Marketing is a constant struggle for solo consultants and small business owners. It’s always a gamble whether your marketing effort will be worth the money and time invested, but it’s a necessary evil. Without marketing, there’s no way for people with needs (customers) to know that we are here to fulfill them.
Without a large marketing department at your disposal, many traditional marketing techniques require a substantial upfront investment with unpredictable results. Examples of this include direct mailings, fliers, signs, and ads in the paper, on the radio, and on TV.
I’d like to explore some advertising techniques that are not only completely free, but also automated. What I mean by automated is that once they are set-up, they have the potential to continually provide marketing leverage for you over time. Keep in mind, however, that these techniques do require some significant time investment up-front, and the results may be slow coming at first. Often that leverage is compounded over time, so the longer these free marketing techniques are in place for your business, the more turn-around you’ll see as a result.
Email newsletters are not necessarily going to bring you new customers, but they will ensure that you stay fresh in the minds of your current customers. A well crafted newsletter will continue the relationship with your customers long after your first meeting with them. While many email marketing/newsletter services like MailChimp, AWebber, and Constant Contact do cost money, the majority are free up to a certain amount of messages. You can also opt to save money and do things the old fashioned way by sending your newsletter from your regular email account, just be sure to BCC your customers for privacy!
It’s a given that you should have a website, but having a website doesn’t guarantee people will visit it. Take some time to read up on how to optimize your website to be found in search engines like Google. Proper SEO, even a little bit, can mean more visits to your website and more potential clients, without spending a dime. Once they hit your website, it’s always a good idea to make sure your contact information is easily visible, no matter what page they come in on (sometimes a search engine will display a page other than your homepage at the top of the list depending on what terms the searcher used). Technibble has a great post about SEO optimization for computer businesses, you should at least be following the suggestions there.
Social media has gotten a lot of buzz lately, but it can also be a huge time waster if not properly utilized. That being said, your company should be present on at least a few of the major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Make sure all your current customers know about your social presence and add them as followers. If you have a blog on your website (which you should), learn how to link it with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Also, from time to time, share relevant and important links to news and information that you feel your customers will benefit from. What will happen over time is people will begin to see you as an authority via social media and start sharing your posts with their friends, turning it into a kind of referral program. I wrote about how to optimize your use of Twitter as a computer tech, and I’ll be working on a Facebook post soon.
Word of Mouth
Old as time and as effective as ever, word-of-mouth is a form of advertising that can garner you your most loyal customers. The problem with this method is a matter of control, you can’t directly control how often customers recommend you to their friends. However you can help things along by making your service something worth talking about. You can even offer incentives for people who refer new customers to you.
Once you enact the above strategies, they only take minimal upkeep to maintain, and may prove to be your most lucrative customer generators. What automated advertising have worked best for you in your business?