A small business or a startup is often hamstrung by a lack of funds. Very often the suppliers and customers push it to the financial brink, with the former demanding immediate payment and the latter demanding a month’s credit. A small business also grapples with the problem of having to break even after incurring setting up costs. All these factors make some expenditures – such as the one on advertising and marketing – quite untenable. But, in order to grow and expand its customer base further, a business has to advertise itself and has to go for small business marketing.
Advertising a Small Business
A proprietor or partnership owners can do only so much. They can attend parties and spread the word about their company. They can join clubs and gyms and ensure that their enterprise gets word-of-mouth publicity. But slowly, you realize that there simply aren’t enough ‘mouths’ to talk to the bigger audience. Your customer base is still largely restricted to family and friends. This is when you realize that there is a need for some cheap advertising ideas to advertise your business, so that more and more people will be aware of it.
But your budget is too limited. A 10-second TV commercial slot on prime time is simply impossible for the smaller business as the corporate houses have the financial muscle to eat them alive. Besides, there is no point advertising on national television, if you aren’t big enough to cater to the demand which such an advert, it could theoretically generate. So you’re going to have to look at other ways of advertisement. You need to work on some cheap advertising for small business. The Coke and Pepsi model is simply not for you.
If you can’t throw the money, you’re going to have to put in the effort. The best way to advertise a business depends a lot on the type of business you’re into. Advertising an indispensable product is often easier and requires a little effort.
While you may or may not have funds to have the perfect Internet advertising campaign, by starting your own website – which lists the services you provide, a brief history of you and your business – and then posting the link to your website in all the convenient forums and ‘answer’ websites, you can drive the people to your website and then your business can become more famous. Blogs are a cheaper option, as they are free and managing content on it is pretty easy.
While you can blab all you want about your business, people will listen only if other customers talk. So encourage them to spread the word about your business. When people listen to reviews of fellow customers, they feel that they can trust the business better. A small trick here is to hire a ‘talker’ who will pretend to be your customer – for a fee – and talk about your business to prospective customer and talk at length about the awesomeness that your business is.
Old-fashioned perhaps, but listing still gets the job done. Go to your local yellow pages provider and make yourself a classifieds ad. It is quite common for people to look through the yellow pages for services and products, which they need and if they see your name, they will be able to contact you easily. Another option is to list with websites like Craigslist and Dmoz, where a lot of people go to seek service providers for what they are looking for.
With the unprecedented growth of websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the others, you too can tap into their growing popularity by learning how to create a group on Facebook or other websites and then advertising your business on that platform. You can encourage current customers to join your group and as more and more people do so, your popularity will grow and with it so will your base of prospective customers.
You’ve been bugged by those and now you do the same. Try getting a database of local numbers if possible from other businesses. Then get an account with one of those text from PC to cell phone websites and start sending messages, advertising your business – for free! This way the people will know about your business and it will continue to become more and more famous.
I guess this point too has got something to do with word of mouth publicity and this too is perhaps the best way to advertise a small business. This one works on the ‘you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours’ principle. Suppose you are in the business of plumbing and you know someone who runs a hardware store. Now these businesses are very supplementary businesses. People who are buying pipes at the hardware store need a plumber and a plumber needs the hardware store to buy goods from. So by being loyal to each other, you can grow simultaneously. The plumber can always buy from the hardware store and it is in the latter’s interest to advertise for the plumber, when a customer comes to purchase pipes or taps, so that the plumber gets a bigger business.
This strategy works a lot better online. On the Internet, you’ll have loads of sites that would be glad to be affiliated with yours and post your banner on their site, as long as you hold your end of the bargain, of course. Webcomics promote other webcomics and games, blogs promote other blogs by putting in a good word about them. You can contact the sites related to your business and help them so they can help you back.
In conclusion, I can only say that there is no single way to advertise your business. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad one, that’s your call really. A lot depends on your product and your target market. For example, if you’re in the babysitting business, then it makes sense to joint adult dating websites and spread the word there, because it is single parents that need your services. Hence, it is essential to first understand your business model, before you choose what is the best way to advertise a small business.