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It still takes money to make money, but as people increasingly start businesses with a laptop and a dream, such things as a “marketing budget” can feel like a joke. Fortunately, there are several ways you can spread the word about your company without spending a ton of money you don’t have (yet). Here are just a few ideas to get you started.
Social media is an ever-growing method for even the smallest business in the world to reach out to a global audience. All it takes is a few minutes and you’ve got access to people from all walks of life. Honestly, does it get much better than that? And all of the major services are totally free, which is kind of amazing when you think about it.
Don’t just sign up for all of them thinking you’re going to hit the jackpot, though. Do research on which social media site works best for your business. Some are more attuned to Facebook, others work better on Twitter, yet others will find success on Google Plus. Also, there are a ton of niche social media sites like Care2 and ThirdAge that may work best.
Pro Tip: Don’t make the mistake of getting so bogged down in marketing on social media that you don’t actually do the work to build a great company.
Besides social media, where do people on the Internet gather? Chat forums are one of the oldest web features that are still going strong today. No matter how unique you think your business or product is, you’re bound to find a place where fans and interested parties can gather and talk about what they love/dislike about what you do.
On a chat forum and other online communities, you’re going to find like-minded people, so playing to the niche crowds works best here. However, you can also find some of your most die-hard fans here if you treat them right. It’s best to work the crowd and get to know them before you even attempt to talk about your company – establish your professionalism and knowledge first.
Get Out There
Tired of sitting in front of your computer all day? Then it’s time to stand up and get out in the real world and start meeting some people! No matter where you live there’s bound to be a ton of networking events, all of which are relatively cheap (or even free) and offer lots of potential to meet others in your field.
Don’t just stick to business events, either. Go to events in your local community for even more opportunities to grow and expand your business. At one of these local events you could meet several other business owners who would be willing to partner up with you for cross promotions, exposing you to an entirely new customer base you were unable to reach before.
One of the best things you can do before you actually go to any event is plan ahead. Know what you want out of the event and know who (at least in general) you want to talk to. This way you don’t end up being “that guy” in the corner staring at the milling crowds, wondering what to do all night.
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is absolutely the best way to get new customers, but no matter how happy a former customer was with your services, they might not talk you up to others… without a gentle nudge. Ask for a testimonial or even offer a referral bonus if your happy customers send you new soon-to-be-happy customers. And don’t forget to tell your mom, dad, grandma, dentist and grocery store clerk what you do. They can’t recommend you if they don’t know what you do!
How did you market your business when you first started out?