The squeeze is on for small businesses: How do I conserve cash, but expand efforts to attract new customers and grow sales at the same time? Fortunately, the two are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. Here are some tips and low-cost tactics you can try to cast your net for new customers, and keep those you have:
1) Try do-it-yourself online PR: One of the many areas the Internet has changed dramatically for small business is public relations. While PR pros have much to offer, you can also get results yourself online. Whenever you have legitimate news - a new product or service for example - write a press release that includes contact information for your business and links to your website. Submit through places such as PRWeb.com. A new site called LowCostPressReleases.com will help write, edit and distribute your releases for low fees. 24-7 Press Release, a low-cost, online press release distribution service catering to small business, lets you attach videos or other “rich media” content to your releases as well.
2) Entice with Free Shipping: Offering customers free shipping is a proven way to boost sales. To find out how to coax more orders with free shipping, download a free shipping e-book (it’s free, too) at the website FreeShipping.org. The e-book offers nuts and bolts on free shipping, and details of how to implement a free shipping program.
3) Use more email marketing: Email marketing services used by small business are seeing record volume as more biz owners seek effective, low-cost ways to market. One small biz option is VerticalResponse.com, a self-serve email marketing firm that helps you create, manage and analyze your own campaign. Dotster.com, a web services provider, offers several low-cost email marketing solutions for small business. EmailBrain lets you create, manage, send and track newsletters and email campaigns.
4) Participate in pay-per-click: PPC advertising is one of the most flexible, cost-effective ways to market online. Set whatever spending level you want, change it anytime and test different messages to your heart’s content. “Keep changing your headlines, copy and offer until you find the combination that brings in sales,” says MaryEllen Tribby, CEO of business publishing firm Early to Rise. Google AdWords is a great start. For business-to-business, the leader is Business.com. In local search, DexKnows.com just revamped its entire site.
5) Yelp about your biz: At Yelp.com, customers can rant — or rave — about a business they’ve used…maybe YOUR business. “Yelp for Business Owners” offers free tools and features that will help businesses participate in this word-of-mouth action. Get email alerts when your biz is reviewed; respond to reviewers, update your business info, and more.
6) Match up with the big guys: Business Matchmaking is a public/private partnership that sponsors a series of events nationwide where small business owners can secure selling opportunities from government agencies and major corporations through face-to-face meetings. The program started a few years ago and has been a big hit; limited spots go quickly.
7) Free service biz ads: Servemehere.com is a new site that lets you advertise services free to thousands of potential clients who can browse your profile and schedule appointments online 24/7. Professionals (lawyers, message therapists, tutors, etc.) can display their appointment schedule or personalized calendars for further client convenience.
8) Use Free Office Live Workspace: Microsoft still considers its Office Live site in “beta,” but millions have signed up for a free online workspace on the site, and are using it to bring people together and share docs with groups. Office Live Small Business is a terrific, affordable place to not only build a professional-looking online presence, but get free or low-cost help marketing it as well.