In a cash-strapped economy, advertising might be last on your business to-do list. But before you think about cutting back on marketing your brand, you might want to consider the plenty of free or low-cost ways to accomplish the same objective. After all, a wise man named Mark Twain once claimed, "Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising." Here are some cheap ways to promote your business that can definitely add value.
Engage with Your Fans
Whether it's a poll to vote on what items they'd like to see next or simply commenting on feedback you receive on your brand's social media accounts, anytime you interact with your fans, it makes them feel involved in your business rather than someone who's just purchasing your products or services. It's the virtual equivalent of shaking hands and having a quick chat with someone since it helps the customer get to know you better.
Looking for ideas to try? Create a website page that features creative entries inspired by your product, invite customers to upload product-related content with a special social media hashtag, or ask fans to weigh in on the color, design, or name of something new. Remember to leverage your physical community, too. Consider local promotional opportunities in your community, such as a partnership with your local library, a sponsorship of a local organization, or participation in a charity event as additional ways to place your brand in front of potential customers.
Network Through Relationships
You know what's cheaper than trying to gain a new customer? Keeping an old one. That's why creating lasting relationships with your customers is crucial. Plus, if you've got a fan base who love what you do, it can lead to a lot of referrals. If you're hesitant about asking customers to pass on names of those who might be interested, don't be. According to research, most people say they will pass along a few names when prompted. You can even create a customer referral program as a reward for those who help bring in new customers on a regular basis.
Besides networking among your customers, entities like business groups, local organizations, and civic clubs make great resources. You could offer to serve as a resource for advice, tester in a trial program, or even as a mentor to a business that's just starting out. Just remember, networking is a powerful tool when it's a win-win for both parties involved, so take a good look at what you can offer as a networker before you reach out.
Offer Discounts and Coupons
Coupons can be an excellent, cost-effective way to not only attract new customers, but also reward repeat shoppers. Research by eMarketer shows that 55% of U.S. internet users will redeem a digital coupon or code at least once this year, amounting to more than 97.4 million coupon users. Distributing discounts via mobile websites, apps, email, or SMS messages are often cheaper than printing paper coupons and get redeemed much more frequently. Before you decide on a discount, run the numbers to see what offer will be the most profitable, create a clear disclaimer, and figure out a way to track the number of coupons redeemed.
Another advantage to using coupons is that they're really successful at encouraging potential buyers to take action for the first time since they may need an incentive to stray from their normal buying habits. Make it easy on these first time customers with few coupon restrictions on their first offer. For example, the promotion "$5 off your first purchase" sounds a lot more enticing than "$10 off your first purchase when you buy at least 2 items totaling $35." If your product and customer service wows them, there's a good chance they'll be back for more.
Some businesses may think that coupons, promotions, and special offers cheapen their brand. However, branding and web marketing consulting firm 39 Celsius states, "Branding is achieved over a long time, but a coupon has the goal of bringing a person into your business today. The coupon or offer has almost nothing to do with branding. Every business can benefit from having an incentive for people to try out their products." After all, if coupons work for high-end brands like Neiman Marcus, Mercedes Benz, Tory Burch, and Lulumon, they're worth trying with your business.
Everyone Loves Freebies
Giving out a taste of your product or service is a great way to entice customers to make a purchase more often. A free trial or sample can often make hesitant purchasers more confident in their buying decisions since they've already experienced what you're offering to some degree. Even if your free item is something downloadable like a PDF, white paper, or ebook, you're reaching a larger audience and gaining valuable exposure.
Some things to consider when offering a freebie include the item's presentation, the value of the free item and whether or not you'll require an opt-in to receive the offering. A free item or service that is presented well with good design will get more attention than an item that isn't visually appealing. Likewise, in order to make your giveaway feel valuable to users, you might want to treat all freebies with as much attention as you would a product that you're selling. Lastly, requiring a sign up or opt in to receive emails or other communications from your business to receive their freebie is an easy way to build a prospect list of possibly interested customers.
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