There are several relatively free and low-cost marketing tools and activities that a small business can use that will go a long way to promote the business and its products as well as build relationships with prospects. The key trade-off for some of these activities is time. Someone at your company needs to do these things consistently to create results. Remember: one of the most important success factors in marketing is consistency over time.
If you are not already collecting emails, you should be! You can create and design a visually compelling email using one of hundreds of free templates at one of many email marketing platforms (e.g., Constant Contact, Vertical Response) to communicate with prospects and clients on a consistent basis. These low-cost applications allow you to quickly and easily develop and manage an email campaign, track open and click-through rates (CTRs), and much more. Although some email platforms are free of charge, the several that charge a fee based on number of emails are more user-friendly and provide greater choice of templates, fonts, and other options.
Because strict national CAN SPAM laws make it difficult to use the leading email marketing platforms if contacts have not already opted in to receive your emails, you must follow a specific process to give them that option. Email application providers outline this on their websites or will be happy to talk you through the details.
Consistent email communication allows you to stay in touch with your contacts and keep them informed on your company’s products, tradeshows, demos, new hires, and valuable industry information. A monthly or bimonthly e-newsletter is the ideal vehicle for this. To keep your prospects engaged — which translates into whether they open and read your newsletter — you need to provide them information that is valuable to them such as how-to stories, industry developments and trends, and user testimonials.
USE YOUR WEBSITE TO ITS FULL POTENTIAL
The internet is brimming with well-designed, sophisticated websites promoting companies’ products and services. But it is important that your company also provide objective, third-party information on your website to support the claims you make about your products and value proposition. In addition to upcoming trade show attendance, industry speaking engagements, and links to articles written about your company in the media, provide a list or portfolio of your clients and projects, industry awards, and user testimonials. Testimonials provide very credible, third-party information about the quality and benefits of your products. Because of this third-party credibility, they are highly persuasive sales and marketing tools. In addition to including them in a newsletter and on your website, they can be included in the company sales kit as customer references and used with the media to pitch articles.
Your company’s attendance at industry and association trade shows and conferences can be leveraged by lining up speaking engagements at these events. Show attendees and association members are always looking for high-level industry expertise related to product development, innovation, and information on industry best practices to help them meet their business challenges. Depending on the event, you do not always need to be an exhibitor in order to speak; this varies by conference.
Tradeshows and conferences open their calls for submission for speaking abstracts anywhere between five and 10 months before the event. They are posted on the event website with details regarding topic categories for speaking and requirements in terms of the length of abstract, deadline, etc. You can also call the conference or tradeshow management team and ask them to add your contact information to their list and send you a reminder when the call for abstracts is opening.
The attendees at your presentation will often give you their business cards at the end of your presentation, and companies often gather a large number of leads this way.
Write and distribute a press release for all new products and company milestones. Consistent press releases will keep news about your company in front of the editors at targeted publications and build increased name recognition, image, and awareness for your company. There are many free or very low-cost press release distribution services in the market to choose from, and they will distribute to hundreds of internet portals and websites. This is important because the internet is often the first place that research is conducted by prospects about solutions in the market. It is important that you also email each press release to the editors of the five to 10 most important publications in your market to make sure they have received it.
Lastly, communication on social media is a free way to expand awareness of your company beyond existing customers. By leading and participating in social media conversations about challenges, solutions, and opportunities in your market, you create greater name recognition for your company and slowly establish thought leadership. Focus your communication on messages around your company’s innovation, expertise, and best practices.