Advertising Your Small Business for Pennies

by Pat Veretto

If you want to get started working for yourself, or if you're part of a small business that needs to market itself, but your advertising budget is tiny or nonexistent, don't let that stop you!

You can let yourself or your small business be known (and that's what advertising really is) with a minimum of cash. Your small business might not be able to afford the traditional avenues of marketing, but you can still do it. Be prepared to do some leg work.

First, though, make a budget and stick to it! The only time it makes sense to not stick to a budgeted amount is when you find an advertising deal so good so unexpectedly that you just can't pass it up. Any other advertising should be planned ahead. Make it a game to see how much exposure you can get for how little money.

Use an email signature, no matter who you are emailing, whether it has to do with your small business or not. It doesn't cost a penny.

Get free advertising. Call the local newspaper with your story. Many times, a paper will "feature" a new small business, especially if you can come up with a current events angle. Examples would be recycling cloth into rugs and quilts around Earth Day, or custom made photo albums around graduation.

Bulletin boards will often let you post small business advertising flyers or business cards, so take advantage of every one you can find. Look for them in laundromats, community oriented retail stores (often grocery stores) and college and high school gathering areas, but try to match the types of people who see them to the types of people who will respond to your particular offering.

Magnetic advertising signs that stick to your vehicle can tell a story to anyone you drive past. (Don't forget that your driving may affect the potential consumer's opinion of your small business!). They're inexpensive, and last a long time. You can take them off of your vehicle at times when it would be inappropriate. For instance, if you have to be in a funeral procession, you may want to remove it. You can usually get a decent break on the price if you order several, so talk any other family drivers into sporting them for you. The more the merrier! And the more often people see your small business name on a sign, the more they are inclined to call you.

All of that said, you'll probably want to buy advertising space in local newspapers or other print media, but go at it slowly and pay close attention to the return you can expect. Spread your advertising dollars far and thin at first until you can see where the responses come from.

To cut costs for small business paper advertising needs, use your computer:

  • Create your own letterhead image and use it on all documents.
  • A card or letterhead can be impressive in black and white and save on the cost of printing. It doesn't have to look like a small business logo.
  • Use the same letterhead/logo all the time, so that people will become familiar with it.
  • Settle on a color or colors for the same reason. People remember advertising colors.
  • Make flyers on your computer and incorporate your small business letterhead.
  • Make business cards for one-on-one advertising. You only need a few to start with. Use the same logo as for everything else.

Don't go for glossy or 16 million color illustrations; the idea is to get the word out. Carry flyer and business cards with you everywhere. Talk them to church, to the park, and to the school ballgame. You never know when an opportunity will present itself. Reaching one person that will buy your services or goods through a casual contact makes more financial sense than reaching one through a $250 ad somewhere.

The idea is to present your small business by advertising everywhere you can for the least amount of money possible, and that means you must stay alert, pinch those pennies and make it happen!

Pat Veretto is a work at home grandmother who has homesteaded, homeschooled and happily lived frugally most of her life. She currently freelances.

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