A challenge for any small business is finding ways to get the word out about your company. Many forms of marketing are too expensive for a start-up or even for an established smaller business. Yet, without marketing your business you’re unlikely to attract the clientele you need to be successful. It’s important to learn how to market well at little expense.
Whenever an auctioneer attends one of my auctions I always try to introduce the person to my buyers and ask him or her to briefly tell them about an upcoming auction they are having. If they have flyers for their next auction I invite them to leave them on our clerk’s table, and I encourage my buyers to pick one up before they leave and to attend my competitor’s auction. Most of them do the same for me when I attend their auctions. Although we are competitors we are also colleagues. Sometimes I work for them if they need additional help at one of their auctions. It takes nothing out of our pockets to promote our fellow auctioneers. Being nice to one another is a great, inexpensive way to gain additional marketing.
Referrals are another excellent way of marketing your business. You don’t want your customers to just be customers; you want them to become the raving fans Ken Blanchard wrote about in Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service. You want them so excited about the experience they had with your company that they are telling everyone else. Some businesses will pay their customers for every referral that turns into a sale. That’s OK, but it’s much better if they truly believe that their friends and family need to do business with you.
A lady called into Dave Ramsey’s program recently asking how to market her business start-up. She was starting a home decorating business and wanted to know how much her marketing budget should be. Ramsey encouraged her to use sweat equity for her marketing. He suggested she buy boxes of donuts and take them to some of the top real estate companies in the area. While she introduces herself to these companies she can explain her business, her qualifications, leave some business cards, and ask them to remember her the next time they need a home staged. She might even offer to do the first house for free to show her work.
You can get referrals from other businesses. For instance, an auctioneer will sometimes get referrals from estate attorneys. Heirs who need to settle the estate may not know how to quickly do that. Often, if they live out of the area they may not know anyone there except the attorney handling the estate. He or she might refer the heirs to some of the top auctioneers in the area to sell the estate. It’s important that you develop relationships with the owners of these other businesses so they know you and your work. This way they will be much more likely to recommend you to their clients.
You can also form an alliance with other businesses in your area to promote your business while you promote theirs. Often, these will not be identical businesses in competition with one another but will be similar. For instance, an auto garage might recommend a particular wrecker company while the wrecker company refers people to this garage. Both benefit from this alliance which costs them nothing.
A final free marketing strategy involves using social media. I announce my auctions on my Twitter feeds and Facebook. I belong to several local buy-sell-trade groups in my area so these announcements goes out to thousands of people in the surrounding area at zero cost to me. I post these announcements on the day of the sale, the day prior to the sale, and two days prior to the sale.
Marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does take time and effort to market wisely. Experiment and find out the best strategies for your business