Large corporations budget millions of dollars per year for advertising. They hire expensive public relations firms to create marketing strategies and manage their image, and can afford to produce costly Super Bowl commercials, buy space in magazines and hire planes to fly banner ads over cities and sporting events. As a small business owner, you likely can't afford such luxuries. If your advertising budget is tight, there are many ways you can promote your small business without spending a dime.
Establish customer service policies and procedures and train your staff on the importance of customer satisfaction. By doing so, you will foster one of the oldest and most reliable forms of advertising -- word of mouth. Businesses which cultivate satisfied customers build a reputation over time. Their customers recommend the product or business to their friends and family, and the word spreads exponentially. The business name eventually becomes a brand with an implied promise that the customer is buying quality and satisfaction.
Advertise your product or service for free on Craigslist or another free classified advertising site. You will be competing with lots of other ads and space is limited, but it’s another avenue to get the word out without spending money. Also use free directory web pages such as the Yellow Pages to advertise your business.
Create free profiles for your business on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites. You can add photos, link to a web site and have people comment to create customer testimonials.
Create a free website on Google. List your products and services, operating hours and directions. Include downloadable coupons, two-for-one offers and discounts for referrals to encourage word-of-mouth advertising. Include links to related websites and reference materials supporting the benefits of using your products.
Ask customers who stop in your store or visit your web site to sign up for a free e-newsletter to learn about monthly specials, tips and tricks on using your products or services and other helpful information.
Use your shop and vehicle to post signs announcing promotions and special offers. Turn your car into a traveling billboard by posting signs in the windows with the name, address and information about your business. Create an advertising fleet by posting signs in the vehicles of your friends and family. Fashion a larger-than-life product sample out of paper mache or a cardboard box and mount it on top of your vehicle, a la the wiener mobile. Park your vehicle near sporting or entertainment venues for maximum exposure.
Pitch your product or business to a reality TV show aligned with your product or business, such as those featuring unusual jobs, roadside diners, interesting products or other unique entrepreneurial enterprises.
Creativity is the key to getting noticed. Brainstorm with your friends, family and staff on cleaver and interesting ways to sell your products and services. Motivate your staff to develop creative advertising approaches by offering incentives such as an extra vacation day or special parking privileges.