An acquaintance of mine who changes “businesses” about as often as a teenager changes clothes recently sent me a postcard announcing his latest venture: Internet Business Consulting. He was, his announcement proclaimed, ready to help businesses set up Web pages to do business on the Internet.
This was the individual’s third business in two years. Previous ventures included selling advertising specialties and starting a niche-market magazine, neither of which were successful. Remarkably, this gentleman had only learned how to use a computer and modem a couple of months prior to sending out that mailing.
Whether this newly minted Internet consultant ever found customers, or knew enough to actually create a professional Web presence for anyone is a matter of speculation. What isn’t speculation, however, is the hype surrounding the Internet. Big and small businesses alike are racing to the Web expecting it to be a low-cost, no-effort alternative to traditional advertising and marketing methods.
Not surprisingly, many are disappointed.
While a Web site lets you put information about your company and products where it can be found by millions of people, it’s not the answer to every marketing problem.
Potential customers aren’t going to find your web site unless you tell them about it and give them a reason to want to visit the page. In other words, you have to market the Web site.
So what can you do to market your business at low cost? Here are 24 proven methods to help get your business off the ground without spending a fortune.
1) If you don’t have a business card and business stationery, have them made up — immediately. Your business card, letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a professional who takes your business seriously.
2) Get your business card into as many hands as possible. Call your friends and relatives and tell them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of business cards to hand out to their friends.
3) Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services. Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have newsgroups where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the board.
4) Attend meetings of professional groups, computer user groups and groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, or civic associations. Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Every time you start to say “My name is,” reach in your pocket for a business card. By the time you get to “I run a…” (type of business), your business card should be deposited in the hand of the person with whom you are speaking. Don’t forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to them. They’ll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you because of it.
5) Become actively involved in 3 or 4 of these groups. That will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. But remember: opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get little business. While you won’t want to become involved in activities that require a lot of your time in very many organizations, you can — and should — make real contributions to all of them by offering useful ideas and help with small parts of one-time projects;
6) Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicize it. Send out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV stations, or magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in buying what you sell. To increase your chance of having the material published, send along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release. Editors of printed publications are often in need of “art” (drawings or photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.
7) Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send it to non-competing newspapers, magazines, and Web sites such as the Business Know-How Web site. Be sure that your name, business name, reference to your product or service and phone number are included at the end of the article. If the editor can use the article, you get your name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for free, too.
8) Whenever you do get publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article containing the publicity. Make photocopies and mail the copies out with sales letters or any other literature you use to market your product or service. The publicity clips lend credibility to the claims you make for your products or services.
9) Contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses who have customers who may need your services. Ask for work or leads.
10) Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let them know you are available to handle their work overloads. (But don’t try to steal their customers. Word will get out, and will ruin your business reputation.)
11) Offer to be a speaker on subjects utilizing your area of expertise. Volunteer organizations, libraries and online forums often need speakers for meetings. After you’ve had some practice speaking (enough to feel comfortable doing it and to have gotten some positive feedback), look into working with speaker’s bureaus to book speaking engagements for you. You’ll benefit two ways from such engagements: the fee you receive for doing them, and the publicity you, your product or service gets as a result.
12) If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested. Or, teach others how to use some tool you use in your work.
13) Find out what federal, state, and local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business. Most offer free counseling, and some may be able to suggest possible prospects for your business.
14) Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out.
15) If you use a car or truck in your business have your business name and contact information professionally painted on the side of the vehicle. That way your means of transportation becomes a vehicle for advertising your business. If you don’t want the business name painted on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs.
16) Get on the telephone and make “cold calls.” These are calls to people who you would like to do business with. Briefly describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.
17) Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
18) Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people you think could use your services. During such consultations offer some practical suggestions or ideas — and before you leave ask for an “order” to implement the ideas.
19) Learn to ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances for referrals. When you get them, follow up on the leads.
20) Use other people to sell your product or service. Instead of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for existing mail order companies that would be willing to include your products in their catalogs, or for distributors or sales agents who would be willing to take over sales chores for you. Be sure your pricing structure allows for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are made.
21) Have sales letters, flyers and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: “Would you like me to send information?” Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that says “Here is the information you asked me to send.”
22) Run a contest. Make the prize something desirable and related to your business. It could be a free gift basket of your products, for instance, or free services.
23) Take advantage of any opportunities you have to get free ads, or to have your company and its product or service listed free of charge in a directory. or . Professional associations often publish such directories.
24) If your target market would be likely to use the Internet or online forums, participate in discussion groups and consider putting up a web page. But, if you do make it online, be sure to include your email address and your web page address (if you have one) on your business cards, in your promotional materials, in print ads and even on your letterhead.
taken from businessknowhow.com