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When you first start your business, it’s expected that money will be tight — and most of it is probably going toward your startup’s basic needs. When cash flow is limited, choosing what to prioritize can be intimidating, and the idea of marketing your business may seem out of reach. But believe it or not, gaining a reputation with consumers, partners and your community doesn’t necessarily require a hefty budget.
Consider your marketing presence the first taste clients get when they come across your business, whether in-store or online. After all, it’s important to set the right tone and attract the right customers searching for your product or service.
To get you started, here are a few tips we’ve found useful when establishing a market presence.
Embrace the internet
You probably already have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for your company. Starting to think of them as advertising outlets rather than just social media platforms is key to getting your brand in front of potential customers. Staying on top of comments on your posts, both positive and negative, will help generate loyalty from your consumer base and allow you to have a more personal connection with your customers.
Consider diving into content marketing and sharing your story with your customers. If you have a strong sense of humor, write funny posts that have the potential to go viral. If your business has a humanitarian or personal aspect, share your stories. They’ll inspire and engage your current followers and give you a chance to attract new ones.
Once you’ve gained an audience, keeping them in the loop is critical. You might want to consider sending out a weekly newsletter to those willing to sign up. Make readers feel like they’re part of your company’s inner circle. Tell stories about a new product, offer deals and share “behind the scenes” photos of you, your products and your employees.
Think outside the box
Marketing your company can be fun, especially if you’re willing to get creative and find new (and free) ways to get your name in front of potential customers.
Guerilla marketing, which sounds more intense than it actually is, can be a unique way to recruit customers from unexpected locations. Does your community have a farmer’s market or popular park? Write the name of your business—and a fun, uplifting message—in chalk, or consider handing out fliers that offer discounts on your products or services.
Whatever your approach, try to find a way to stand out from your competition. A catchy slogan or memorable hashtag is a great way to get people talking and may even lead to new social shares.
Take care of your customers
Letting your customers know that you value them is the best thing you can do to develop a good reputation and marketing presence. Being friendly goes a long way, as going above and beyond will make you memorable.
If you’re an online business that mails your goods to consumers, go the extra mile with packaging. Throw in a handwritten letter or an extra treat to let them know you care—especially when you’re just getting started. Sending out personalized birthday emails, holiday greetings and seasonal deals can always prove useful.
Developing a loyalty program is another way of letting your customers know you care. Punch cards that offer a free product after several visits will encourage people to return to your business. Offering a referral program for established patrons, where they get some sort of perk for sending their friends to your company, will help create word of mouth.
It’s no secret that review platforms such as Yelp are critical in this day and age. Encourage your devoted customers to leave reviews or feedback on various platforms. Stay active on these sites and acknowledge every review — both good and bad. Engaging with your customers, even when the feedback is more in line with “constructive criticism,” is a great way to solve problems or change strategies, especially as you grow.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with marketing, especially if this is your first venture as an entrepreneur. While using paid advertising definitely has its perks, you don’t need to break the bank to get your new business out there. Your customers are already engaging with many of the platforms that can help grow your business — now you just have to harness that power.