Running a business is hard. Running it on a shoestring budget is even harder. How do you tell people your business exists when a megaphone is not in your budget?
The saying ‘it takes money to make money’ is true in some regards, but over the course of my career as an entrepreneur I’ve discovered that some of the most effective marketing initiatives are the least expensive (or free!) when you’re forced to be creative.
Here are some of the ways I’ve grown businesses without growing a credit balance:
Give and take
One of the greatest successes I’ve had with building my customer base has been through partnering with like-minded (or like-audienced) organizations to create cross-promotional initiatives.
The ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ approach gives both parties a win without taxing your bank account. In our case, that means offering partners exposure in our newsletter (with sponsored content) in exchange for exposure to their audience.
Telling your story and promoting your business on social media is low-hanging fruit when it comes to self-promotion. But if you don’t have the time or interest, or generally disdain it, then dip your toe in by simply responding to others’ posts.
It will get you on the grid and engaged in a dialogue, which will likely lead to curiosity from others about who you are and what you do. This can lead to connections and conversations that can lead to bigger business opportunities.
Put it in writing
Do you have a strong opinion or philosophy on your industry? Write it down. Then pitch the story idea to publications within your industry.
Publishers are always on the lookout for insightful and interesting articles, especially if it doesn’t cost them. Not only will you see your name in lights (a byline in a newspaper, or online) it may start a dialogue with others in your industry who could become clients or partners.
If you’re not ready to dive into a full feature, start by sending a letter in response to something recently published. That may also start a dialogue and/or you may get showcased as a ‘letter to the editor’ which gets you and your business some visibility at no cost.
This is obvious, yet often overlooked: tell everyone what you do!
You may not think your neighbour or barista needs your product or service, but they may know someone who does. Wear your heart (or logo) on your sleeve so people are inclined to ask you more about what you do. And don’t be shy to share.
Businesses are built one step/customer/client at a time so look at each one as an opportunity.
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