As a new small business owner, one of my first concerns was getting the word out about the services I offer. In this digital age, it’s important to be savvy about a number of word-of-mouth techniques, since information comes from so many sources. I combined a number of strategies, including technology and person-to-person communication, to spread the word about my new company.

Start with Friends

Friends are the easiest place to start when building awareness of your brand because they want to see you succeed. Identify people who could genuinely benefit from your services, and connect with them about what you have to offer.

You might consider working for free in some situations with friends, and ask for a testimonial in return. But always be professional, and use the opportunity to build a portfolio and a reputation.

Working for friends can be a real win-win situation when done right. Your friends benefit from your services, and you benefit from the “dress rehearsal” and the ability to kick-start the word-of-mouth marketing machine.

Use Local Search

As a social media enthusiast, I immediately built a blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account for my new business. But, even I soon realized that all social media tools are not relevant for all small businesses. The one thing I still considered a must? Listing my business in local search options like Yelp, Yahoo and Google, and registering with the location-based social media platform, Foursquare.

I admit that listing with these engines can be a bit problematic if you are working from home, since you may not want the general public to know your address and show up on your doorstep. If that’s the case for you, look for settings that allow you to identify a service area instead of address, or look into buying mail service at a street address from a 3rd party vendor.

The bottom line is that people search almost exclusively online now for local business services, and you can’t miss this free, relatively simple opportunity to be listed.

Provided Classes or Workshops Based on Your Expertise

Most communities have continuing education classes offered through a local college, the library, or some other community resource. And most of these programs accept proposals from individuals interested in teaching a class, sometimes even for pay.

This spring, I was set to teach a six-week Social Media 101 class through such a program, but because of low enrollment, my class was cancelled. I still had material planned, and I had several friends who were interested in learning what I could teach, so I decided to offer a few small, free workshops on my own. I reserved the community room at the library, notified some friends (who then told some of their friends), and had a great turn out for my first workshops.

The value in offering classes in your field -– even if it’s for free –- is that it helps you establish yourself as an expert, gives you an idea of the questions and needs people have, and gives others a new opportunity to talk about you and your business.

There are a number of creative ways to market your small business, and these are just a few. What are some strategies you have used to get your small business noticed in your community?

Image credit: FlashInPan