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Twenty small business promotion tips

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Marketing your business is the key to success. Below are some tips to help you get started:

1) Track all forms of advertising. Business owners need to know how their customers heard about them, so that they can focus on the systems that work. Don’t waste money, keep track of those ads. Get a binder or a folder, and create a separate page for each ad. Collect a copy of the ad from the source, either the line ad from the newspaper, the postcard that was sent by direct mail, or the script from the TV or radio spot. Date each ad. Business owners should ask their customers how they heard about the business. Mark that down in the ad book, and when its time to renew an ad, note which ads were most effective. This will help direct money into the most effective campaigns.

2) Check out bookstores, cafe’s, restaurants, grocery stores, hardware stores, and college campuses for posting areas before putting up signs or fliers. Make sure a flier has removable tabs with the business information on them for people to take with them. The worst thing that can happen is just have one full page of information and 5 minutes after it's posted, someone takes that flier. No one else will see it!

3) Post fliers on Thursday or Friday, (that’s when most people go out to eat, and grocery shopping, etc) and check back weekly. Yes, its a pain. But fliers will get moved, covered up, or taken down. Business owners must be diligent if they're going to get the word out.

4) There are a ton of event listings online to take advantage of. Try listing events or promotions on Craiglist, Yelp, Eventsetter, Zvents, and check out your local radio, television news, and blogs for event calendars.

5) Use social media to help spread the word. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus, and YouTube are great ways to increase your visibility online. Get involved and get going!

6) Business owners should attend networking meetings in near them or near the location of their event. Most cities have a small business networking group for people who are self-employed. Look through your local event calendar listings and check with the Chamber of Commerce. Meetup is a great resource for finding other people with shared interests.

7) Join the local Chamber of Commerce. They also have networking events, provide excellent information, and lend credibility to your business.

8) Teach in community education courses. This is a business in and of itself, but it can also be used to find potential customers. Most centers frown upon selling or promoting outside businesses in any overt way, but what it is possible to offer your students to be on a mailing list, and then keep in touch with them. This way an expert in the field and keep in touch with people who have already seen proof of their knowledge.

9) Be sure to collect your customer's email addresses for a regular newsletter. Use sites like MailChimp, Aweber, and Constant Contact to keep your customers informed of events and specials.

10) Current customers are the best source of NEW customers. When customers like a business, they’ll sing its praises to high heaven. So, come up with ways to keep the customers happy! This could be something like sending them holiday cards, birthday discounts, customer appreciation discounts, or do a "bring your friend" discount promotion.

11) Have customers do your marketing for you! Some businesses offer incentives for their customers to give them referrals. This doesn't necessarily have to be money, it could be a discount coupon, free meal, or just a nice note might be enough to expand the business' reach.

12) Entrepreneurs can write articles about their fields of expertise and submit them to article submission websites like Ezine Articles or Examiner. There are a lot of sites that need content, (think of how many articles go through Yahoo during the day) and webmasters who are looking for information in a variety of fields will browse to pick up content for their site. The key to writing articles is to keep it clear and concise, and always have your information, with your web address, at the bottom of each article. It should be as easy as possible for people to reprint the articles, remove any, “contact me for re-print information” disclaimers. Entrepreneurs want people to share their information as quickly and easily as possible.

13) Consider doing joint ventures. Find another company or entrepreneur offering complimentary services with similar audiences. Each party does their own advertising, and they pool their funds to reach the public. Both can walk away with new customers, and an expanded mailing list!

14) Offer a free seminar with good, quality content. Check your local community centers or coworking spaces to rent a rom for a few hours to put together a seminar that will highlight your expertise and products. Make sure you give good information though, no one likes going to hear a sales pitch for 2 hours. For example, if you were a mortgage broker, you could have a free seminar regarding refinancing or any other aspect of the mortgage process. At the end of the evening, you can tell people about your services, and how they fulfill all the benefits that you outlined, or at least offer them a chance to be on your mailing list for future seminars, and market to them on the back end.

15) Have a “refer a friend” or "share" links on the business site and on all articles. It’s instant gratification. When people read your articles, or see your site, visitors may be inclined to inform others about what they learned, but as time passes, they’ll forget. When you have share links on your site, it increases the reach of your message.

16) Contact your mailing list at least every 21 days. After that time, your customers and potential customers forget who you are, and how they got on your list. In the world of traditional marketing, this can get quite expensive. Figure at 10,000 names, even a $0.34 postcard once a month for a year totals $40,800! This is another reason why having customers, (and potential customers) opt in to your email mailing list is essential. You don’t necessarily have to contact your customers just for your “everything must go!” sale, it could be for a new product, a special seminar, a simple thank you, or just to provide some good information. For example, if you ran a nursery, you could have quarterly updates just with the change of seasons…you could mail out tips dealing with winter frost, bugs that invade the garden, flowers that attract birds for the spring, and all sorts of things. Tie those newsletters in with a promotion, and you have marketing gold!

17) One thing that is essential with any marketing campaign is the sense of urgency. People are more likely to take action when they know that the offer is limited. This is not to say that you need to act like those obnoxious furniture stores that are always having “Going out of Business” sales. Frankly, that reduces your credibility. If you can come up with a legitimate limited time offer, you’ll definitely see a response.

18) Give something away for free as incentive for people to join your mailing list. Information is the easiest thing to give away for free, but if you have a brick and mortar business, you can always offer a contest to win a free product or service.

19) Going to trade shows, art fairs, and other collaborative venues is a great way to give your business exposure. Don’t expect to make a lot of money from these types of ventures, its all about expanding your list. Most people, when they attend these events, just want free samples and love picking up brochures and materials…most of this will get tossed. You do need to have promotional materials…preferably those that aren’t perishable. Hershey kisses may draw people to your booth, but people will eat them, toss the wrapper, and forget where they got them from. Make sure you have materials like pens, post-it notes, magnets, etc…make sure that your business name and website are clearly visible. People will take kitsch. They love it.

20) Continuing with trade show promotion: remember that people won’t just give you their information because you look nice, so its best to have a raffle or contest or something, where you need their contact information to notify them if they won. Most companies forget to follow-up with people on these lists…you’ll get more business if you follow up with the losers of the contest, and offer them a consolation prize or $5 off their next visit, or something along those lines. It really costs you nothing, it’ll keep you in people’s minds, and you may just get a few new customers!

Research has shown that it takes about seven contacts before a sale is made. That means seven emails, seven times someone hears an ad, seven times they receive a postcard, etc. The cheapest way to market is on the Internet, so make sure that you get those emails! Remember that people like to make informed decisions…no one likes to be “sold” on anything. Whatever path you take with your marketing, make sure that it is consistent, and full of good information. People are more likely to buy from those they trust, and if you inform them of the benefits of your products and services, (as opposed to just “pitching” a product to them) they’ll be more likely to buy…and refer their friends!

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