Even though the economy is sinking into a recession or into a “recession-like” economy (“what’s the difference?” I’d like to ask the experts!), you don’t have to slash your marketing budget down to nothing. There are plenty of low-cost or no-cost marketing techniques you can use if your marketing budget isn’t overflowing. Here are some ideas to try:
1. Create a Web site or blog. You should already have a Web site, but just in case you don’t, make one. Or, if your Web site host is charging you hundreds of dollars per year to keep your site up, try finding another host. You can get a free site through Mysite.com or Freewebs.com. You’ll have to allow the Web host to run ads on your site, but you can also get low-cost hosting services for as little as $20 per month.
If you don’t have a blog, I’d suggest starting one of those too. (In fact, a lot of companies create blogs that function as their Web site. That’s not a great option, as you can’t create Tabs and nice graphic design like you can with a Web site host, but in tough times, you can make it work.) Either way, you should have a blog so that you have some way of communicating with your customers and prospects. A blog is a great way to get your personal side out there for your customers to see, and it’s also a great way to establish yourself as an expert – by giving advice on your products and industry.
2. Post on forums and article sites. Staying online, you should also post expert answers on forums, or at least join in a conversation about something going on in your industry. You can include a link to your Web site on these forum posts, which will drive more traffic your way, and increase therefore business. There are plenty of article databases that you can post free articles to, but make sure that your articles are informative and give the reader something of value. People want to buy from a business owner who is seen as expert; no one wants to buy from a business owner who has nothing to offer.
3. Hang some printed flyers. Yep, getting back to basics is not a bad way to drum up some business in hard times. People still have to go the grocery store and the bank, so hang up your printed flyers there. And in hard times, more people will be getting to the store by bus, so hang some flyers at the bus stops as well. Be sure to either design your flyer so that you have some tear-offs with your contact info at the bottom, or make a pocket on the flyer (simple as attaching an envelope) that has your full color brochures or custom business cards in it.
4. Word-of-mouth marketing. Simply ask current customers to spread the word. People believe their friends and family over marketing materials anyway, so use that to your advantage. You can sweeten the deal for current customers by creating some referral cards that current customers can give to new customers. The incentive? A discount on the current customer’s next purchase. This is a proven way to get new business and at the same time, show your current customers that you care about them, too.