Low-cost Marketing

Educating the customer is a great way to publicize your business

You’ve got a dilemma: you want to get the word out on your company, but you’re on a tight budget and marketing costs big bucks. Or does it? Fortunately, there are ways you can promote your business and increase exposure without spending much money at all. These tips will help you master the art of getting free publicity.

Know your customers.

What do your clients look like? How old are they? Where do they live? What factors do they consider when deciding whether to purchase goods or services such as yours? Answers to these questions will help you decide how many target audiences you really have, what you want to say to them and which vehicles will reach them most effectively. Now you’re ready to develop a campaign that promotes you as an expert in your field or industry.

Time is (not always) money.
Radio and television stations must devote a portion of their air time to public affairs programming. Check with your local stations to find out which programs address consumer affairs or profile local businesses. Call or write the station’s program director or producer and introduce yourself and the topic you’re prepared to discuss. The more relevant or timely it is, the better.

Prepare a press release.
Renee Warren, a partner with New York-based Noelle-Elaine Media Consultants, suggests that you do what’s called a one-sheeter, a release that gives your company name, what you do and whom you service. “Keep it clear and concise,” she advises. A more sophisticated avenue is to prepare a press kit, which might contain your company brochure, a black and white photo, price and client lists, testimonials, bios of senior staff and published (if any) articles about your company.

Take advantage of every opportunity to tout yourself.
Look for opportunities to be included in weekly community “shoppers,” major dailies and regional business and trade publications. For small publications, call or write to the editor-in-chief, then follow up with a press kit or the one-sheeter. You can even write the story yourself. For larger publications, send a letter to the editor in charge of business news, introducing yourself and pitching your story idea. The more intriguing you make it, the more likely it is that you’ll get a call. You can also volunteer to speak at business, professional and community events.

Stay visible.
Once you’ve made lots of money, consider hiring a public relations or media consulting company to keep your name in the public eye. The costs can run from $3,000 to over $15,000 a month, but if the agency does its job well, you can recoup your annual investment in less than a year.

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