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Every type of small business requires marketing. How to budget and pay for your marketing is an important issue, of course, but more important is how effectively the money is used to accomplish your specific marketing goals.

It is important to understand what marketing is and some of the low cost ways of marketing your business while being aware of the bottom line in doing so.

Marketing involves a wide range of factors which impact on the public perception of your business. These factors will influence the desire of the potential customer to deal with you or not. It is simply not possible to succeed in business without marketing. The types of factors which could affect the perception of others when assessing your business include: your personality, business name, business location, business cards and stationery, the clothes you wear, the personnel you hire, how your phone is answered, and how quickly you respond. Other influencing factors include: the nature and form of your advertising, promotion, staff image, sales presentations and contracts, quality of sales and service, site management and customer relations, and problem solving.

Here are some low-cost effective options to consider:

Word of mouth
It is a cliché; but an accurate one: word of mouth is the best form of advertising. The more people promote your business because they know you or are satisfied customers, the more sales you are going to make. Personal testimonials are very persuasive and credible. Attempt to cultivate positive and respectful customer relations at all times. Remember, the customer is always right, even when the customer is wrong. One dissatisfied customer can taint your goodwill to many other people. You should therefore deal with any customer complaints in a prompt and efficient manner.

Brochures and posters can be very effective and relatively inexpensive. Some of the advertising uses of a brochure are: leaving it with a prospective customer; distributing it at a seminar, presentation, trade show, or other distribution location; sending it as part of a direct mail campaign; and mailing it after a written or phone request for further information. Always obtain competitive quotes on brochure production and printing, as prices can vary considerably. If you want colour printing done, ask the printer to do it at the same time as they are doing the same colour run for others. This should save you money, if you can wait for a few days.

Classified and display ads
You may wish to consider advertising in the classified sections of newspapers, magazines, or newsletters targetted to your market. Display advertising can be expensive and is not appropriate for everyone, although it can be very effective if properly targetted. A larger ad does not always bring in a greater response. You may want to test the market by placing classified ads in selected community or daily newspapers, and tracking the response. You may then want to test a display ad in those newspapers that produced a good response.

Co-operative advertising with suppliers
Many manufacturers and suppliers will pay for a portion of your ad if you use their name or logo in some way in your ad or other marketing promotion. Do your research and talk to your suppliers and their suppliers. The savings to you could be 50% or more.

Teaching courses and seminars
Teaching adult education classes is an effective way to make business contacts, meet prospective customers, obtain public exposure, and enhance your reputation as a credible expert in your business. In addition to being paid, teaching also has the fringe benefit of keeping you current in your areas of interest. Contact the continuing or adult education program coordinators of school boards, colleges and universities in your area. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking in public and want to develop that skill, you can take courses through school board or college adult education programs and/or join a local Chapter of Toastmasters.

Having your own website is expected by your customers, and can be a cost-effective marketing and client/customer acquisition program. If you are selling products, it can also be a highly profitable e-commerce tool.

Before you decide what forms of marketing to consider and the time, energy and financial resources you wish to commit, make sure you do a marketing plan in writing that you can understand and use. This should also include a marketing planning calendar and the tracking procedure to monitor how effective each form of marketing is to you.

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