Chances are, at some point in your business’s development, you are going to be a little tight for cash, so here are ten low-cost ways to market better that we’ve worked out with help from Joanna L. Krotz, co-author of the “Microsoft Small Business Kit.”
Stop servicing break-even customers
By now you know this is a theme with us. Every second you spend with a customer who doesn’t help you make money; you are short-changing those who do.
Make every customer feel special
Always add something to the purchase, whether it’s a hand-written note to a consumer or a recommendation on the latest, greatest business book to a business customer.
Create business cards that prospects keep
How about a good-looking notepad with your contact info and tagline on every page? Or a free or low-cost trial offer on the back—paper real estate that’s valuable and often wasted.
Develop an email list and send old-fashioned snail-mail letters too
E-newsletters are cheap to send, but you can quickly stand out by occasionally sending personal, surface mail letters to customers and prospects. Just make sure the letter delivers something customers want to read.
Boost your profile at point of sale, trade shows and conferences
You can quickly create your own signage, glossy postcards with your contact information, product news inserts or a web site for a special event—even if you are not a software pro.
Combine business with pleasure and charity
Spearhead an event, party or conference for a cause you care about. That puts you in the position of getting to know lots of people, and shows off your small business leadership skills.
Create a destination
Indigo Books & Music has its coffee bars. Ikea offers child-care centers and cafeterias. Steal this idea. Add a free advisory service. Add customer loyalty services, such as free delivery for second-time buyers.
Become an online expert
This is the “free sample” approach to bringing in business. Research active e-mail discussion lists and online bulletin boards that are relevant to your business and audience. Join several and start posting expert advice.
Court local media
Editorial features convey more credibility with prospective clients than paid advertising does. (Check our recent article on how to get PR.)
Don’t let customers simply slip away
It costs a lot less to retain a disgruntled or inactive customer than to acquire a new one. Send a personalized e-mail (you can automate this process), inquiring whether all is well. For a customer who suffered a bad experience, pick up the phone, acknowledging the unpleasantness and ask if there’s anything you can do. A discount can’t hurt either.
Being kind to customers is the smartest low-cost marketing you can do.