As a small business owner, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily activities that leave you wondering "What did I get done today?" But the most successful business owners that I know spend 80% of their time on one task: bringing in new customers.
Their time is too valuable to spend tinkering with the website, calling suppliers, and interviewing employees. Yours should be too. If you aren’t bringing in new business, then nothing else matters.
Of course, if you’re like most small business owners, then you’re on a tight budget, and traditional advertising methods might not be an option. Don’t despair! Today a number of totally free advertising methods exist that can be surprisingly effective.
Here are the top five ways I’ve seen small business owners dramatically increase their sales without spending a dime, and I’ve used every single one of them myself.
#1 – Post Regularly on Craigslist.com
Craigslist, in it’s simplest form, is a free online classified website. It started out in Silicon Valley (California) and has slowly spread to the rest of the world, becoming one of the top ten most popular websites on the Internet. Every day, thousands of people in your city are using this website to find real estate, computers, romance, and jobs. Chances are, they are also looking for whatever you sell.
Find an appropriate category on their site and make a free post. Create a catchy headline, include a photo if applicable, and list the main benefits of your service. Highlight a free trial, special deal, or free resource that is available on your website, and provide a link.
The most recent posts appear at the top, so you’ll want to come back every 2-3 days to repost your listing (you’ll have to take your old one down first, they don’t like duplicates). Craigslist has a strange mix of users (and you may get a few oddballs), but it is also used by a very educated, wealthy, and cutting edge demographic. Several small businesses I know have stayed alive in the early years on nothing but this one website.
#2 – Start A MeetUp.com Group
MeetUp.com is a website that helps people with similar interests come together. What do your customers share a passion for? What would they like to learn? Who do they want to meet?
Help them get what they want and it will ultimately come back to you. If there is a MeetUp group already in place for what you have in mind, join and attend their meetings. Meet as many people as you can, try to contribute with your expertise, and see if the group organizer will let you come in as a guest speaker. Don’t focus on selling your product. Just focus on helping the members of the group as much as you possibly can, and you will pick up new clients indirectly.
If a MeetUp group doesn’t yet exist for what you have in mind, this is even better. Start it yourself! You will automatically be viewed as an authority on the subject for running the group, and it will put you in touch with all the right people.
#3 – Post A Video To YouTube
If you haven’t heard of YouTube, you may want to crawl out from under the proverbial "rock" you’ve been living under! YouTube is the largest video sharing website on the internet and boasts a staggering 13 million visitors per month. You can capitalize on all this traffic by creating your own video and uploading it for free.
"But I don’t know how to create a video!" I hear you saying. No problem, it might just be easier than you think. Many digital cameras today have a video function that will create electronic movies compatible with YouTube. I’d also recommend using a "screen capture" program such as Camtasia for any software or how-to related products (Camtasia.com). Camtasia will record the screen of your computer and is one of the simplest ways to create a video. You can even record a PowerPoint presentation on your computer and record your voice as narration. Finally, if you can’t afford a digital camera, and you don’t want to record a computer screen, a webcam can be purchased today for under $20 that will create great YouTube videos.
The video certainly doesn’t have to be professional. Even a 30 second clip of you doing ANYTHING will probably get several hundred views in a month. Of course the potential is much greater if you can be a bit more creative. Offer value to the visitor by teaching them something quickly or showing them a glimpse of your work, and include a link to your website at the end. It may be simple and boring to you, but I assure you that someone out there would like to learn it. Just get something quick up on the site, no matter how simple, and improve as you go.
#4 – Reach Out To Your Personal Network
Before you skip over this one, you should know that some of the most successful small business owners I personally know use this as their sole marketing method. They literally have built their business from nothing by simply meeting people and letting them know how they can help.
No matter what you’re doing now, you’re probably only scratching the surface of your "network’s" potential. When you launch a new business, one of the simplest and most effective marketing techniques is to email your entire contact list. Keep it short and informal, letting them know about your new business and how excited you are. Offer a special deal to your first five customers to great some interest, and don’t forget a very important step: asking them (at the bottom of the email) to forward the message to anyone they know who might be interested. This can have an exponential effect because not only will the email reach your network, but it will reach you network’s network too!
Furthermore, you quite simply must be attending at least one networking function every week. These are invaluable ways to meet prospects in person, which is the best way to make them like and trust you. Again, offer value to everyone you meet instead of trying to sell them right away. Get people’s business cards (don’t just give them out and assume they’ll contact you) and follow up with them about what they want (not what you want). The most powerful question you can ask them is "Who would be a good customer for your business?" Chances are you know someone who they’d like to meet, and once you’ve helped them out they’ll be happy to reciprocate.
#5 – Write An Article And Give It Away
Articles could be the most effective form of advertising ever created. Imagine for a moment that you’re reading a magazine and on the left page is an add featuring a shiny new car with an attractive young couple. On the right is an article written by an automotive engineer who rigorously tested three different vehicles and recommended one as being most reliable. Which page will you spend more time looking at? Which car are you more likely to buy?
People don’t trust advertising because the company who created the add is biased. Authors, on the other hand, are assumed to be independent and credible just by getting published, so we inherently trust them more. Writing an article instantly makes you an authority in the eyes of the reader.
You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a good article. The easiest (and most effective) articles to write are the "top 10" format (you’re reading one right now) or a "how to" article that shows the steps to complete some task. Take a subject that your potential customers may be interested in and spend an hour or two writing your article (if you really despise writing, you can also pay someone to write it for you at eLance.com or guru.com).
Don’t forget to put a byline or resource box at the bottom of the article with your name, a way for people to reach you, and a simple offer to entice them. When you’re done, do a Google search and find a dozen websites, blogs, and forums related to your business. Write the owner of the website a personal email and tell them their readers might enjoy the attached article. They can use it for free as long as your byline is included at the bottom.
By putting some simple techniques such as these into practice, you will see a dramatic increase in your business over a period of just a few months. Spend 80% of your time bringing in new business, and you might just find yourself in charge of a million dollar company!
About the Author
Brian Armstrong makes it easy to learn the secrets of today’s top business owners. To get a free trial-subscription to his online course "Successful Entrepreneurship", visit this site now: startbreakingfree.com.