5 Ways to Make a Marketing Splash without Drying Up Your Budget
By Maureen Condon & Susan LaPlante-Dube
Chances are you’ve invested a lot of money to run your home-based business. From computers to cable modems, fax lines to furniture, expenses add up when you’re going solo.
When cash flow is tight, it’s common to defer marketing expenses until you can boost your bottom line. But marketing successfully is one of the best ways to generate revenue — and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Here are five ways to make a marketing splash right now, without drying up your budget.
|Your prospects will be more likely to engage with you if they find your information valuable and relevant to them.|
1. Leverage Your Existing Relationships.
Each of us knows an average of 200–250 people. If you spread the word about your business, you’ll create a wildfire effect as each of your 200–250 people starts talking to their 200–250 people.
Write a one-page letter to your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues. Include your long-distance contacts, as they may be able to work with you remotely or refer you to someone they know in your area.
In the letter, tell people that you’ve started a business. Explain your reasons for starting the company and why you’re excited about it. Passion is contagious, so communicate your enthusiasm for what you’re doing. Outline clearly what services or products you provide and why you believe they offer value.
Second, ask for what you want. Give your network a call to action. What can they do to help you? Maybe they could post flyers, spread the word to target prospects, or introduce you to someone who could help your business.
Now categorize your recipients into A, B and C categories for follow-up purposes. These rankings can help you focus your relationship marketing on those individuals who are most likely to be able to help you. Reach out again to your A contacts with a phone call and request to buy them coffee or lunch to continue the networking.
A follow-up call to your B contacts and a periodic update to your C contacts should keep your relationship marketing effort flourishing. Remember it’s all about the people you know.
Mary Lou Andre of www.dressingwell.com and Organization by Design, started her business in 1992 with nothing but a passion for fashion. She called her father and told him she wanted to get an advanced degree in fashion so she’d have the expertise she needed for her business.
Her dad steered her in a different, more strategic direction. He introduced her to a colleague of his, a sales wizard, who then introduced Mary Lou to three influential women business owners. These three women served as role models and mentors to Mary Lou and helped her jumpstart her now wildly successful, nationally recognized firm. Talk about leveraging existing relationships!
2. Network Effectively.
Another inexpensive marketing tool is networking. Three types of networking are beneficial to the home-based business owner, and it’s important to incorporate all three in your marketing program.
• Networking for professional development.
Attend events within your industry or take classes to expand your expertise or learn a new skill that will help your business. Attending a free seminar not only enhances your professional development, but also creates the opportunity to build and nurture business relationships.
• Networking for business development.
Attend events that are designed for building business. Most Chamber of Commerce events fit this bill, as do Business Networking International chapter meetings. The key to success is to understand the protocol and network appropriately. At a networking event, if you make just one or two connections that lead to a follow-up lunch or coffee, consider it a success.
• Networking for personal development.
As a business owner, you’ll find you relate well to fellow entrepreneurs. Finding organizations where you’ll meet with other business owners and share successes and challenges is a great avenue for personal development. Create an advisory board of fellow business owners that meets regularly to support each other as entrepreneurs.
A key to success in any networking is to be a giver, not a taker. Find out how you can help your contacts, listen more than you speak and ask lots of questions. And always remember to thank anyone who helps you in your business. These things don’t cost a dime, and they’re incredible business boosters.
3. Profitably Package Your Products and Services.
Many business owners give away too much value when delivering their products and services and lose an important sales opportunity. It costs nothing for a business owner to take a fresh look at what they’re already offering and package it for higher profitability.
For example, a graphic designer may do a full evaluation of a company’s marketing materials before digging into his work of creating a new logo. By separating that evaluation as a separate service and charging customers for it, he can earn more money per project and while still providing optimum value to the customer.
When writing project estimates and proposals, detail everything you do as part of your work. You’re bound to find some value you’re giving away. You can then create a new service or combine a few services into one package to create product and service offerings that fully represent the value you provide.
4. Excel at Email Marketing.
Home-based business owners have several user-friendly, inexpensive email tools at their disposal for creating and growing a strong customer base. Even if you don’t have a website, you can take advantage of email marketing.
Create a customer email newsletter that showcases your expertise and drives readers to want to contact you. Two great resources for email newsletters are Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com) and Vertical Response (www.verticalresponse.com).
Decide how often you want to communicate with your prospects and customers. Many business owners find that they can keep to a monthly schedule. Next, develop an editorial calendar of topics you want to cover. Topics should be focused on giving the reader value, not on pushing your products or services.
Some business owners are afraid to give away too much information to their prospects before they become customers, but have no fear. Your prospects will be more likely to engage with you if they find your information valuable and relevant to them. A hiring consultant we know delivers a monthly email hiring tip to her prospects and customers. The tips are helpful while also highlighting her expertise and encouraging readers to call her if they need hiring help.
Every issue of your email newsletter should include a call to action. Do you want readers to call you, visit your web site or respond to a limited-time offer? Give them something to do.
5. Generate a Buzz with Free Publicity.
Getting coverage in the local or trade press about your business is a surefire way to build visibility and credibility in your marketplace. There are several low-cost ways to get your name in the papers or even on the local news.
Create a “dream list” of publications and media outlets where you’d love to see your business mentioned or to be quoted as an expert. As with your email newsletter, focus on the audience — the editors and decision makers at your targeted publications and media outlets as well as their viewers and readers. Send a relevant press release about a trend in your industry, your company happenings, or an upcoming event. Make sure you mention why their viewers or readers would be interested in the release.
Two resources for home-based businesses are PR-in-a-Box by www.shockpr.com and www.prweb.com, which distributes your press releases electronically free of charge.
Be professional and courteous, by contacting publications and outlets the way they like to be reached. Most prefer email, while others will take phone calls. By becoming someone that the media knows they can count on for solid, timely delivery of information, you’re sure to become a media darling. HBM
Maureen Condon and Susan LaPlante-Dube, owners of Precision Marketing Group, LLC, deliver practical, creative marketing to small- to midsized businesses. Their combined 40 years of experience in the fields of strategic marketing, corporate communications and journalism create a powerful combination that yields dramatic business results for clients who seek marketing that makes sense – and money! Visit www.precisionmarketinggroup.com to download a free copy of “10 Marketing Mistakes even the Smartest Companies Make… and How You Can Avoid Them.” Or contact Susan and Maureen at email@example.com or 508-969-9581. Shock PR is a full-service public relations firm with clients ranging from start-ups to established companies. For Do-It-Yourselfers, Shock PR offers “PR in a Box” — a complete kit covering all the PR basics. Visit http://www.shockpr.com.