Save on marketing with social media, emails

Dear Professor Bruce: I have a small business and am on a tight budget. I realize that I have to spend on promotion. What are some less-expensive marketing tools that will help me stand out from the competition?

Answer: There are a variety of options for marketing your business, even on a small budget. The key is to focus on activities that are going to give you the most bang for your marketing buck.

Jessica Drost, marketing director of PrintingforLess.com, suggests cost-effective marketing initiatives to give your business the exposure and sales it deserves:

— Work the room. We all know that networking is essential to making connections and growing your business. But what good is networking if you don’t have something to give your clients and prospects? Well-designed, high-quality business cards separate the real companies from the “wannabes” and help you present that professional image. Consider adding a little pizzazz to your business card by incorporating a cool printing effect such as embossing, a die-cut or a foil stamp. You’ll leave a lasting impression.

— Be social. You don’t have to have an unlimited marketing budget to reach your target audience. Social media is a low-cost and effective marketing medium if done right. The key is to use services like Facebook, Twitter, blogs and LinkedIn to engage with your customers in an authentic way. Use social media to reward your customers, provide valuable content and give them a forum for providing feedback about your products and services.

— Stay in touch. Sending regular communications to customers and prospects is essential to developing long-term relationships and staying top of mind so the next time someone needs your services, they’ll think of you. Start small by sending a monthly or quarterly email newsletter to contacts providing interesting industry news, helpful tips and company news. Email marketing is perfect for small businesses because it allows you to reach your audience for a fraction of the cost of other marketing mediums.

— Test, test, test. Most marketing activities can be cost-effective if you take the time to set them up correctly. The key is starting small, choosing your audience wisely, measuring correctly and testing.

No perfect formula works for every business, so don’t be afraid to try new things and fail on your way to success.

(Bruce Freeman is president of ProLine Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Livingston, N.J., and co-author of “Birthing the Elephant.” Email him at Bruce (at)SmallBusinessProfessor.com.)

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