Business promotion is to running a successful business as practicing scales is to playing the piano well; it may not be a thrilling activity in itself, but you just have to do it! You should spend at least an hour a day on business promotion or planning how to promote your business (and more is better, if you can fit the time in)!
You promote your business by getting the word out. The first axiom of business promotion is that you have to do this consciously. You can't rely on other people to do it for you, no matter how great your product or service is.
The second axiom of business promotion is that like every other aspect of your business, it's a budgeted activity. But promotion doesn't have to be expensive. Here are ten inexpensive ways to promote your business; all most of these will cost you is some time.
1) Use every outgoing piece of paper, and every electronic document as business promotion.
You have business cards, but you also put out a lot of other documents in the course of doing business. Check these to make sure you're using their promotional possibilities to full advantage.
For instance, business stationery is an ideal business promotion tool. Is your business name, logo, contact information (including URL if you have one), and slogan on your envelopes as well as on your letterhead? Or are your envelopes only printed with your business name and return address? What a waste! Your phone and fax numbers, your URL, and even a memorable slogan should be there, too. It's not just an envelope, it's a business promotion tool! You're sending it out anyway, so why not make it work for you?
The same goes for outgoing faxes, bill payments, receipts; whatever paper you send out should carry your full company message. And don't forget to make sure that your email has a complete signature that provides all your business information and a promotional tagline.
Electronic documents, such as email, are also easy to update with your latest business promotion information, whether it be a special price on your product or service, or letting people know that your company has won an award. If you need information about using signature files with particular mail programs, visit About Email Guide Heinz Tschabitscher's Signature links.
2) Writing articles on topics related to your business expertise is an excellent business promotion technique.
Well-written articles can provide free advertising and build positive word-of-mouth. If you're a realtor, for instance, you could write a piece on preparing your home to be shown. If you're a Web site designer, you might write a piece about assessing Web site usability. The more specific your topic, the better. Write a short biographical note, or "blurb" about you and your business to go with the article. Then send it out!
Where? As the goal is to promote your business, ideally you'd like it to appear in a publication that your target audience will be reading. Realistically, you may have to send it to a publication that accepts unsolicited work from unknown authors. Magazines generally have a long lead time, so I would focus my first efforts on the 'Net. There are an astronomical number of e-zines and sites with newsletters that are hungry for content.
One place to look for e-zines to send articles to is E-Zines Net Top 20 Directories. E-zines also provide excellent advertising value; the trick is to find the right e-zine for your target audience. Freelance writing sites also provide a great deal of information on all kinds of publications that might publish your efforts. Make your research easier by starting with a great site that provides all kinds of lists and information on markets such as About Freelance Writers, or FreelanceWriting.com.
Newspapers are also excellent places to place your business promotion article, as they too have a much shorter lead-time than magazines, and are always looking for material. Try contacting the Business editor of your local paper and pitching your article. If this approach fails, you might be able to get your piece into the paper by sending it in as a letter to the Editorial section.
3) Sending out press releases is another great way to get some free business promotion.
The caveat to using press releases as a business promotion tool is that your press release has to actually contain information that is newsworthy, and be engaging enough to get people's interest. Has your business recently expanded? Do you have a new product? Have you been involved in some promotional activity such as sponsoring a charity event? Have you or your company recently won an award? All of these are examples of "news" that you can capitalize on to get some free promotion for your business.
While many business people send press releases to newspapers as a matter of course, don't forget about the Internet. Web sites like mine, for example, that specialize in providing business-related information, are interested in you and your accomplishments.
4) Spend some of your online time on business promotion through social media.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are great ways to promote your business through social media. A good example of how this can be effective was illustrated to me recently when we had a power outage that affected some areas of our small community. One of the local restaurants posted on Facebook that they had power and were open for business and within an hour they were packed with customers.
To get started with social media see How to Create a Social Media Plan. See also How to Create a Fan Page on Facebook and How to Promote your Business on Twitter. If you are skilled with taking video (or know someone who is) you can record video promotions of your products or services and post them on YouTube.
5) Use buddy marketing to promote your business.
For example, if you send out brochures, you could include a leaflet and/or business card of another business, which had agreed to do the same for you. This gives you the chance to reach a whole new pool of potential customers.
You might also plan and carry out business promotions with complementary businesses. A pet store and a pet grooming business, for example, might use shared advertising, or run a contest together. This can considerably cut down the cost of business promotion, and allow each business to use promotion techniques that would be too expensive to implement alone.
6) Give out freebies as business promotion.
We're all familiar with hearing or reading advertisements that promise that the first 50 people to visit a particular store will receive a free (____). You fill in the blank. It could be anything from a red rose through an ice-cream cone! We're all familiar with this kind of spot promotion because it works. People love to receive things that are free.
Besides using freebies as business promotions, you can also use them regularly as customer "rewards". For example, I recently had a picture framed; the framer had attached a free picture hanger to the painting's wire, with a small card thanking me for my patronage. It's only a small thing, which certainly didn't cost him much, but as the customer, I appreciate not having to rummage through my home looking for a suitable hanger, and can't help thinking positively about the service he provides. What small, inexpensive things could you give out with your product or service that will get your customer thinking good thoughts about you? Combining business promotion with customer rewards is definitely a win-win situation.
Still looking for more low-cost business promotion ideas? Continue on to the next page, which discusses being a talk show guest and giving seminars as ways to effectively promote your business.