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Free advertising - here's how you do it

When you start your own business, money will be limited and therefore it's good if you can get some free marketing. Here are 15 things you can do to promote your business for free:

• Whatever you sell, there are opportunities to find agents who can help you sell. Who can become agents for your product? Think outside the box. If you sell health food, don't just talk to health food stores. Offer special products to various possible agents. Hair products to hairdressers, oils to osteopaths, etc. All of your items don't have to be sold everywhere.

• Turning out coupons can be expensive. You pay for both print and distribution and fight for exclusivity in advertising. It may be that you sell more, but for less money. Decide to take your competitors' coupons for the product if it's included in your range when the time comes. Make customers aware of this over time by advertising about it and let them know it by mail. Simply let competitors pay your marketing.

• Call potential customers and ask them about their current provider (your competitor). Ask them if they are completely satisfied with all the work that the competitor does. Ask if the competitor does something that's less satisfactory. Ask if they plan to keep the competitor as a supplier. Simply find out how big your chances are to become a supplier.

• Each time a customer says something good about your business - how much they have enjoyed working with your company's service etc. - ask the customer if you can use that statement in your marketing. Post comments on your letterhead, make a flyer and use the statement in your ads.

• Join all industry associations, chambers of commerce, business organizations, trade associations. Does that sound excessive? This is where you will find new contacts. Is there no such organization in your vicinity? Well, then why not start one yourself?

• If you are a craftsman, be sure to hand out business cards to satisfied customers. Give them more if any of their friends also need help. Always remember: The customer I meet now may be that the person who wants to give away my business cards to people he/she knows.

• Make friends with a postman. Then you may get the codes to enter buildings in the area where you have your business and where you can hand out advertising to people living in the neighborhood. You can share offers, special prices, “Buy two, get one for free”, “Get one product for free with your purchase”, extended warranty, money back if not satisfied, etc. Once you have your address list/entry codes to your neighborhood, make it a habit to share advertising with discounts in the area. Reminders always pay off. (I haven't told you this, but a really cool person could always ask the mailman if he/she would hand out your flyer on his/her route in exchange for one of your products.)

• Send out a pre-announcement to potential customers before the product appears. The pre-announcement must show what the product and the packaging looks like. Send it out two weeks before you introduce the product. Your potential customers will feel much more at ease with it when you finally present your offer.

• Exchange customer lists with companies that work with complementary activities and market each to the other's customers.

• Try to find ways to show your products outside of your company. Your products may be suitable for signs etc. If they do, there are many companies that would like to have your product on display. Have you talked to your bank, for example? Get in touch with companies that don't compete with your business. Tell them that you like to showcase your products in their shop window when they are about to re-decorate and need a new theme for their upcoming display. Suggest a theme yourself.

• Visit your competitors 'websites and check their customer lists and market your products against your competitors' customers after having identified what the customers will get from your business that they aren't getting from your competitor.

• Are your products especially attractive to women? Give them away to hairdressers who may display the products in their parlors. Ask them to talk about them and provide their customers with discount coupons for the products. Ensure that discount coupons have a number that also becomes the hairdresser number so they can get a reward for selling your stuff.

• If you sell consulting services, you can always publish a little book with tips relating to your line of business. It identifies you publically as an expert.

• When the orders aren't coming in like they should, it's tempting to cut prices, but the price is hardly the problem. What you should worry about are the benefits of your product, your positioning and your service. What the customer is really saying when the price is too high, is that he/she isn't getting adequate value for the price he/she must pay. There is always someone who can cut down the price a bit more than you. What you should focus on is your competitive advantage instead. You can always beat your competitors when it comes to service and availability. The customer's primary concern is always ”Is the money I spend to get this product worth less to me than the product itself?”As long as you make sure that the value of the product is higher than the price, you will be able to sell. Find your niche and defend it. Think about what you can add rather than reducing the price.

• Always turn your products into services. Create a package for your service so that customers get something concrete in a bag to take with them when they are shopping.

About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

230 000 prescribes to his free newsletter "The 5 minute marketer"
Every week some 230,000 prescribers gets his free newsletter about 5 minute marketing.

"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
You run a small business and you want to get ahead of the competition, but how can you give resources to marketing when you're short on time and the budget is tight? The solution is here! The 5-Minute Marketer is packed with 395 tried-and-tested ways to market your business in 5 minutes or less.