Low-cost marketing can grow your business

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Just as you can stretch your clothing budget by buying from a clearance rack, marketing your business does not require a huge investment.  For cash-strapped entrepreneurs, mastering some basic techniques and using creativity to market your product can be more effective than hiring experts or producing expensive ads.

The Basics
You, as the business owner, are the most important marketing tool for your company.  Do you have a compelling, 25-second “elevator speech” you can give about your business? A simple, “Uh, I have a systems integration company,” will not separate you from the crowd. What do you do that is unique or different?

Everybody has business cards, but few maximize their potential. Is the back of your card blank? If so, you are missing an opportunity. It only costs a fraction more to print on both sides. Is your picture on the card? A picture can create a personal relationship. Potential customers will remember your name and your face.

Do you have a Web site? You should. Your home page should clearly identify the types of products or services you sell and offer multiple ways to contact you — e-mail, phone, cell phone, etc.  Your site should maximize the use of “meta tags,” which match your site to key words that customers searching for your service might use.

The Creative
Finding low- or no-cost ways of marketing your business is limited only by your imagination and an assessment of whether the technique will reach your targeted customers. To stimulate your imagination, here are few starter ideas:

‣Join professional and social groups to network. Volunteer to give a presentation on your area of expertise. Ask the organization to do a press release, or produce your own.

‣Write an article on your area of expertise and distribute copies.  For example, a pet sitter might do an article, “What to look for in a pet sitter,” and visit local veterinarians to ask if copies could be placed in their waiting rooms.

‣Form a joint venture with a complementary business.  A lawn care company and a home cleaning company could cross-promote for each other.

‣Raise your community profile by taking part in charitable events or by sponsoring a youth sports team. Appear at the events or games. Be sure participants have a t-shirt with your business name on it.

‣Offer them fries. America’s largest hamburger chain makes millions using the question, “Would you like fries with that?”  Don’t just focus on getting new customers — find product and service add-ons to make your existing customers more profitable.

By executing the basics and using creativity in reaching targeted customers, entrepreneurs can market their product without spending a lot of money.  For help with your marketing, contact the Virginia Business Information Center, or (804) 371-0438.

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