Wouldn’t it be nice to find ways to market your business and brand for free, giving you a welcome financial reprieve at a moment when your operational budget is tight? Well, there are a few of those free or near-free tactics, but as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”
So basically cost should not be the only element you focus on; strategic effectiveness and return on investment are two other marketing elements you should emphasize while devising your business communication.
Here we want to focus on 10 cheap but effective ways you can jump start your company. And with time, these tactics might even become near-free because of economies of scale.
1. Tap Into Your Network : Marketing your company on a shoestring is no easy feat, but tapping into your network is. Reach out to your network of family, friends, colleagues and business partners. Spread the word as much as possible, as often as possible, and ask others to do the same. Word-of-mouth still works nowadays, and people generally like to deal with a company that someone else recommended.
2. Reach Out to Locals : Besides your personal network, you should reach out to your local community. Contact the Small Business Administration to learn more about opportunities in your residence area or the municipality where you conduct business. Barnstorm the offices of the local chamber of commerce, Department of Business Services, and the local mayor or council. Make your business known to officials, so they in turn can back you up at the right moment.
3. Use Social Media : Social media promotion is an effective and free way to ramp up your marketing. But you must be committed and prepared when embarking on a social media marketing strategy. The thing is, the Internet is free for everyone, but people’s attention is shrinking by the day. So you must innovate constantly and provide content that improves customers’ lives, makes them laugh, or educates them.
4. Create an Elevator Pitch: Have an elevator pitch ready, a 30-second or 1-minute speech you memorize and that recaps the most important thing your company offers. To craft a good startup pitch deck, ask yourself this simple question: What would you ask, say, Bill Gates (or another prominent, rich personality) if you were with him in an elevator and he accepted to listen to your pitch?
5. Craft an Effective Online Marketing : Online marketing goes hand-in-hand with social media marketing, but it is more than that. To promote your brand effectively and cheaply, create an email list and invest time in email marketing. Newsletters should also be part of your Web marketing tools, in addition to blog posts. Also, remember to always at the bottom of your email a catchy, informative thing or two about your brand, your company, or something awesome you might be working on at the moment.
6. Give a Speech : Giving a speech brings a lot of positives to you, but also to your company and brand. The advantages are multiple. You get positive press coverage, which then is relayed by other news media. You get industry recognition or at least, recognition from the participants. You can also posts tidbits of the speech along with press clips on your company’s social media page, website and blog. One word of caution, though: make sure the topic aligns well with your company and brand, and is not controversial.
7. Write a Book : Writing a book provides the same operational and branding benefits that a speech does.But a book does more. It opens up the potential audience because your readership may include people who never heard of your company, are not existing customers, don’t pay attention to your industry, or currently buy from your competitors. Plus, writing a book establishes you as a de facto expert, a thought leader. And that conceptual authority radiates positively on your business because people would think that you know enough about your subject – and the services you are offering – to write a book about it.
8. Generate Buzz : Create buzz around your product, service or brand. Here you might need to spend some cash in crafting content or a scenario that can lure viewers and potential customers. The goal is to create content – video, written or photo – that goes viral, generating upbeat coverage of your business and broadening your brand appeal. You can use many tactics to generate buzz, from growth hacking to guerilla marketing.
9. Embrace a Charitable Cause : Espousing a noble cause and supporting it financially or operationally can do wonders to your business and brand – not to mention your karma. But don’t do it just for the publicity, though. Find a cause that is near and dear to your heart, contact the sponsoring charity, and ask how you can help. Besides money, products and services, you can volunteer your time and your personnel’s. Big companies have embedded community outreach in their operating strategies, and experts call that “corporate social responsibility.”
10. Ask for Referrals: Satisfied customers are the best PR tools your business. Ask your clients if they would give a referral, and if they say ‘yes,’ make sure you post these referrals on your website and social media pages. Gradually, you will build a list of content customers who are willing to vouch for your business. Again, the power of word-of-mouth we discussed earlier.
As you try to promote your business in an affordable way, you can adopt many tactics, from the simple to the complex. But remember that cheap does not mean easy. You can be ‘cheap’ when it comes to your budget, but you cannot be when it comes to dedication, hard work and industry research.
Dr. Emad Rahim is an award-winning entrepreneur, educator, author, community leader and TEDx Speaker. He currently serve as the Endowed Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Oklahoma State University and teaches at the Jack Welch Management Institute in the Executive MBA program. He was recognized by the United Nations Foundation as a 2013 Empact100 Honoree for his social entrepreneurship work, received a Congressional Award for his community service and was the recipient of the Forty Under 40 Business Leadership Award sponsored by Syracuse University. His personal story was turned into a short documentary, “Against the Odds,” and featured in the Huffington Post and Forbes. He co-authored “Leading Through Diversity: Transforming Managers Into Effective Leaders” and “The 4-Tions: Your Guide to Developing Successful Job Search Strategies” and is a frequent contributor to the Refractive Thinker book series, CEO Magazine, TweakYourBiz and YFS Entrepreneurship Magazine. Fellow him on Twitter @DrEmadRahim