How much money do you spend on advertising every year? A lot? A little? Please don’t say it’s zero. While it would be nice to rely on free advertising, word of mouth just doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to running a small business. Advertisement and marketing are vital if you hope to succeed in your industry, whether you’re selling software or fitness supplements or anything in between.
How can you advertise your small business effectively in this ever-changing marketing climate?
1. Make Word Of Mouth Work For You
Word of mouth doesn’t work by itself anymore, especially with most people preferring to learn about a new business on Google or Yelp. That doesn’t mean you need to abandon the concept entirely.
You just need to approach the situation differently by running a referral program. When it comes to choosing a new company, 92% of customers trust peer recommendations over advertisements. Word of mouth is still a major influencer in 74% of purchasing decisions, making it one of the most effective marketing tools but nearly impossible to control. You can’t control your customers or make them talk about your company normally. That’s where the referral program comes in.
Offer your customers an incentive to talk about your company and send their friends or family your way. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Dropbox, the cloud storage platform, offers users 16 GB of free storage space for each referral — something that is useful for the customer but doesn’t cost Dropbox a ton of money to provide.
Take a look at what you provide and what you can offer customers in exchange for their word of mouth advertising. For services, consider a discount, either a flat amount or a percentage, on their next appointment. For products, a reward system might be more effective.
The possibilities are only limited by what you’re willing to offer.
2. Work With Local Radio Stations
Even if your business is located in the middle of nowhere, the chances are high that you’ve got at least one local radio station nearby. Advertising on local radio can be a fantastic way to bring in new customers from your area. This is something that’s becomingly increasingly difficult as more sellers transition to an online business model. According to Nielsen, nearly 250 million Americans listen to the radio every week. It’s also one of the more affordable marketing tools, offering low costs per 1000 listeners.
You don’t just have to rely on recorded advertisements either. Offer to host a radio event in your parking lot. You’ll bring in a ton of new customers who come to the event to meet their favorite radio personalities or for the chance to win free swag. While you won’t be hosting these events every week, even once or twice a year can be a great way to bolster your customer base while interacting with the neighborhood.
3. Let Your Flag Fly
Flags are a fantastic way to promote your business. They can be used indoors and out, and they’re easy to customize with your logo, products, services, and contact information. If you’ve got some space, either in your parking lot, in front of your building, or on the roof, why not let your flag fly?
You’ve got plenty of options to choose from. Single or double-sided flags. Straight flags. Edge flags. Feather flags. Teardrop flags. Colorful and fun prints. Stoic and professional prints. Indoor flags. Outdoor flags. Flags tend to catch the eye because they flutter in the breeze and the human eye is drawn to movement. Use flags to advertise your business all the time or just to bring people in for a new promotion. The possibilities are endless.
4. Wear Your Brand
Signage and logos are great but if the only place your customers see them is in your store, they don’t do a whole lot of good. Start wearing your brand and investing in branded swag that you can wear both at work and at home.
Branded swag that you can gift to your customers is also a great way to bring in new ones. In 2018, 89% of consumers received a piece of branded swag before making a purchase. Of those, 79% researched a company because they received branded swag.
Don’t invest in impractical things like stress balls or magnifying glasses with your logo on them. Instead, stick to the practical — pens, coffee mugs, reusable shopping bags, hats, and t-shirts are all good examples. You can get branded swag for next to nothing, ordering hundreds of pens or dozens of coffee mugs at a time to secure a wholesale discount.
5. Volunteer Your Services
Your business is part of the local community and there’s no better way to get cost-effective PR than to volunteer your services or donate products to a worthy cause. Take a look at your neighborhood and your community and see who’s looking for funding, product donations, or volunteer work. You can sponsor a little league baseball team and get your name on their uniform — an investment that will bring in new customers who see your logo when their kids or grandkids are playing their favorite game.
Offer your parking lot and your outdoor tap for high schools that are running fundraising carwashes for free. If you sell automotive cleaning supplies, you can even donate buckets, car wash soap and sponges to make their event even more profitable. We can’t offer any suggestions for specific places to volunteer because they’ll vary dramatically from city to city, but just start looking around and you might be surprised at all the organizations looking for help.
You’ll notice that we didn’t touch on social media marketing. That’s because, in today’s market, that should be a no brainer. If you don’t have a social media marketing plan, how are you still in business? These advertising strategies might be a little bit off the beaten path but they can help you secure more customers while you’re finding your niche. Don’t neglect things like word of mouth and the power of good PR through volunteer work.
Lexie is a graphic designer and UX strategist. She enjoys taking her goldendoodle on walks and checking out flea markets. Visit her design blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner