Thanks largely to technology, in today’s marketplace it’s easier than ever for entrepreneurs, experts and authors to launch a business and profit from their passion. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that competition is flat-out ferocious, which means that marketing is essential. Without marketing, it’s simply too easy for a business to get lost in the crowd and fail to achieve its potential — or even survive.
However, just because marketing is essential, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 8 ways to achieve your marketing goals on a shoestring budget:
1. Share your knowledge.
Offer an initial consultation where you provide some meaningful value, and explain what you do, who you do it for, and most importantly, how you help your clients solve problems and achieve goals. Your time investment can be as little as 15 minutes, and it can be done over the phone, via Skype (web cam), or in person if it’s practical to do so.
2. Stay in touch with your clients and prospects — and often.
While this may strike you as one for the “hey, I knew that already!” file, I’m amazed at how often smart and successful people neglect to stay in touch with their clients and prospects on a regular basis. And really, “staying in touch” doesn’t mean a 2-hour lunch, a 4-hour round of golf, or anything else that may otherwise qualify as relationship-building. Simply sending out a quick email, mailing a hand-written birthday card, or even passing along a thoughtful gift are all excellent – and virtually cost-free – ways to stay on the radar screen.
3. Create a targeted message in all of your communication.
A confused mind never buys. That’s why it’s important to target your message distribution and branding to customers and prospects via email, blogs, video, invoices, brochures, newsletters, premiums, signage — even your voice mail or call waiting message. Post on social media as frequently as possible and share information. Don’t self-promote more than 20% of the time; it’s not just boring, but it sends people in the other direction.
4. Build a referral base.
While many successful people rely on referrals and “word of mouth” advertising, I’m continuously struck by how few of them actively build a strong referral base. There’s really nothing to it and, honestly, a little goes a long way. All it takes is a small thank you gesture (gift certificates work great) to those who have helped build your business. Also, don’t shy away from asking for referrals. Just be polite, clear and willing to return the gesture. If a client has enjoyed your product or service, they’re usually happy to recommend you.
5. Send out a personal “State of the Union” address.
Twice a year, write a personalized letter to your clients and tell them what you’re doing with your work, what charities you may be involved with, and how you’re helping both your professional community, and personal community. Describe how you’ve supported important social events and everyday events — even if it’s for a brief time. Don’t boast about any of your efforts. Instead, thank everyone who has helped make your achievements possible, and single out some of your role models who have served as an inspiration (whether you personally know them or not).
6. Invite your clients and prospects to hear you speak at an industry event.
Speaking at an industry event qualifies you as an expert. By inviting your clients, you’re letting them know you’re up to something big, and worthy of their business. If the RSVP’s come in as a ‘can’t make it’, send a video, press link or a follow-up article that summarizes your presentation. If you’ve written a book, send a signed copy. This kind of communication and connection strengthens the bond with the people in your network, which in turn strengthens your marketing efforts.
7. Get your name out there.
If you don’t have a media department behind you, consider hiring a PR, social media assistant or office admin to respond to online media requests such as HARO (“Help a Reporter Out”) or Profnet. Responses to the media should be respectful, polite and on target. Want to know what’s being said about you? Set up a Google Alert. Trust me, you’ll grow to love watching your digital press clippings!
8. Write an article or publish an infographic that will cite you as an expert.
Promote articles that you have written and post links on your website and social media. Include hard copies in your press kit (and a digital version) in your on line media room. Expand your reach and include articles in letters to clients, and be bold by paper-clipping them and your business card in places that might seem out of the ordinary (i.e. in the cover of airline magazines, in books or magazines that your target audience might buy, in newspapers in high traffic locations — even in waiting rooms or hotel lobbies). Think like your target market. Where would they go, and what would they read?
Don’t Forget to Get Out There
Implementing any, or, preferably, all of the above strategies are excellent ways to boost your marketing power — while spending much less than you imagine. However, no matter how you move forward, there’s one thing to always remember: you’re the spokesperson for your brand.
And that means your #1 marketing job is to get “out there.” Whether that means you support an important cause, make a keynote speech, or are quoted on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, you want to make an impression every chance you get. You never know what relationship will blossom and turn into your next – and possibly greatest – business success story.