One thing about having a small business is that you have to do everything yourself.

Keeping track of finances, maintaining stock levels, finding new business, invoicing, researching the market, and promoting your product.  Maybe in a couple of years you could afford someone to help with the books, or to drive sales, but in the early days you’re pretty self sufficient.

What that means is you have a steep learning curve to get up to speed with all the things you have to do in order to run a profitable business.

If marketing is one of those things you’ve been putting off because you don’t know where to start, here are five of the top ways to promote your business without spending hundreds of pounds.

press release ideas, how to write press releases, SEO, search engine optimisation1. Press releases

All newspapers have to fill their pages every week with newsworthy stories that people want to read.  That’s not to say you order your Beginners’ Guide to Phone Hacking from Amazon and set about revealing the secrets of your competitors.

No.  But you could be getting your message and your brand in front of thousands every week through your local media.

You will need to think like a journalist (a good one) and write press releases on unusual products you offer, seminars you’ve taken part in, charity work you’ve done, awards won, company anniversaries (read more on how to get in the press here or download a press release template here).

how to market a small business, affordable marketing ideas2. Two minds are better than one

One of the greatest challenges I read about of running your own business is the isolation – when you work from home, you can’t swivel round in your chair and ask your colleague whether you should order five or ten metres of the designer linen.

You can’t get feedback from the rest of the office on your latest designs.  Instead you have to trust your own judgement and instincts.

But there are thousands of others just like you, sitting at their desk in the spare room at home, trying to decide whether to have that third cup of coffee before 10:30 or whether to wait until 11.

Get to know your local business community – what other businesses could you connect with who serve the same audience as you, but with a different product?  If you’re a wedding dress designer, get in touch with wedding photographers, planners, caterers.

It’s not just your fabric choice they could offer advice on – they could also refer some of their clients in your direction.

customer loyalty strategies, cheap marketing ideas, how to market small business3.  Loyalty points

It can cost 12 times as much to get a new customer as it does to get repeat business from an existing customer.

If you’ve already built up the trust needed for someone to part with their hard-earned money in return for your products or services, then they’re more likely to do it again if you continue to offer something that they need at a price that gives good value.

It’s easy to get preoccupied with chasing the next new client – while forgetting your existing ones.  Build a secure database of customers who you keep in touch with.

Make them feel special with exclusive offers, a behind-the-scenes look into your business, products related to their buying history, links to free downloads, new product ranges.

low cost marketing, marketing ideas, affordable marketing for small businesses4.  Up-selling

There’s an online print company who are geniuses at this – they offer their products at crazy low prices, then as you work through the checkout process they offer you upgrades:

  • colour printing both sides
  • matching headed paper
  • a branded business card holder

And, just like when shoe shops offer you leather protection cream when you buy your Winter boots, as a customer you need willpower by the bucket load to resist.

What matching products might your customers be interested in?

Look at any of the major online retailers and they all offer coordinating items on each product page – “If you like this, you may also like this.”  or “Customers who bought this also bought this.” etc.

Try it.  We all like choices so give more to your customers and see results.

how to use facebook for business, twitter for business, social media for business5. Social media

If you’re a regular reader of Perfect Balance Marketing, you won’t be surprised to see this in our top five.  Social networks are one highly effective way to build your brand and find new customers.

Facebook, Twitter and blogging are just some of the ways to build relationships with your audience, research your competitors and understand your market.  There are plenty of  introductory guides to using social networking for business but if you haven’t fully ‘got’ it yet, you’re missing a trick.

What other marketing strategies do you find more effective in growing your small business – share your experiences in the comments below.

PS  I’m giving a Facebook training session in St Austell in August where I’ll show you how to set-up a customised page from start to finish, including getting likes, planning your content, optimising your page, and generally making it work for your business.  Interested?

Find out how to set-up a business page and run it well in this 1/2 day Facebook training session.