Marketing for entrepreneurs is always a challenge, especially with no budget for someone else to do it. Here’s a summary of my comments at a recent panel discussion on the topic:
- Regularly ask satisfied customers for repeat business – what other problems can you help them deal with?
- Ask them for referrals – to other departments or locations within their organization or to professional colleagues. Always thank them for their effort or results and find appropriate ways to do something tangible.
- Network with peers and colleagues, asking for suggestions of people or organizations that meet the specific description of your target market. Ask what no-budget methods have worked for them and, obviously, share yours.
- Write articles about your areas of content expertise for publications your target market is likely to read. Send prospects and existing customers electronic copies of anything published as a low key differentiating statement. Don’t try to sell your specific product or service – just subtly promote you as a valued expert.
- Also post replies to questions that showcase your expertise from LinkedIn groups your prospects might belong to and see.
- Deliver presentations – live or webinar – sharing your content expertise for organizations your target market likely belongs to or events they might consider attending. Similarly, don’t try to sell your specific product or service – just subtly promote you.
- Volunteer as a mentor, resource, pitch coach or advisor for non-profit incubator or start-up organizations where your prospects might also volunteer or at least see your name and topic area mentioned.
- Or, donate your expertise in ways that provide positive mentions, such as redesigning a non-profit’s website in exchange for a credit line.
- Create and enhance reciprocal relationships with other entrepreneurs or businesses that serve a similar target market. You promote them to your network and visa versa.
- And try turning competitors into allies by collaborating on projects too large for either of you to handle alone.
- Whenever you see a positive mention in the business media about your prospects, send them a brief congrats note. Include a hard copy of the item where possible.
So, marketing a small business with little or no budget and communicating consistent, positive and engaging messages in your target market is certainly a challenge, but one that can be overcome with time, effort and lots of creativity. Out-think your competitors instead of trying to out-spend them.