If you’re running a small business, the chances are your operating budget is relatively small, and you’re looking for ways to make every penny count. No matter what product or service you provide, you already know that advertising is key to maintain your customer base and garner interest from potential customers. You’re likely to already have a plan in place to cover the print, local radio or television media available to you, and maximize your coverage of a target market. But when you run on a shoestring, exploiting every potential avenue of advertising available to you as effectively as possible is key.
Same Soup, Different Bowl
Internet advertising has the potential to help you grow your business and customer base. As a rule, it follows the same general guidelines you would expect for any other advertising media and falls under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government body that acts in the interest of consumers and helps to keep fraudulent or spurious claims to a minimum. This shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve designed a sound business strategy that backs up a firm commitment to the quality of your product or service.
Social Media outlets, such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and others are the 21st century cousins of the grassroots movement and the whisper campaign. They rely on social connections that operate at multiple levels and on various valences or axes—social, personal, professional etc. Utilizing these free resources to put your company’s name in the forefront of consumer psyches is a relatively straightforward and unproblematic undertaking. An advantage of social networking sites over general mass media coverage is the allowance for customer feedback. It becomes a two-way street and helps you to streamline your business based on customer demand.
If you haven’t already taken advantage of this incredible and often free way to advertise your small business, it can be a fabulous way to grow a customer base, either from scratch or through existing contacts. Create a Facebook page or a Twitter account for your company. It’s free, and because you’ve likely already gained a bit of a reputation, you can call on customers you deal with regularly to lend their support.
If you don’t feel it’s appropriate to market your business solely on its own virtue, team up with a local non-profit or charity. You can then devote a portion of your advertising budget in a shared effort to develop promotional materials—apparel or accessories both your company’s name and your chosen charity or non-profit organization. Then, let them utilize their social media connections to spread the word of your business. In the same vein, you can also work together to sponsor events—fundraisers and awareness rallies need a place to happen. Your charitable partner will then post information about the event to raise attendance and you can profit from helping a good cause.
Web circles are more specific, but also excellent ways to spread the good word of your business. In this case, you aren’t doing any direct marketing, but allowing word of mouth to circulate for you. For example, if your business designs costumes, court the Lolita and Cosplay communities in your area.
Another option that is incredibly useful for small businesses and relatively inexpensive is the pay-per-click phenomenon. One easily available service that every small business should try at least once is Google AdWords, which places your ad in the browser results for web searches. Google has even unveiled a refined version of this service, Google AdWords Express, that determines what search words and phrases most closely align with your product or service, and inserts your ad in the results for the most pertinent ones.
Blog All About It
If your business is largely based online, with no corporeal storefront of which to speak, this is one of the easiest methods to use. Also, it, too, is free. Cross blogging is an excellent way to spread the word about your product or service to a broad audience. Writing articles for occasional submission to various media outlets allows you to do more than smear your name about on the Internet. It gives you the opportunity to build consumer trust and establish your company ethos in your own words.
Remember, no matter what your business provides there is a market for it. You simply have to tap its potential. The internet offers you a chance to expand your advertising reach in a number of ways that are inexpensive or free.