When you run a small business, every penny in your spreadsheet counts. You can’t afford a big advertising campaign, but you need to start bringing in new business. Here are five business development ideas you can use to deliver big results on a small marketing budget.
If you’re a new business or an established business trying to expand your customer base, try these tactics.
1. Post Valuable Website Content
Consistently providing content that’s usable, engaging and of high quality is one of the best ways to market your business. Useful, fresh content that you regularly update is also content that will move your website up in search engine rankings.
A well-made, engaging website gives your business a professional image. It gives an air of authority even to a small, local business. While valuable website content it is a long-term approach, it is one of the best business development ideas if practiced consistently.
What kind of website content works best? Here’s what you should include.
Articles and blog posts: Post useful, engaging content as often as possible on your website and blog. Use lists, humorous posts, news updates, uplifting stories and anything else your readers might enjoy.
Infographics: Infographics that explain complicated data in easy-to-grasp, clear illustrations are all the rage on social media. Studies find people are more than twice as likely to share a blog post or twitter with an infographic on it. Create an eye-catching one that conveys useful information, and people will send it all over. Your website and a link will show up as the source.
Video tutorials: People like learning how to do things, and an instructional video is a great way to hold their interest on your site. The video should be related to your product or service in some way. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, by the way. If you sell wine, for instance, it could be a simple “how to open a champagne bottle properly” demonstration.
2. Become a Sponsor
Find a cause or an event you can sponsor. It should be something related to the product or service you provide. For instance, if you sell accounting services, sponsor a school’s math fair. If you sell athletic socks, sponsor a half-marathon.
Polar bear plunges are popular ways to make money for charity. Offer to donate coffee or hot chocolate to all participants. Make sure your company name is on the cups.
Always Follow Up
Once you sign up as a sponsor, follow up. Send out a press release announcing the sponsorship, and post the information on your social media pages. Mention it often on your twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
A week or so before the event, send out another press release. If you can, supplement these efforts with a targeted, paid advertising campaign highlighting your involvement with the charity. Further you efforts by printing commemorative tee shirts with your business name on them. You can give these out to participants at the event.
Sponsorship is a great way to create a positive public image for your company.
3. Stretch Your Marketing Budget With Worthy Cause Marketing
The founders of Barefoot Wine famously grew from a two-person operation to the world’s top-selling wine company without ever running a paid advertisement or commercial.
The company, almost by mistake, stumbled on the use of what it calls “worthy cause marketing” when it donated some wine to a local charity auction. They began regularly donating wine after seeing positive impact from that first event. They also began donating their employees’ time to work at fundraising events.
It became such a powerful form of business development that Barefoot has never run any traditional advertising.
Find a Cause
When you think about causes to support, make sure they line up with your customers’ values. It’s almost always safe to donate to worthy organizations in your community:
- Fire department and police organizations.
- Sports clubs and local teams.
- Animal rescues and shelters.
- Boys’ and girls’ clubs.
- State parks.
4. Do Some Old-School Networking
Even in today’s digital age of social media and online advertising, nothing can beat old-fashioned, face-to-face networking in person. Your town probably has a number of clubs, business organizations, networking associations and other organizations where you can meet local business owners to expand your network.
When you attend these events, don’t spend your time trying to push your business. Look at the event as an opportunity to build relationships. You’ll probably be asked about it, so be sure to have a stack of business cards ready. They should list your company website in addition to your contact information. You should also be prepared with your so-called elevator pitch, a 30-second summary of who you are and what you do.
Where Can You Find Networking Events?
- Clubs or associations related to your business. Local and state chapters usually have regular meetings that are free or low-cost.
- Online directories like MeetUp and EventBrite. They regularly list meetings and conventions for people in specific industries or with specific interests.
- Conventions and trade shows.
- Local organizations like your library, churches, community organizations and local chambers of commerce.
5. Institute a Customer Referral Program
Studies have found that people looking for a product or service trust a friend or family member’s recommendation more than they trust top reviews from strangers.
In other words, word of mouth is powerful advertising. If you’re lucky, you already have customers spreading the word about you. If not, give them an incentive to do so with a customer service referral program.
Get Those Referrals
This is an easy, low-cost plan that you can customize to fit your business. For instance, if you sell cleaning services, tell your customers you’ll give them a free cleaning if they refer a customer who uses your service. If you sell a monthly subscription service, offer a free month of service for every new customer someone brings you.
Offer your customers free cookies, a free drink or a free service and watch those referrals start coming in.
The most important part of a customer referral program is to give out the prize or free item quickly. Many customer referral programs fail because the customer does the referral and never gets the promised reward.
Don’t Let a Small Marketing Budget Lead to Small Results
Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune. A good business development plan can produce results with a small investment of your time and effort. Focus on what your potential customers need and want, target your efforts at them and build a well-rounded plan that involves old and new marketing techniques.
Keep It Simple
When you don’t have a huge budget, you need to keep your plan simple and straightforward. Your customers are the people in your community, your neighbors and fellow business owners. When you design your advertising plan, design it with them in mind.
What will they find useful? What answers are they looking for? How can your business help them solve their problems? Keep these questions in mind when you produce content and look for sponsorship opportunities. You must think of your clients and customers when using these business development ideas.
Remember these pointers:
- Focus on creating excellent website content.
- Give your customers useful, enjoyable videos, articles and infographics they’ll want to share.
- Get your name associated with well-regarded local causes.
- Use paid advertising strategically.
- Network online and in person.
None of these business development ideas is costly. You can adapt them all to what works for your product or service. The most important thing is to get started.