Image of the string in shoestring marketingHow do you market your small business when you have limited marketing bucks? Oakville’s Chamber of Commerce sponsored a panel discussion on the topic for last week’s Small Business Week, to which moderator and entrepreneur Michele Bailey graciously invited me. Here are some of the tips I took away from speakers Grace Attard, Ben Molfetta and David Wojcik:

  • Create a business strategy. Sit down with your bank to discuss it, or use the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)’s free template. Remember to dust it off once in a while!
  • Differentiate yourself. Why are you in business? What’s your unique story? Check out Simon Sinek‘s book and TED Talk, “Start With Why.” As he says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
  • Who is your perfect client? Concentrate on the ones most likely to do business with you.
  • Don’t ignore existing customers! Establish effective ways of staying in touch with them. And keep in touch with past clients, too.
  • Contact people in a variety of ways: snail mail, email, phone.
  • Build relationships, over lunch, coffee, client appreciation events, networking events. Offer value.
  • Network. If you aren’t comfortable networking, go to an event simply aiming to meet five people. Ask questions and have a good conversation rather than deliver a sales pitch.
  • Contract out what isn’t your core service (and especially what you hate doing!) so you focus on what you do best.
  • Form alliances with other businesses who serve your market. Refer business to each other.
  • Develop a seminar to educate clients on some aspect of what you do for them.
  • Use social media to improve your visibility. Blog. Post videos. Go where your buyers are. Monitor how much traffic you get and where it comes from. Test. Use analytics to understand cause and effect.
  • Be persistent and give it time. Building a business is a long game. Some studies say it takes seven or eight “touchpoints” to make a sale, but the average person gives up after four.
  • Customer relationship management programs help you collect data on your customers and prospects and keep in touch. Automate some of those touchpoints.

Do you have tips to share for marketing on a shoestring budget? Let’s hear them.

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Get more referrals by letting people know what you do
It’s like magic: referrals help you diversify
Get out of your way and grow your business

Image: Ball of string by “Mr GC” and FreeDigitalPhotos.Net.