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The most common concern of small business owners is how to get more customers. The simple solution to that problem is marketing, which usually brings up a second problem. Lack of funds for marketing. This is common to new businesses as well as more established but still struggling businesses. Given that, it makes sense to explore ways to market for little or no money. These methods will help you get more customers without having to pay for advertising. You should add paid advertising and other methods of promotion to your marketing activities as soon as you have the funds to do so. Until then, here are 10 ways you can market your business for little to no cost.
  1. Business Cards. The lowly business card may be one of the most effective promotional items you can have. Give them out at every opportunity. I was recently cleaning out my desk and found a stack of business cards I’d collected many years before. When I went through them there were only a small percentage that I decided to get rid of. The rest still were potentially useful to me in some way. They’re cheap to print and some places will give you some for free.
  2. Networking. Get out and go to networking events. Meet people. Tell them who you are and what you do. Find out about them and how you might be able to help them with their business. Exchange business cards. Follow up. Build relationships with people you meet who you are interested in working with.
  3. Ask for Referrals. Ask friends, family, neighbors, and so on for referrals. Ask people you meet at networking events for referrals. Ask often. Someone who didn’t have any business for you last month might have business for you this month.
  4. Be Social – As in Social Media. It’s completely free to establish a profile on social media sites and build a following. It does take a time investment and you have to have enough discipline to focus on the business purpose rather than spend hours watching cat videos. You may need to spend a little money to make your posts more visible but it the cost is still relatively low.
  5. Be Social – Old School. There are tons of social events, groups and so on that you can get involved in. Get out into your community and meet people with similar interests. If you’re into knitting, find a knitting club or group or even classes. The connections and friends you make in these circles can lead to business for you. Some activities will be more productive in the regard than others, but you never know if you don’t get out there.
  6. Case Studies. Do case studies highlighting how your product or service helped a customer solve a particular problem or benefited them in some way. You can then post these case studies on your website or send them to your contacts to show them the benefits of doing business with you.
  7. Testimonials. Testimonials from satisfied customers are great promotional tools. Like case studies, you can post them on your website or to social media or send them out to your contacts.
  8. Reviews. Encouraging your satisfied customers to post reviews on Yelp or Google+ or any other sites appropriate to your business is a no cost method of promoting your business.
  9. Give it Away. You can give away your products or services as a way of introducing your business and demonstrating the products/services themselves to your customers. This can produce huge benefits for some businesses. There’s a reason Costco has people cooking and handing out samples of food products. It increases sales!
  10. Cold Calls/Visits. This is last because most people hate doing them. That said, they don’t cost anything and can be extremely effective.

What low or no cost promotional actions have worked for you?