Okay, so you’ve had a great idea, done your research, put your business plan together and now comes the day you officially start trading.
Everything is good, right?
Well not exactly.
You might have created the greatest product since the iPhone but that’s no good if no-one knows you exist.
So what do you do, especially if you’ve got little money to spend on advertising?
Firstly, start out small.
You don’t need a huge budget to get your business known; you just need a plan and a bit of time.
But before you send your first tweet or pick up the phone here’s a couple of simple exercises that will really help.
Write an elevator pitch
People have short attention spans and you need to let them know quickly what makes your product or service unique.
You need to be able to make a lasting impression of what your business does in under a minute.
It’s not only important for networking and attracting investors but it really gives you a clear understanding of where your business fits in the marketplace.
Who are your customers?
It’s very unlikely that your product or service will appeal to everyone so it’s important to know who you are selling to.
This saves a lot of time and money marketing to the wrong audience.
If you’re a business consultant then are you targeting, small firms or big firms?
How many employees do they have? What issues are they likely to face? Are they in a particular sector?
If you’re selling garden furniture then what does your average customer look like? How old are they? Are they male or female? What size garden do they have?
The more specific you can be and the better the picture you create of your ideal customer or client then the more you understand what their needs are.
Whether you’re building a website, creating an advert or posting on twitter, keep your customer in mind.
So, now you’ve got your elevator pitch sorted and you know who your customers are, let’s look at how you can start to promote your business.
Set up a website
It seems like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many businesses still don’t have a website.
If you don’t have one you could be losing a lot of prospective customers who will go elsewhere if they can’t find you online.
A simple website doesn’t cost much and you can set it up yourself with some basic computing skills.
WordPress is a great place to start and there are plenty of free templates you can use to get started.
If you’re launching an online shop then services such as Shopify allow you to pay a monthly fee and everything is set up for you, from the design to taking payments.
Make sure that when you design your website that it is clear and easy to read as well having your contact details prominently displayed so that visitors know how to get in touch.
It’s also important to ensure that it can be read easily on a mobile or tablet.
Many free templates use a responsive design meaning that it automatically resizes your site depending on the device someone is using, so it always looks great.
Google also places a higher value on websites that are optimized for mobile devices so you could see your organic ranking affected if you don’t make it mobile-friendly.
If you already have a website those helpful folk at Google have created a tool that can check if your site is optimized for mobile.
You may already have a Facebook account that you use for keeping in touch with friends and relatives but it’s also a great tool for your business as well.
You can gain access to a worldwide audience for free; all it takes is a bit of your time.
Facebook isn’t the only one either, Twitter is great for promoting your products and services as well as connecting with your customers.
Video content is increasingly popular and YouTube should definitely be on your list to check out if you don’t use it already.
If you primarily deal with business then LinkedIn could be a great place to network and connect with prospective clients or for hiring staff.
It’s worth experimenting to find out which work best for you.
There are plenty of free tools on the web such as Buffer and Hootsuite to help you schedule your activity as well. If you’ve got a lot to share and if you are using multiple social media sites then these can make your life a whole lot easier.
Start a blog
This goes hand in hand with your website and is a good way of keeping your content fresh and up to date.
Not only good for your rankings in search engines such as Google but more importantly gives a reason for visitors to keep returning to your site.
It’s great for letting your personality shine through and making people feel connected with your business on a more personal level.
Use this as a place to share your knowledge and provide relevant information for your customers.
A wedding planning business for example might post venue ideas or share tips on how to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Become an expert in your field and people will be more likely to trust you and buy your products and services in the future.
Make sure that whenever someone buys from you to ask them to sign up for email updates.
Sites such as MailChimp allow you to create and send emails to your customers for free so long as you have less than 2,000 subscribers.
You can then keep your customers informed of your latest products and services, any events you have coming up or to let them know of your latest blog post.
As an incentive to get people to sign up you could offer a free resource to download or provide unique offers for anyone on your email list.
Write a press release
Make a note of any magazines, newspapers, radio stations or websites that you think would be a good place to advertise your products or services, then contact them.
You might not have the budget to advertise with them yet and it doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’ve got the most exciting product or service.
You never know if they’re having a quiet news day and you could be just what they’re looking for.
Even if you are paying for advertising it’s always worth asking if you can get some extra coverage for free!
Wherever possible try and get referrals for your business.
Create some simple leaflets and go out and find businesses whose customers would benefit from your products or services.
You only need a couple of strong promoters to really increase your marketing reach at very little cost.
It may be beneficial to negotiate a discount or some kind of initial offer for their customers to encourage them to try you out.
Analyse you results
Make sure you keep a note of how successful your marketing efforts have been.
Whether you’re using social media or sending out a promotional email it’s all a process of trial and error.
Every business is different, so see what works and what doesn’t to continually adapt and improve you marketing activities.
There are some great free tools you can use, especially online.
Make sure you set up Google Analytics on your website as it gives you some really useful information on your visitors, from which pages they visited to what they searched for on your site.
These simple, inexpensive strategies will help you promote your business to a wider audience.
While it’s only a starting point, it shows that marketing doesn’t need to cost a fortune.
Above all though, always keep your customers in mind.
What other tactics have you used to market your business?