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If you’re a business owner, it’s probably an understatement to say that you wear many hats. Product development, sales, customer service, and accounting aren’t departments—they’re you! But while you’re caught up in the everyday tasks of running your business, don’t forget that even the most successful companies need to continually market themselves in order to generate new opportunities. Here are a few ideas on where to start.
You don’t need a giant ad budget to get the word out. Everything you put your company’s name on—from your business cards and letterhead, to signage on your building or lettering on your truck, to pens and Post-It notes—is advertising, so make sure it looks neat and professional. Consider having a logo designed that represents your company, or at least pick a typeface and color for your business’s name and use it consistently every time your company name appears in the public eye.
If you want to advertise in the local paper or the neighborhood coupon pack, ask them for help designing your ad and include an offer, like a discount coupon or free estimate. But, make sure you own the design for your logo and any piece of advertising you have created with it, so you can ask them to turn the the files over to you if you want to use them for something else. Remember, consistency is key!
If you’re company is launching a new product, opening a new location, having an open house, or receiving an award or recognition, get word of it in print without paying for an ad. Go online and Google a template for writing your own press release, or pay a local professional a small fee to write one for you. Then e-mail it to the local media. Chances are if it’s newsworthy enough, you’ll get at least a small mention!
Take advantage of every opportunity to get the word out. For example, if you’re sending out bills, include a flyer that talks about a new product or service or asks customers to refer a friend. If you’re ambitious, put together a brochure or newsletter that tells who you are, what you do, and any recent happenings in your company. Be sure to send newsletters to both customers and local non-customers, and ask non-competing businesses in your neighborhood if they’ll display your brochures if you’ll do the same for them. But, make absolutely certain they look professional: no typos, well-written and designed, and nicely printed. If you’re sloppy in the way you present your business, customers will think you’re sloppy in how you conduct your business!
These days, some type of website or Web presence is a must. So make sure yours is easy to find (register it with search engines like Google), easy to navigate, and gives helpful information about you, your business, and your product or service. Photos or testimonials about work done for other customers can speak volumes—especially if your work is very visual, like landscaping, sign design, or other creative services.
Many times, a friend or family member will volunteer to create your site for you. It may seem like a good idea—until you want to make a change next week or next month and they don’t have the time. Make sure it’s a site you can easily make updates to, by using user-friendly templates and interfaces. Also, don’t overlook setting up pages on social media sites, like Facebook and LinkedIn, which cost you nothing. Then, post interesting tips and news about your business or industry at least once a week.
By far the most important type of marketing, be sure to get out and meet people, and don’t hesitate to talk up your business! It doesn’t have to be at formal networking events, either. Your neighbors, your children’s friends’ parents, even your dentist or hairdresser all know other people who might need your product or service. And don’t forget to ask happy customers for referrals of their friends or neighbors!