Guest post by Albe Zakes, goblal vice president of public relations for Terracycle, the world’s leading recycling and ‘upcycling’ company, which turns waste materials into eco-friendly, affordable products available at big box retailers nationwide.
Money is a concern for small businesses whether they’re just starting out, trying to stay afloat, or ‘swimming in the black’. There’s no way around it: money makes the world go ‘round, especially for small businesses. It makes sense when executives or owners try to cut the budget or keep it under control, but the question of what is best to cut remains.
Marketing and advertising are key components of a company’s outreach and growth because without them, it is difficult for potential customers to learn about a company’s service and offerings. Still, it’s hard for small businesses to compete with the marketing spend of larger corporations and brands. This is where creativity comes in as a key asset in building and maintaining a small business.
Another key asset is relationships, and so it follows that getting creative with business relationships can go a long way. One of the best ways to get started is to work with or partner with other local businesses or community opportunities. For example, at TerraCycle we offer free marketing support to individuals, schools, and/or companies that sign up for our recycling programs which brings the local community together and for a great cause: eliminating waste and their efforts supports a charity. To learn more about these free community engagement programs at www.terracycle.net.
Additionally, consider sponsoring and/or working with local charities, and/or holding joint events and projects with them, this can build your brand by promoting the ethos of your small business.
These events and partnerships (if impactful enough) can be shared with the local media, who just may share your efforts with a mention in a story which puts your small business on display in a manner far more genuine – and cost-conscious (for the most part it’s just a phone call or an email) - than paid advertising.
As a small business owner, market your business online if you are not doing it already. Social media is useful for broadcasting and talking about recent business news and local news, conduct contests and product giveaways, and offer to write a guest post for a blog (like what I am doing here) and other appropriate outlets. One of the tricky parts of social media is keeping fans and readers around after you’ve engaged them with a contest or giveaway. So continue to offer relevant content and interesting news bits that can help small business owners grow and manage their business.
Here’s an effective example: if you run a clothing business, add to the company blog with a post about seasonal styles, the best ways to layer for the winter, the latest Spring colors, etc. The key to keeping your ‘followers’ as active users or those who share your content is by making sure that your content is not always self-promotional. Mix in news, tips, maybe jokes, and ideas relevant to your industry or to your customers. And be sure pepper in some information about your products or services or special promotions, but in the right doses.
Bottom-line, whenever possible, expand your business’ reach by working with similar companies and other local businesses (and larger ones too!) perhaps to exchange services or to buy in bulk, or perhaps to cross promote when it makes sense: on the company’s website, Facebook page, Twitter handle, or a blog?
It’s absolutely crucial to remember that low cost, grassroots marketing requires an ability to recognize and cultivate shared values, whether it be a common mission or local community. Relationships must be symbiotic and mutually beneficial; otherwise, others will get tired of helping you and provide constant support and foundation for you. So before you ask and engage, know what you can offer.
Once you’ve established a strong support network that you’re also contributing to, you can continue to build your brand with your owned media such as blogs, videos (if your business doesn’t have one, perhaps it’s time to set up a Youtube channel with relevant content for your business!) and podcasts or a book. For instance, that clothing company that I referenced earlier could make a book about putting together seasonal styles, seasonal colors, or DIYs for old clothes – something that relates to the company and expands on its business.
Grassroots, small business marketing is tricky, but with some creativity and awareness of other’s help and intentions, it can be done on a shoestring budget that ends up benefiting other businesses, your business and the community.
How have you marketed your small business with pennies? Please share some of your marketing ideas.
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