Low-Cost Local Marketing Strategies

Marketing is an important element for your small business, but too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of focusing their time and money on high-cost marketing campaigns, such as newspaper or television ads, that don't really pay off in the form of new business. Before you invest any more money into marketing, try out these low-cost local marketing strategies for your small business:

Business Cards

Old fashioned? Maybe. But business cards haven't quite gone the way of typewriters and briefcases. Handing out business cards when you meet someone is a good way to spread the word about your business. Better yet, write a note on your business card before handing it away. Adding your personal cell number, email address, or a special discount offer will make your card stand out among the others that people are carrying in their wallets. Further, it demonstrates your personal interest in the person who is receiving the card, and that personal connection can make all the difference when a consumer is deciding which business to use.

Generate business among the locals

Giving discounts to local business owners is a great way to encourage new customers and to get the word out about your business. For instance, if you own a restaurant in town, encourage local employees to come in for a lunch-time special. This will not only make you the hot spot in town, it will give local workers a chance to try you out, making it more likely that they will return for a meal other than lunch and that they will tell their friends and family about you. Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising.

Customer referral program or loyalty program

Speaking of word-of-mouth advertising, a customer referral program will reward those customers who do your advertising for you. Offer a special incentive for referrals, whether it's a discount on merchandise if you're a retailer, a free service if you're a salon, a free appetizer or meal if you're a restaurant, or any other service/discount that makes sense for your business. Another option is to develop a loyalty program for your preferred customers. A simple punch card that gives customers a free beverage after their 10th visit is all you need to give people incentive to stay loyal to your business.

Team up with other business leaders

Consumers today are becoming more and more invested in keeping things local, which means they will appreciate finding out about your new local business through another vendor. Introduce yourself to local business owners, particularly those whose interests are similar, but not competitive, with your own, and then team up and promote each other. For instance, a nutritionist might leave cards at a local running store to encourage partnership between the two companies. In turn, make sure to encourage your clients to head over to your partnering business(es) through a personal recommendation or, even better, with some sort of discount offer.

Get involved in the community

People will only give you business if they know you exist, which is why it's important to get involved in your community. Become a sponsor for a community event, give a donation for a local community or school auction, or get involved in a local charity. You'll not only be helping out your community, you'll also get your name out in the public spotlight.

Host free classes or events

Everybody likes free things, so hosting a free class and/or event at your business is a great way to get people in the door. Accept this as what you're billing it as--a free class. People will be turned off if they walk in and are greeted by an obvious sales pitch. The point here is to offer something of value to your community in the form of a class or event, with the hope that people will return to your business later because of something they saw or experienced while they were there.

Getting local business is an important step toward the overall success of your small business. These tips cost little to no money and will go a long way toward building up your customer base and your overall business.