The following is a guest post by Aaron Shepherd of ThreeThriftyGuys.com.
Given the instability in the economy we’ve seen the past few years, there are more and more people who have decided to strike out on their own and start their own business or have decided to start a side-gig while maintaining a full-time job.
But starting a business is not exactly a cheap enterprise. One can spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars promoting their business through various marketing channels. And while creating slick brochures and media may be affordable for medium to large start-ups, money is typically tight for the individual entrepreneurial.
So, I thought I would offer a few of my own suggestions for how to promote your business to the public with little to no investment of your own (save for your own hard work).
Talk with Friends and Family
When you are first starting your business, share your new endeavor with those closest to you. These folks will likely become your most valuable champions for your business.
Submit Information to Newspapers and Online News
Most editors and writers have email addresses that you can find near their bylines in print or through their website. There are also specific PR-related emails that have been set-up for folks wanting to get the word out about a new business or other related enterprise.
That being said, I would recommend trying a writer or editor first; you want to deal with a person. Submit a press release about your business that you think will add value to the newspaper’s readers.
For example, if you are starting a dog-sitting business, you may want to offer a free month of service to new customers and make a point to title your press release with this information or include it in the first few sentences of your release. People are more inclined to read something that will benefit them.
Print Business Cards
You can get business cards printed to promote your business for a pretty decent price today with the advent of digital printing. Produce 200-500 cards and hand them out to associates, pin them up at locations your customers might frequent or at local coffee shop bulletin boards (if allowed).
The free online classified ad service Craigslist has categories for listing your business to the public. List yours here. Be forewarned that you may have to refresh the listing every week or so as the most recent postings push older posts down the page.
Engage in Social Media
It seems nearly everyone is on Facebook or Twitter. If you have an account, set up a separate page for your business. This is pretty easy to do, and if you get your friends and family members to “like” your page, others may see this and explore it too. Twitter is another free avenue you may want to explore.
Join an Industry Organization
Most industries seem to have a “governing” body or an oversight group that watches over its professionals. Consider joining your industry’s group. There will likely be a membership fee involved, but consider this an investment in your business which could lead to future customers.
While there are bound to be other inexpensive ways to promote your business, I hope this list at least gets you a head-start. Feel free to share any ideas you have used to get the word out on you business.
Aaron writes for Three Thrifty Guys, a personal finance site devoted to helping folks keep a few more bucks in their pockets. He also works a 9-5 in marketing.
Your turn: What other ideas do you have for promoting your small business on a tight budget?