How to Market Without Money

by Brenda Nixon

Whether a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker, you must promote your business. Marketing is critical. For the beginner, or entrepreneur, it is your survival. It remains essential when your work is at an intermediate or even advanced level. One of my mentors reminded me that there will be lean and fat years. "But," he counseled, "Market yourself even in the fat years to prepare for the lean ones."

We've heard the saying, "It takes money to make money." The question for most beginners is, "How do I market without the money to do it?" Many of my successful ways were learned by reading library books on the topic. Others come from persistence. Some are hair brained but worth the try.

If you're starting a small or home-business, here are seven, low- or no-cost, tips to advertise:

Tip #1: Marketing requires a Mouth. Tell your friends, neighbors, relatives, and former coworkers what you do. Show them your product or service even if they are not your target client. I'm a speaker on parenting. Frequently, I invite key individuals to be a guest in my audience -- even if they don't have kids. I just want to introduce them to my work. When people see or hear the quality of your work they tell others. Now, you have a volunteer sales force.

Tip #2: Marketing requires a Plan. Some have maintained, "Without a plan, you won't succeed." Even if you have zero dollars now, design ways to advertise. Don't let monetary restrictions prevent you from creating a strong market strategy. If you want to purchase expensive classified ads in industry publications, great! Hold on to this plan for the years ahead when you have the budget to work with. If you plan to expand office equipment list the steps involved. However informal, write down a plan -- it gives you something to work toward.

Tip #3: Marketing requires Patient Persistence. I have this Shakespeare quote taped to my computer, "Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast." At times when I feel discouraged because the E-mails, calls, or contracts aren't returned, I read this quote. It gives me the tenacity to keep trying.

Tip #4: Marketing requires Giving Away. In order to get your name out you must be willing to give away some of your product. We recognize this in supermarket samples. If your start-up business is making candles donate one to be an event's doorprize. If you contract out for medical transcription, offer to transcribe for a doc when her/his transcriptionist is sick. Donate a gift certificate for your product or service to a church rummage sale.

Tip #5: Marketing requires Movement. Move beyond your comfort zone. Get involved with civic organizations or church groups presently unfamiliar to you. Join associations that help you meet new people. Until and unless you get out beyond your computer or basement office you will not meet prospective people who need your product or skills.

Tip #6: Marketing requires the Obvious. Get your own business cards, stationary, and phone line. These items are affordable, tax-deductible, and make you feel more professional. If you do not have the $50 or so for business cards do a trade-out with the printer. This means you swap a service he needs in exchange for him doing your stationary. Add a marketing message to your fax cover sheet, E-mails, or on envelopes. I have "Brenda Nixon, your speaker for family events" tagged to my cover sheets.

Tip #7: Marketing requires Follow Through. When you contact a prospect be sure to follow up. Allow a reasonable amount of time to pass then send word that you're checking to see if a decision has been made. This follow through also means you send a thank you note when appropriate. When you've met with a prospective client, send a "Thanks for your time" card. I discipline myself to mail a personalized note of appreciation to each program planner following my speaking engagements. Does this courtesy translate into smart marketing? You decide. Would you rehire the speaker who sends you a note of gratitude and offers to help you again or the one who took the check and ran?

Much of advertising is creative common sense and practice. Both of these are affordable.

Brenda Nixon partners with organizations to educate and encourage parents. She is a professional speaker and the author of Parenting Power in the Early Years and The Birth to Five Book

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