisis. Many businesses have even been forced to make budget cuts.
According to a recent study, mid-sized banks and credit unions are tightening their lending restrictions and are becoming less likely to lend money to small businesses. Large banks are seeing a slight upswing in loan approvals, but historically larger banks are not the ones who provide a needed influx of cash to small businesses. Large banks are also still seeing fluctuations in approvals. In study done by Trepp, LLC., approval rates had again declined, while in the two months prior, rates had improved. Companies are wise to be careful with their cash in an economy that is still proving to be unstable. Marketing budgets are often one of the first places that businesses make cuts.
There are many ways to market a small business on a tight or non-existent marketing budget. One way to do this is to cultivate business “super-users”. A super user is someone who is already a fan of a brand or can easily be swayed to become one. This person is already inclined to like a particular type of business. A great place to find these super-users is the blog world. Bloggers write about topics that they are interested in. Finding one or several bloggers who write about products or hobbies that are similar to those offered by a small business is not difficult. For example, a company that sells kitchen gadgets might want to target a blogger who writes about recipes and kitchen adventures. Discounts or offers are a good way to turn interested parties into customers who in turn draw in more customers.
Use Customer Referrals to Generate New Customers
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A great way to gain new customers without spending much money is to ask current satisfied customers to help spread the word. In the age of websites such as Yelp or Urbanspoon, writing a review of a business is unbelievably easy. The same goes for leaving comments or ratings on product listings. If a customer leaves a review that is helpful to others, companies can consider offering a discount or credit towards a future order. This makes the customer more likely to return to make another purchase, as well as helps others to discover the business.
Present an Expert Point of View
Internet marketing campaigns don’t have to be costly. Painting a business as the expert on a particular industry can bring in new customers. This can be accomplished with little to no budget. A blog is probably the most obvious outlet for expert content to be posted. Current business bloggers can post on new, relevant topics about the industry that their business falls into. Inviting guest bloggers to post on topics that are related is another way to present an expert point of view. Becoming an expert in a particular industry can also help to draw in new blog readers who can then potentially be turned into customers. Expert blogs do not typically have a sales feel, but if a post is interesting to a reader, they are more likely to click around to other portions of a website in order to learn more about the company.
Small businesses are at an advantage when it comes to making the most of a small or non-existent marketing budget. Larger brands come with higher expectations, while small businesses are expected to utilize more creative strategies. This is particularly important in an economy where it is tough for small businesses to raise capital and expand their budgets. Creativity in marketing, like these ten ways to promote your brand without emptying your wallet, can take a small business a long way, especially now that the Internet is used as a primary marketing medium.