I’ve recently finished the advertising plan for my part-time computer consulting business and I thought I’d share it with you. It’s really quite simple. I’ve identified 5 marketing strategies that I will implement, over the next 6 months or so, that should cost very little money, if any at all. I think these are great strategies for those who are starting a business while still working full-time at a “day job” or for high school and college students looking to make some extra cash by moonlighting as their own neighborhood’s computer guy.
All of these techniques I’ve learned by talking to other fellow computer consultants or from folks who have successful part-time businesses of their own. These are ways to target specific neighborhoods, regions, or areas so you can make sure your first customers are close by. I feel these 5 tactics will help me make the most of my limited start-up advertising budget.
This is by far the cheapest form of advertising. It requires nothing more than some mild networking skills and that you make sure you do a GREAT job on your first visits. Talk to EVERYONE you know about your new business. Tell them to tell their friends. Once you perform a stellar job or two for your friends, or friends-of-friends, your name will be at the tip of their tongue the next time one of THEIR friends has a computer problem. This is where your customer focus really comes into play. You have to WOW your customer the first time in order for this method to really be successful.
This goes hand in hand with word-of-mouth. To aid the sales pitch you give to your friends, have a business card handy. Put your business name, phone number, website, and basic services offered on the card, nothing fancy. Pass it out to everyone that you tell about your business, so they will have a reminder when that inevitable computer issue does surface. Business cards are cheap, portable, personal advertising. VistaPrint.com offers the best deals for business cards(affiliate link) that I’ve been able to find. They’ll often have deals where you can order a small number of cards for free…all you do is pay for shipping!
This is another great FREE advertising opportunity. A lot of people are searching Craig’s List to find cheap local services. Although not the most perfect method (you have to update your ad once or twice a week so it stays at the top of the listings) it can be a great supplement to your other advertising and you can’t beat the price!
This is a tried and true (and cheap!) method of guerrilla advertising. Make up a flyer that details some of the services you offer. A good trick is to include some sort of discount for the customer when they mention the flyer…that way they feel as though they need to act on the flyer in order to take advantage of the deal. About.com has a great step-by-step article about making a killer flyer. Another great technique is to include the little tear-offs, like this, at the bottom of your ad which include your phone number and website that people can take with them. Post the ads at your local coffee shops, grocery stores, libraries, and other places where public bulletin boards are displayed in high traffic areas around where you will be working.
Roadside Yard Signs
At $6 a pop, this is the most risky and most expensive tactic…but one that I’ve seen work at an overwhelmingly successful rate when implemented properly. You know those little signs you see stuck in the dirt or grass at intersections? Normally they advertise yard sales, real estate, or political issues. You can make a few dozen of these for your business and put them at intersections (preferably with stop lights) around your home. They command the attention of the idle commuters that wait at the intersection for a red light to change. All you need to put on the sign is something very simple and to the point like “HOME PC REPAIR” or “SMALL BUSINESS COMPUTER CONSULTING” (or whatever service you might be offering) and then your phone number. No website needed, as the vast majority of people will call you right then and there. Also, the fewer words, the better, as fewer words allow the lettering to be bigger and therefore more visible to the drivers from their vehicles. If someone was thinking about their broken computer while driving home from work and they see your sign…they will more than likely be inclined to give you a ring while it’s on their mind. Again, I’ve heard about the success of this method first hand from some friends of mine and I can’t wait to try it out myself.
I didn’t include some things that you may have thought I should have. Here are a few that I can think of, and reasons why they are not included in my plan:
- Phone Book – This can be a bit pricey, with monthly fees, for the new or part-time business owner…and it’s harder to target specific local regions if the phone book covers a wide area. Also, your business will be crowded in-between dozens of other businesses offering your same services, making it hard to stand out. This should definitely be in your arsenal once you take you business full time, otherwise it may not be worth the investment.
- Newspaper – Even more expensive than the phone book, you’ll need to make sure your ad shows up every day, or at least every week, in the paper in which case you’ll be paying for EVERY showing. Since people only read the day’s paper briefly, and usually only once, before it goes to line the bottom of the bird cage, it’s very hard to catch people’s attention. If you’re running a full-time business, and you have a special one-day sale or promotion coming up, the newspaper may be a good tool, otherwise skip it.
- Website – At this early stage of my business, my website will simply be for informational purposes only. It will not be cost effective for it to be an advertising tool until I’m able to spend the money to make it look professional and include some form of online order form. Until then, it will simply be a way for people to get more information about the services I offer and the ways in which they can contact me.
- Web ads – Ads online have limited value for local businesses like computer consulting. This form of advertising works much better for national products, or products available for sale on the internet.
I will be sure to report the success and lessons I learn after implementing each of the above techniques. For all your small business owners out there, what are some of the advertising techniques you’ve tried, and how successful were they?
Additions to the Resources Page (over there in the upper right corner of this site):
- New Advertising Section – This section will contain advertising resources that I have used for my business.
- How to Create a Flyer – Article on About.com with step-by-step instructions on how to make a quality flyer for advertisments.
- Craigslist – Free local classifieds that have become increasingly popular recently.