Marketing on the cheap

                                                                                                                                               20 October 2011

Every company needs some form of marketing and advertising, but the costs of carrying out these sorts of activities can be daunting for small businesses. However, you don't need to replicate the budget of a bigger business in order to successfully promote your business. Here we take a look at five affordable ways to market your business.

Sponsor a local sports team or community initiative

By sponsoring a local sporting team, you have instantly introduced yourself to a number of potential customers and their families, who are probably more than grateful for your financial support. But in doing this, don't just stay in the background handing over cash. Try and get your company logo on the team uniform, or, if you've handed over a fair bit of funding, pursue naming rights for the team or sporting event you are sponsoring.

Sponsoring community initiatives and charities is a similar situation-when lending your support; it never hurts to get your name and logo used wherever possible. This can include in advertising for the charity or initiative, in media coverage, or on scholarships and awards provided by the organisation you are funding.

Get to know your local media outlets

Smaller media outlets, such as community or regional newspapers, radio and television outlets are always happy to hear from sponsors or advertisers. Many offer structured sponsorship and advertisement packages, which can include some editorial and artwork, or voice and visual work that are produced by the media organisation you are advertising with. And when it comes to newspapers, always ask if there are any advertising features or advertorials coming up that you could appear in-many of these allow you to place an advertisement, and a professional writer such as a journalist or copywriter will provide an associated write-up about your business and what you have to offer.

In addition to your advertising, never be afraid to approach the editorial department of your local media outlet. To boost your chances of free coverage in your local paper or news segment on television or radio, ensure you have a good story. This may be a weird and wonderful new product, a sale or event you are having to coincide with Christmas, Easter or another special event, a story about the sports team or community initiative you are sponsoring, commentary or information on some local business issues, or even putting your hand up to appear in a story in the business section of the publication.

Email or phone is always a good way to contact people, but don't take it to heart if you don't get the reply you were after-they are usually busy and only on the lookout for stories that suit current news trends. If you are fortunate enough to be contacted for a story, ensure you are readily available to talk to the journalist and have photographs, recordings or filming done, are easily contactable and are polite and easy to talk to.

Get online

By having a website and positioning it correctly within search engines, you are maximising your chances of being found by customers browsing online. Many potential customers will first and foremost search for a product they need online, and compare the offerings of a number of companies. By having an online presence, serious customers will know who you are, and can find you and your product range in a few clicks. In addition to boosting your marketing presence, having an easy to navigate, aesthetically-inviting website with plenty of information about the products and services you offer, will capture and retain the interest of potential patrons.

Give out free stuff

Everyone loves getting free things, and it gives you an opportunity to get your name and logo on items people will be looking at and using on a regular basis. But for this to be a success, choose affordable but useful items such as stationary, USB flash drives, fridge magnets or coffee cups. Selecting items that represent what your company does will also help. Customer loyalty programs offering a discounted or free product or service after a certain amount of purchases can also help get your name out there and ensure repeat custom. But while it is great to give customers a freebie here and there or a tester of one of your products or services, try to avoid doing this too regularly or customers will start to expect it every time they purchase something from you.

Recommend to friends

Word of mouth advertising can be one of the best ways to get your name out there, as the new client typically trusts the person advertising your service. Providing great customer service will put you ahead of the competition and provide a memorable experience for your clients to tell others about. And by having a recommendation program, such as offering a discount or free product or service for people recommending you to others, you can also increase your customer base and boost your brand with minimal outlay. However, it is important to remember this is a two-sided coin, with word of mouth advertising backfiring if your customers are unhappy with your product or service. View our article on stamping out bad customer service to help you minimise the chances of this happening in your business.

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