Almost every small business owner has taken a direct financial hit from this year’s pandemic, especially if the law required you to stay shuttered for many weeks. When the doors open again and the economy picks up, business owners may still need to provide incentives to bring customers back. Here are some ideas, including many that are free, and others that won’t drain your marketing budget.
Promote Your Business Online
Even if you don’t have technology skills, it’s important to find someone who can help you set up – and perhaps maintain – your internet presence. A website is essential, even if it’s just a main page with your business name, address, contact information and basic details about what you do. Social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram are free, and give you the ability to share promotions and specials. Work on building a loyal following by asking family and friends to “follow” you.
Create Online Posts with Care
People are not interested in bragging; they want information they can use. Create good content that people want to read, which leads to the next tip.
Be an Expert in Your Field
Local plumbers know what hard water does to residential dishwashers, and contractors know about local zoning laws. See if your public library will let you hold a free informational session. If you are willing to be interviewed when reporters need an expert source, let local media know about your expertise, or visit HelpAReporter.com.
Network with Other Business Owners
Network in local professional or service organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, SCORE or a Rotary Club. These groups sometimes host public events where you can promote your business, or participate in a workshop and connect with others.
Before you join a group, create an “elevator pitch” – and keep practicing and refining it. If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s the ability to describe your product or business clearly in a short time, enticing the listener to ask more questions about what you do or sell.
Give Free Samples or Promotional Items
For instance, a bakery can offer “broken cookie” samples to passersby. A bowling alley or other recreational center can provide “free game” certificates as prizes for local charity fundraisers. If your budget allows, order personalized giveaways that include your business name, phone and website. Popular promotional items include pens, lip balm, shopping totes and reusable cups.
Get Involved in the Community
Sponsor a kid sports team and your business name gets seen by lots of grateful parents. Perhaps your high school needs mentors, or your town fair needs volunteers. Those are opportunities to promote your business. Wear a polo or collar shirt branded with your company name – and be sure to hand out business cards or those previously mentioned promotional items. If you don’t have a branded vehicle, have a custom car magnet or sticker created for your car.
Cross Promote with Other Businesses
Your local craft beer brewery might be interested in transforming your legendary chocolate doughnut into a new ale. Perhaps your town’s bookstore would like to plan a book-themed dinner at your restaurant. Save on advertising dollars by joining with some others for bundled promotions.
Advertise with Media that Targets Your Local Customers
Niche publications that target specific communities have many loyal residential readers. That equates to consumers who live in the area of your business seeing your message and hopefully patronizing your store or restaurant. (By the way, check out The Journal’s impressive circulation numbers next to our Table of Contents page!)
Offer Discounts and Rewards
When appropriate, perhaps when someone joins your mailing list or hits a “frequent buyer” milestone, offer discounts and rewards to keep their business.