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No-Cost Low-Cost Marketing

By Deborah Osgood

When you think about it, marketing is all about communication. The more effectively you can communicate, the more likely others will be engaged.

When it comes to small business, having engaged customers is a good thing! This means that they know who you are, they are interested in what you have to offer and they are spending their money with you - preferably on an ongoing basis.

Today, getting people engaged through effective communications offers a lot more choices. From the spoken voice, a message on a T-shirt, to the World Wide Web, small businesses have a lot more options today to get their messages across to new and existing customers and many options are at no or low cost.

Business Identity Package
The first most common form of business marketing is your identity package or stationery. This typically includes, letterhead and envelopes. Thanks to the quality of desk jet printers these days, each of these marketing tools may be generated in-house. Be sure, however, to use quality paper stock as these tools often make the first impression for your business. Usingbusiness cards, for example, that bend too easily or show perforated versus clean edges, may suggest that your business is not professional.

There are also many sources of online business card print houses, that will run off free or low cost print runs of your business cards on quality stock and with crisp colors and font styles.

Don't underestimate the value of a professional business logo either. Today, a professional logo can be designed at an affordable, fixed cost using a cloud-based, on-demand service such a LogoNerds. These web-based outsourced services also offer additional branding design services at reasonable rates and guarantees, such as envelopes, letterhead and web pages.

Web Site
Speaking of web pages, today a web site is a must for most any business. There are literally millions of people surfing the web every day for information and your business stands to benefit by being accessible there. This does not mean having to pay thousands of dollars to a local design or web consulting firm either. There are Web hosting companies that offer a combination of services, such as domain name registration, web site templates and web site hosting for as little as under $10.00 per month.

Once you have a web site, making sure that others find you on the web via major search engines is the next important step. This process is commonly referred to as Search Engine Optimization or SEO. In general, this means that your site is designed to optimally use key words that best describe what your business does and that will be most relative when users of the web search for a business such as yours. Again, there are many outsourced solutions for employing a productive SEO strategy.

Promotion and Publicity
Once you have your basic business identity package and web site, you now want to begin promoting awareness, access and use of your offerings. One of the best techniques for doing this in a no-cost low-cost manner is publicity. Publicity is a technique where you get others to "toot your horn" at no charge. This includes having articles published, holding interviews, and arranging special events or public stunts that draw media attention to you and your business.

One common place to start to secure media attention is by writing and distributing press releases. Outsourced solutions for this valuable marketing communication venue often offer tips to writing a good press release, as well as distribution lists for who to send your press release to in order to have it published. While there are many service providers that offer lists of journalists to send your press releases to, the best strategy is to select a few quality journalist from multiple mediums (web sites, blogs, social media influence leaders, print, magazine, television, radio, etc.) and build a solid rapport with them so that they come to trust what you have to say and view it relevant for publishing.

Another valuable approach to securing media coverage in a variety of venues and geographies is to subscribe to a list service that sends you email notifications regarding the topics that specific journalists are looking to cover. This includes print, radio and television, as well as book authors. Visit www.helpareporter.com to learn more.

Social Media
Social media can also be a valuable no-cost low-cost marketing communication channel. Social media refers to a variety of web-based platforms, including:

  • Forums and Newsgroups; (120,000+) WebMD, iVillage
  • Microblogs; (4,500,000+ users) Twitter, identi.ca, tumblr
  • Social Networks; Facebook (200,000,000 users w/35% adult users)
  • Social Media News Aggregators; Y!Buzz, Digg
  • Blogs; Captain BUZ (100,000,000+ mm)
  • Photo Sharing; Flickr; photobucket
  • WIKIS; (272,000,000+ unique visitors) Wikipedia, pbworks, wikiHow
  • Video Sharing; You Tube (200,000,000+ viewers

By visiting or doing a Google search on any one of the examples above, you will find access to further instructions for participating in that venue. The key to remember, however, is that while many of them are free, your time is not. Therefore, you will want to first evaluate that medium, understand what audience it reaches, choose to participate or not, and if so, be sure to track and measure results.

Networking
While it is more possible today than ever before for small businesses to compete effectively by leveraging technology and cost-effectively outsourcing many marketing functions, the old fashioned approach to building person-to-person support networks also remains an important business development strategy. There is no reason today to "go it alone."

For no-cost low-cost help with most all aspects of starting and growing your business, select any one of the following:

Last but not least, it will pay to remember that planning without action is a waste of time. Therefore, be sure to act on any idea, resource or strategy introduced in this article. Often the only difference between success and failure is to "just do it."

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