It’s rough out there, especially as a self-employed (part-time or full time) person. Having to rely solely on your own hustle in order to keep your head above water – I totally get how stressful that can be.
Now add on to that another layer of ish: To keep your income stream afloat, you’ve got to market your business and get the word out. The problem is, though, that you’re strapped as is, you’re barely making ends meet…how are you supposed to be able to afford a successful marketing campaign?
I’ve got some ideas for you that I’ve used in my own business. I follow a, ahem, “bootstrap” mentality when it comes to my businesses. And I really hate the default answer of “well, when you’re broke just dig in deeper!” because to me, that makes no sense. I understand the basic principle of wanting to double down and spend-money-to-make-money. But in my opinion, there are alternate ways to accomplish the same goals.
Here are some I’ve tried:
5 Ways to Market Your Business Without Spending a Ton of Money
1. Send Product Out to Influencers/Editors
I know most people hold their nose while doing this. And I really think it’s a crapshoot if you do it without having a relationship already established. Desperate times, however, call for desperate measures, and if you think your best product can garner you a little well-deserved attention and you already have inventory, give it a shot. My success rate at this – depends. Larger magazines got me a short term bump in sales, bloggers less so.
2. Establish Yourself as an Authority in Your Niche
Speak at conferences (if not paid, they’ll usually at least comp your ticket) where you can gain insight while also teaching others things you’ve learned as a seasoned entrepreneur. If you don’t want to set out as a jet-setting small business owner, pitch guest posts on large blogs and publications. Inc., Entrepreneur, and other digital versions of magazines regularly accept guest contributions. There’s usually no money in this, either. But it can bump up your visibility and give your business more street cred (“As seen in…”). My success rate at this – High. In addition to cultivating a new crowd of followers who think I know what I’m talking about, it also helps to establish potential connections for future business opportunities.
3. Up Your Social Media Outreach
Be honest: are you utilizing social media to the best of your abilities? My guess is no. Spend a dedicated hour a day (or every few days) fine-tuning your social media accounts. Research better-performing hashtags and stop using ones that get your posts lost in a sea of #instagood. Respond to comments and reach out to accounts that are aligned with your niche and have a conversation with them in their comments. My success rate at this – High. By establishing outreach efforts rather than just posting, my Instagram account for Beige House hit 10k followers in 4 months which has led to more eyeballs on the blog, more sponsorship opportunities and helped me to create a community.
4. Ask for Help
Probably the hardest one to do, I know. But if you’re in a bind and have a looming bill coming up, now is the time to swallow your pride and reach out. That can mean anything from asking family and friends to share your products. Or even asking for a short term loan. You gotta do what you gotta do. Remember that being vulnerable is seen as a virtue in today’s business climate where customers want to buy from a person and not a conglomerate. Being human and asking for a boost in whatever way you feel comfortable doing so is part of the game, I think.
My success rate at this – Man, this makes me uncomfortable spilling it, so I can understand how you feel! I’ve reached out in a panic for funds from family back when my soap business was teetering. It is what it is. As for “success”, I would say…high? It helped get me out of a temporary bind to reach out to my family for help. And it isn’t something I’ve done since. But it was a good lesson to learn in that it taught me how to be humble, and how to recognize the mess I had gotten myself into.
5. Focus on SEO and Blogging
If you’re a product-based entrepreneur, this can be a tough nut to crack as it’s one more thing on your plate. If you’re already a blogger, then this is probably a “duh” moment, but hear me out. Whether you’re barely creating content, or doing so on a regular basis, the game is constantly changing and you’ve got to keep up. Create content that is helpful and relevant to your customers. Or revamp old content that once performed well but hasn’t been so hot lately. The more eyeballs you can get on your site, the more likely you’re going to see sales. My success rate at this – Medium, mostly because I don’t take my own advice :) This is on my list of things to do once Meve Vintage is done and I can focus more on the digital side of my businesses.
You’ll notice I didn’t write “run a sale” because screw that noise. Don’t create a spiral of desperation by cheapening your product or service, because you’ll create an expectation with your customers that your prices aren’t the actual price. And if they wait a little while you’ll run a sale.
With that said, you gotta do what you gotta do. And if a flash sale seems like a quick nickel instead of waiting for a slow dime, you know what’s best for your situation. (And I’ll still love you, don’t worry.)