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Advertising Your Business Inexpensively

Updated on February 19, 2013

by Kathy Batesel

You can get more business by generating publicity than by spending advertising dollars. These consumers are awaiting a product release.
You can get more business by generating publicity than by spending advertising dollars. These consumers are awaiting a product release. | Source

Business Promotion Ideas

If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’re inundated with demands for your company’s money. Fundraisers recognize that you have a stake in looking good to the community. Employees want to earn more. The costs of doing business inflate year after year. And of course, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies that guarantee you success if you spend your money using their advertising channels. Have you noticed how your advertising dollars fly out the window faster than your customers' dollars fly in?

Advertising that doesn't produce solid profit is wasteful. Contrary to popular opinion, you do not need to "get your name out there." You do need to satisfy customer needs. Advertising doesn't cut it if you're looking to generate more long-term business, but publicity can.

Many entrepreneurs don’t realize that they can generate more business and eliminate advertising altogether if they capitalize on the difference between the two.

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Small Business Advertising Ideas

When you pay someone to deliver your message, you’re paying for advertisement. On the other hand, when your message is carried to your end users for free by other people, that’s publicity. And lemme tell ya, publicity is exciting! Some people think of it as free advertisement, but publicity is much, much better for your customers and for your business.

Publicity builds relationships and credibility for your company. For example, one real estate agent may "work for free" for a local newspaper by providing a monthly report about average sales prices in the area, while another spends a couple thousand dollars on a billboard that will remain in place for a year. Which agent will consumers turn to when it’s time to sell their home?

Now that we're in the age of Internet, blogging and social media have replaced most print materials, so consider how you might be able to generate customer testimonials on sites like Yelp or Facebook to get your customers' friends and family members believing in you before they've done business at your company. Do you maintain a customer list? Contact them and ask them to provide an endorsement.

Consumers turn to the the business they believe consistently provides what they can use when they've heard from a friend far more often than they'll rely on the one that calls out "HEY! DO BUSINESS WITH ME!!!" to them every day on their drive home with a radio ad or bulletin board. Heck, they stopped noticing that billboard about three weeks after it was placed.

Don't get me wrong - billboards do have a purpose in advertising, but the small business owner isn't the one who will benefit usually. Billboards and print ads are best used by very well established companies that are only seeking reminders or for businesses that satisfy impulse purchases like fast food.

When you need to create more business, think outside the box to figure out ways you can touch your customers' lives in ways that show you care and provides a real benefit for them. That's all you need to do. It's not always easy finding a way to hit the bullseye, but it will be worth more than all the advertising dollars you can ever budget.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship Marketing = Customer Retention and New Business

The best marketing makes the customer feel like you treat his needs as more important than your company’s. What are your clients’ needs? When people purchase your product or service, why do they choose you?

Your target audience will have similar needs – to feel connected, to feel capable, to have influence, to be understood, to have knowledge, and to have a purpose. Print advertising can only indirectly speak to these basic requirements, while publicity-based marketing can effectively meet their needs immediately. More important, as technology continues to dominate our lives, a personal touch becomes ever more important to the people who do business with you.

It costs virtually nothing to make a phone call. If the owner of a hair salon has the receptionist call customers a week after their appointment to ask if they are happy with their cut and style, that customer will feel better about using a salon that is concerned with their satisfaction than the one they visited who simply took their money and wished them a nice day. It's a little better to ask the customer, “When can we book your next appointment?” but it's really impressive if you ask the customer to come back and follow up to make sure they liked what they received.

What’s more, they will tell their friends, because they refer people they like to providers who care. They not only got a great style with some extra personal attention, that salon will build that consumer’s credibility with their own peer group. (This is the reason why no advertising is as effective as word of mouth! In this case, the client feels more connected, influential, and understood after just one brief chat. ) Meanwhile, you’ve spent two or three hours a week, maybe $50 worth of an employee’s wages, chatting with forty or fifty clients. That other salon? They shelled out $400 for a quarter-page newspaper ad run and got ten new clients, two of whom will become regulars.

During your brief follow up, you can ask them if they'd be willing to give you a testimonial online, too. People love feeling like their name is "out there" for others to see, and many will agree to take a few minutes to cheer you on if only you ask them to.

Know your company's strengths and your customers' needs to create a plan that is solid, effective, and enduring. The video below provides seven trigger points that you can use to evaluate what people are likely to see when they consider your company, and helps you see what can motivate them. If you combine these two elements, you'll be on to something big when it comes to growing your business.

Understand and Fascinate Your Clients

Use Fascination Triggers to Know Yourself & Your Consumers

About Your Company....

What methods have generated the best results for your company in the past?

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Be a Unique Small Business

Your business is unique, and your methods of gaining publicity will be, too. Perhaps it’s not feasible to call your customers because they stop in for a donut and coffee on their way to work. You’d need a different way to gain their loyalty, such as offering every tenth purchase of an item for free.

But because this method is already in such common use, however, it won’t really help your coffee shop stand out from the competition. Instead, perhaps you’ll select your very best regular customers and name their favorite donut as today’s special, calling it by their first name. “Ted’s Chocolate Glazed Goodies” has a much better ring than “Today’s Special” anyway, doesn’t it? Ted will certainly tell his coworkers about the unique recognition he got from your company. (Your customers are far more interested in themselves than they are in you!)

Try an in-store white board messenger inviting all of your customers to check out John Doe's testimonial on Yelp this week - you can generate more testimonials, give John an opportunity to feel like your business cared about him, and promote yourself all with one very inexpensive tool.

Whatever kind of business you’re in, your success ultimately rests on the consumer feeling as if you’ve met their needs, and that’s something you simply cannot achieve with paid advertising. Personal contact, asking your customers for feedback, remembering their names, offering tangible symbols of your thanks, and sponsoring events that are important to them are a few methods that will get people talking about you to people who are already similar to your customers.


Submit a Comment
  • jellygator profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from USA

    Well said, WIAO! Thank you for contributing!

  • wheelinallover profile image

    Dennis Thorgesen 

    8 years ago from Beatrice, Nebraska U.S.

    Traditional advertising works to a point. What a lot of companies don't consider is it takes five times more to find a new customer than to keep an existing customer happy.

    When you keep existing customers happy you are tapping into the best advertising available. There is not one human in existence who will not share something they find of value with someone else.

    This creates word of mouth advertising which is the most effective and longest lasting method which has ever existed. It makes no difference whether you are a company serving a small community or a world wide conglomeration. This is why so many companies are going to an affiliate model. Now they are paying for others to share by word of mouth.

  • jellygator profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from USA

    Thank you for commenting, secularist10! I'm afraid a lot of small business owners would agree with you, and it's a shame, because by relying on those time tested tactics, they simply become more noise in the consumer's experience, and their methods become a complete waste of effort and money.

  • secularist10 profile image


    8 years ago from New York City

    Excellent topic. Traditional advertising is about putting the focus on me, my company, my wonderful products. It's far more effective to turn the tables and put the focus on you the customer, what you want and need and what is relevant to you.

    The problem is, for many businesses creating a promotional campaign that puts the focus on the customer in an effective way is challenging. So it often seems easier and more straightforward to just defer to the time-tested tactics of typical advertising. But if you can get that customer-centric strategy right, it's a gold mine.


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