Marketing Essentials For New and Cash-Strapped Businesses
If you have a new business as I do or are thinking of starting one, you'd better be thinking of how you are going to sell yourself to potential customers. This is not the Field of Dreams where "if you build it they will come." You must market yourself and your business. Fortunately, there are several small yet powerful actions that you can take to establish yourself as a true player in the market no matter your size or your cash flow.
First and foremost, VistaPrint should be your best friend. If you do not have a professional logo to establish your brand identity, VistaPrint offers professional logo creation. Of all your marketing pieces, your logo will be the most important as it will be a part of everything you put out and will set the tone of how customers perceive your business. The logo creation will cost between $ 200 and $ 500 dollars. You can check out my website for an example of their work.
Once you have your professional logo, create a website on GoDaddy.com (this can be done for less than $ 20 per month). Utilize similar colors as your logo. Your website can be as short as one page as long as it has your phone number and an email link, as many people now prefer email contact over phone. Personally, I would setup a photo gallery where I could show examples examples of my work. If you're a brand new company, this may be tough, though not impossible, and I will address this later.
In regards to your website, look into advertising through Google AdWords. This takes less than 30 minutes to set up and after listing as many "trigger" words as you can think of, you can have it so your account is only charged when people actually visit your website. I would set the charge to be $ 1.00 for each "click-through" as they call it in internet-speak.
After your website is up and running, you can purchase basic desktop publishing tools from Broderbund such as Print Shop or Print Master to create flyers and postcards. This software is really easy to use and costs less than $ 50 at Office Depot or Staples. Import your professional logo and again use its color scheme as the backdrop when creating your material. Be certain to include your phone number, email address, and web address on all of your material. You can then upload your creations to VistaPrint and have them printed and processed to you. Once you are registered with VistaPrint, you will receive 50% email coupons on a weekly basis. Do not print without one of these otherwise you'll be kicking yourself for spending too much money.
Have flyers and large postcards (not the small ones, they're too small and would get lost in people's mail and other paperwork) printed and pass them out regularly, and I stress regularly. I say this because have you ever gotten a pizza door hanger or local restaurant menus delivered to your house? They're delivered on a weekly basis until they wear you into submission and you ever buckle and order. The same thing applies here. If those potential customers can really use your services, they will always call. (Remember: Repeat Impressions = Business)
Something that is often overlooked but is vitally important on everything that you have created is "The Hook." On your flyers, postcards, and website you must have a hook – something you give away for free. Free estimates. Free consultation. Free design service. Free delivery and setup. Figure out something that you could afford to do for free. Customers are used to getting something for free so do not make them go to your competition to get it.
Finally, join a business-networking group (Google your city and business networking groups for a listing of them in your area). Once you're a part of one, offer your services to the members for free initially or at an extremely discounted rate. This will help to establish your business in the business community and show others that business owners trust you. Moreover, you can use pictures of this work in your photo gallery on your website further establishing yourself.
What I've laid out here are just the basics and are really inexpensive. Depending on your logo design, everything can be done for less than $ 300. Later you can move forward and setup a Facebook page and get people that you've done work for to become fans on your page. You can also write articles on, where else, EzineArticles.com, discussing your experiences with customers and what has helped your business succeed or what challenges you have faced starting a new business and how you overcame them to become exceptional. You can also look at PRweb.com for PR help and your local business journals.
Overall, by just reading this article and following a few of the steps, you're well on your way to success. Feel free to contact me about any of the suggestions I've laid out. Since I've always done these things, everything is fresh in my memory and I've willingly shared the knowledge I've gained. Best of luck in your endeavors!