Marketing might be essential, but it can be a tricky expense to balance on top of everything else – especially for small businesses of those just starting up.
Thankfully, not only is the internet saturated in low-cost communications options, there are some old-fashioned tactics that work just as well as they used to.
Here are five ways to reach your customers without reaching too deep into your wallet.
#1 Social media
You're probably sick of hearing about this – social media marketing has become a kind of 21st century fool's gold – but it can and does work, if done right.
First up, make your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages easy to search (avoid acronyms unless that’s how people already know your business) and consider your brand’s personality. What tone do you want to strike with potential customers: lively, educational, professional? What’s your brand’s sense of humour? Does it have one?
Now think about what kind of photos and content you can post and what angle you can take to attract a following, remembering your audiences will vary across platforms. Instagram is a great excuse to post all your slick product photos, Facebook is where you can drive audiences to your website by posting links but remember you can also build a community through polls, shout outs, etc. See what other brands are doing and learn from their mistakes as well as their triumphs - no one wants another meltdown a la Anny’s Baking Company.
We all know about letterboxing, but what about getting your name in inboxes that people actually check? Free services like MailChimp make creating and sending newsletters fairly painless.
A fortnightly or even monthly newsletter is a great way to get customers coming back for more, especially if you offer exclusive deals. Rounding it out with news and advice will add value and build trust – just make sure your subject-line is interesting and your content delivers on that. Promising tips and delivering nothing but ads is fast track to the unsubscribe button.
#3 Talk to content creators
If your business is doing something new, interesting, or innovative, it's worth letting journalists know. Don't stop at the local paper; find out which websites and publications cover your niche.
When talking to journalists, think about what angle they might find interesting. Remember, journalists aren’t PR reps; they won't give you free publicity for the sake of it. The story has to be a good one, so pitch it in a way they’ll find engaging.
You can also boost your profile by sponsoring a local sports team, charity event, or art exhibition. This is an inexpensive way to generate brand awareness, and goodwill within the community. Showing that you’re a business that gives back can go a long way to improving customer loyalty.
And try to actually volunteer or go along to the events. Meeting people and networking with the locals is not only an opportunity for new leads, it will show your sponsorship to be more than a token gesture.
#5 Make videos
Whether using an iPhone or something jazzier, it’s pretty easy these days to cut together short clips showcasing your business and the people who work in it.
Ideas for content might be instructional videos, showcasing your work process, or just something within your business you think people might find cool. Just remember that your videos need to be more than ads; they need to be something people want to click on and something that gives them entertainment, education, or inspiration.
And if that’s a two-minute video about the office doggo, so be it.
Joel Svensson is a Canberra-based freelance writer specialising in politics and business.