One of the biggest challenges you'll face as a small business is promoting yourself in your area. You won't have a steady customer base unless your customers know that you're there. On the other hand, advertising is expensive, and as a new small business, you're working with a tight budget. Luckily, with some creativity, you can create a buzz about your business in your local area for less money than you would think. Take a look at some simple ideas that can help you get the word out about your new business.
Team up With a Local Charity
You can do some good in your community while promoting your business by affiliating your business with a local and well-known charity or cause. You'll create an instant customer base from the support base of the charity. There are any number of ways to do this (and you can choose more than one).
Hold a sale and donate a percentage of the proceeds to the cause of your choice. Not only will supporters come to your shop in the interest of supporting their preferred cause, they'll remember you as a fellow supporter. Sponsor a team or a club at a local school. Try to match the school activity up with your own business. For instance, if you own an international gourmet food shop, see if the high school's foreign language clubs are looking for sponsors. If you own a music shop, see what you can do to support the band. Not only will the school throw student business your way, there are few customers more loyal than booster parents.
Take Advantage of Free Search Engine Listings
When you need to find a particular service or product in your area and you don't know where to look, what's the first thing that you do? Chances are, you turn to your preferred online search engine. Guess what? That's what all of your customers do too. If you don't do anything else online, take advantage of free tools that will let you list your business on the major search engines.
It's easy to sign up for these services, yet many businesses neglect to do so. Don't let this simple process slip under your radar. All you have to do is look up and claim your business and location and go through the search engine's verification process. Then when customers look up your product or service and the name of your city, your business will be there in their search results. Make sure that you follow through with all of the search engines that make this service available.
Don't Underestimate the Power of Signs
Foot traffic and impulse shoppers are just as important as people who purposely look for your business. Some of the most loyal customers are the ones who wander in on impulse and discover that you're offering something they didn't know that they needed. In order to attract those customers that come in off the street, you need to make sure that your business stands out visually. The best way to do that is with the careful use of signs.
If your business is just opening, you can't go wrong with a banner that proclaims "Grand Opening!" People often want to check out a business that's new in town, if only to satisfy their curiosity. Keep it up at least until you've installed a rooftop or parking lot sign that is eye-catching and unique enough to draw in customers who happen to be passing by. Make sure that it's internally illuminated or has lights trained on it if you plan to be open at night. Go to websites that specialize in sign making for more information.
Once your business is more established, you'll be able to spend money on more conventional advertising, like TV and radio spots. However, you still shouldn't count out creative and low-cost advertising options—sometimes they are more effective than conventional advertising could be, especially in a small local area.