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50 Low Cost or No Cost Tips to Promote Your Business

By Wayan Vota on October 21, 2009
  1. Post and keep regular business hours. Though it may seem obvious, many small businesses fail to do this.
  2. Answer the phone. When you are unable to answer the phone, make sure there is an answering machine to take calls.
  3. Return every call within 24 hours.
  4. Change your answering machine message to let people know if your office is closed for a holiday or when you are away from the office, and when you will return.
  5. Use a promotional recording as your hold message.
  6. Don’t leave customers on hold for more than 45 seconds without getting back to them and asking if you can take a message or call them back.
  7. Train employees to give customers their undivided attention. Employees should not conduct personal conversations with each other or take personal calls while waiting on customers.
  8. Dress appropriately to greet customers.
  9. Smile when greeting customers. Be enthusiastic.
  10. Whenever you give a customer a business card, give them two – one to keep and one to give to someone else.
  11. Have promotional materials readily available, including brochures, business cards, flyers, etc.
  12. Keep product displays neat and clean. Clutter or dust will discourage buying.
  13. Be sure to print your contact information on every document that goes out the door – invoices, receipts, envelopes, letterhead, brochures, etc.
  14. Give away promotional items that people will use or see often (pens, magnets, coffee cups, calendars) that have your contact information clearly printed on them (name, phone number, address, e-mail address).
  15. Make regular follow-up phone calls. After making a sale, make a follow-up call to see if the customer was satisfied. Make a follow-up call if you referred a customer to another business, to see if they found what they were looking for. Make a follow-up call if you can provide a substitute item for something a customer was looking for but couldn’t find. Follow up when you get in new inventory, or improve an existing item. Set aside one hour a week just for follow up calls.  
  16. Ask customers for referrals, and provide an incentive, such as a discount coupon or a free item.
  17. Have a drawing, where customers leave their business cards or fill out blank forms and drop them in a bowl. Give away small items on a regular basis (a gift certificate once a month) so that people will continue to give you current information. Use this information to send out regular newsletters or invitations to sales, etc.
  18. Offer ‘frequent customer’ cards that customers sign up for, giving them special prices or discounts on purchases to build customer loyalty.
  19. Have ‘invitation only’ events for regular customers (i.e. open early and offer discounts to invited customers).
  20. Do a cooperative marketing effort with another business that shares your target market but doesn’t compete with you (i.e. a bakery and a wedding gown retailer; an office supply store and a computer retailer). Place fish bowls in both businesses and offer a prize from both; share the information and do shared mailings.
  21. Display a magnetic sign on your car.
  22. Go to a networking event and collect 10 new business cards.
  23. Subscribe to trade/industry magazines.
  24. Send birthday cards with coupons to your best customers; use regular mail and E-mail.
  25. Create a statement that describes the value your company brings to customers and hang it up in your store or send it to your customers.
  26. Save marketing materials you like and use them as ideas for your own marketing materials.
  27. Ask your staff for ways to bring in new business.
  28. If you find any statistics or fun facts about your industry, save them and use them when you can.  
  29. Look at your advertising or marketing materials; replace negative words with positive choices.
  30. Keep a customer log in your place of business or on your Web site and encourage customers to leave testimonials and suggestions.
  31. Sell gift certificates.
  32. Leave your cards or brochures in local stores, restaurants, and other places that allow it.
  33. Contact the alumni association of any school you attended and tell them about your business or any new company developments.
  34. Test a direct mail piece or brochure with a small audience before producing large quantities.
  35. Enlarge copies of any ads you buy and turn them into flyers for distribution as promotional handouts.
  36. Sponsor an event related to your business where all proceeds go to charity.
  37. Follow the news. Donate products or services when the community suffers a tragedy, budget crunch, or other challenge.
  38. Sponsor a local sports team or school.
  39. Look your customers in the eye.
  40. Have a firm handshake.
  41. Treat employees well — customers notice high turnover.
  42. Contact membership coordinators at groups or associations that would benefit from your product or service; offer members a discount.
  43. Meet once a month with other non-competing small-business owners to brainstorm.
  44. Send your sociable staff members to networking events, especially if you’re shy.
  45. When you join a professional organization, get involved on a committee to meet more people.
  46. Put a memorable sticker on your nametag at business events.
  47. Call five of your best customers and offer them a one-day special.
  48. Promote your business at exhibit booths at flea markets, road races, and community events — and don’t forget the free samples.
  49. Invite or hire a local storyteller, or children’s entertainer to perform for one hour every week during a slow time to generate traffic.
  50. Get involved in your city by participating in cultural events. 

Filed Under: Marketing
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Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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