Frugal Marketing 101

frugal 2When you’re building a business on a budget, getting started may seem like an insurmountable task.  But with hard work and determination, you can do it.  Once you’ve got everything in place, it’s time to get to work on marketing your business.

Small business owners often feel that they do not have the resources to market themselves, so they just set up shop and hope for the best.  This is one of the reasons that so many small businesses fail.  If no one knows that you exist, how are you going to make any money?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money for your marketing to be successful.  If you’re willing to take promotion into your own hands, you can get good results without going broke.  In fact, there are some marketing methods that do not cost a dime.  Here are some cheap and free ways to get the word out about your business:

* Write and distribute press releases.  There are websites where you can submit them for free for anyone to read, but it’s also important to send them directly to media outlets.  This could get your business featured in a story in the paper or a magazine, or maybe even the television news.

* Write articles about your field of expertise and submit them to online article directories.  You can add a resource box with a short bio and link to your website.  Webmasters can access these articles and add them to their sites as long as they keep them as-is, so this will give you publicity and links to your website.

* Seek out joint ventures with other small businesses.  This could be a good source of publicity, and you can split advertising costs.

* Try bartering for advertising.  If you run a cleaning service, for example, see if the local newspaper will allow you to clean offices in exchange for ad space.

* Distribute lots and lots of business cards.  Business cards are a staple for any businessperson, whether a small business owner or the head of a multinational corporation.  Hand them out to anyone you discuss business with, leave them at local business that cater to clients who might be interested in your products or services, and drop them in any correspondence you send.

* Donate items for fundraising raffles and other types of giveaways.  This is a nice gesture of goodwill, and your business name will be featured on tickets and promotional materials.

Marketing does not have to be expensive to be effective.  There is room for some amount of marketing in any budget, because some methods come at no cost except your time.  So there’s no reason that you can’t get the word out about your business, no matter how little you have to spend.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

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Paid Advertising Versus Free Advertising

advertisingAdvertising can be a very big topic among small business owners.  It is not uncommon for small business owners to feel a little lost when it comes to advertising.  There are so many choices out there that it can be a little confusing when trying to figure out the best advertising options.

Some business owners may feel that paid advertising will be their best option and seek out those choices.  Others may be on a small budget that does not allow for much paid advertising.  Because of this, they turn to free advertising.

Each group may be wondering if they are making the right choice and if they should keep doing what they are doing.  In this article we will talk about the differences between the two types of advertising and give you the pros and cons of each.

Paid advertising includes things such as ads in magazines, newspapers, on websites, blogs, ezines, pay-per-clicks and so forth.  The benefit is, of course, the exposure that paid advertising can bring.  Unfortunately, the cost of these ads can get expensive, especially if the ad will be seen by a large audience.

Free advertising includes things such as social networking, commenting on blogs, article distribution, sending out press releases, posting on forums, and so forth.  The main benefit of free advertising is that a business can receive a lot of exposure without paying out of pocket.

On the other hand, it can take up a lot of time to actively participate in free advertising and it is hard to say if it will bring in the exposure the business is hoping for.  Sometimes a business can get lucky and their free ad will generate lots of traffic, but that isn’t something a business should depend on.

While some business owners may think they need to decide between the two, a third option is take part in a little of both types.  A business owner can set a dollar budget for paid advertising and a time budget for free advertising.

By doing a little of both, the business owner has the potential for increased exposure while staying on a fixed budget.

The website’s statistics program will help the business owner stay on top of where their traffic is coming from and help them decide where to continue investing their time and money.

Another option is to use an ad tracking system, which will automatically track the each of your ad’s clicks and conversion rates.

Advertising is an essential part of owning a business.  Without it, a business is going to have a very hard time finding new customers.  By getting creative and participating in both free and paid advertising, a business owner can develop an advertising plan that truly works for them.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

How a Blog Can Help Grow Your Business

blogHaving a website for your home based business is almost a necessity in today’s high tech, internet-crazy world.  Having a website might not be enough, though.  Take a look to see how a web log, or “blog”, can help grow your direct sales business as well.

Many direct sales businesses offer their sales associates a website that links directly back to the parent company’s site. You might even have taken a bold step and chosen to purchase a domain name and created your own business website.  Those are both good ideas, but perhaps you should also add a blog to your arsenal of online marketing tools.

You want to use every available option when promoting your direct sales business, whether offline or online.  You wouldn’t think of starting a new home business without purchasing business cards.  Why would you consider having one without using a blog to help generate leads and possibly recruit new team members?

A blog can be effective for promoting your business. It can also help you meet new prospects, either as customer or as part of your downline.  Blogs can also be a creative outlet when you’ve had to deal with the restrictions of some direct sales companies.  A blog can truly help your business reach a new level.

Before you jump on the blog bandwagon, however, you need to read and understand your company’s policy about using the internet for marketing.  If they do not allow personal internet advertising it would be better to set this idea aside.  Use whatever means they allow to do your marketing.

Consider your goals for having a blog and write them down.  Know what you want to accomplish with your blog before you write your first sentence.  Think about the people that will be reading your blog, usually your prospective customers or downline, then design your blog with them in mind.  Find an area to focus on – whether sales, recruiting, or training – and build your blog around that focus area.

Blogging about your direct sales business gives you an outlet to discuss new products and specials that will be coming up, and gives your team members and customers a sneak peak at new items before they are available.  Blogs also allow you to share things that may be related to your business but not a direct part of it.  For instance, if your products relate to cooking, use your blog to post recipes for your readers to enjoy.  Try to remember who your target market is and provide them with things they will find valuable.

It is easy to see why blogging has become so popular.  Millions of people use their blog to express themselves every day.  Why not take advantage of this tool and use it to help your direct sales business grow?  All it takes is a little bit of time and thought, and a desire to offer your customers and team members another outlet to success.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

Is There Such a Thing as Frugal Marketing?

frugalMarketing is an important part of any business.  It’s how we get the word out about our products and services to prospective customers and clients.  If we want our businesses to be successful, marketing is not something we can skimp on.

Large companies spend millions of dollars on marketing each year to maintain their brands’ market share.  But for most small businesses, there aren’t millions of dollars in the entire budget, let alone available for marketing.  Large-scale advertising campaigns are not an option.

Some small businesses commit a large portion of their budgets to marketing.  They produce elaborate ads and reserve premium ad space, have all sorts of fancy promotional items made, and sponsor lavish events.  This helps them gain visibility, and possibly market share, but at what cost?  In some cases, profits suffer unnecessarily due to overspending on marketing.

What these businesses do not realize is that marketing doesn’t have to be that expensive.  There are methods of marketing that are not that costly, and some are even free.  These methods may not be as flashy as the ones that cost lots of money, but they can be very effective.  And in many cases, they have a much better return on investment.

It’s also important to note that you do not necessarily have to hire a marketing firm to do your marketing for you.  While there’s no doubt that marketing professionals have an advantage because they know the business so well, it’s not impossible for a small business owner to handle most of his own marketing.  It might take a little time to learn the ropes and make connections, but it can save you a substantial amount of money.

Some of the Best Marketing Is Free

There are plenty of marketing techniques that you can employ at a low cost.  But did you know that it’s possible to get great results without paying a dime?  Generating positive publicity can help a small business become well known and give potential clients and customers a good first impression.

Publicity is easier to get than you might think.  Writing press releases and distributing them can get your business featured in newspapers, and possibly even on the TV news.  You might be surprised at the things that the media will find newsworthy about your business.  Some of the best topics for press releases include special events, correlations with national news stories, and joint ventures.

Marketing might seem impossible when you’re on a tight budget, but there are plenty of ways you can reach your target market without breaking the bank.  Some methods have no cost except your time.  Frugal marketing is alive and well, and it can provide great results for the small business owner.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

Does Your Marketing Strategy Stink?

marketing strategyMarketing can be tricky.  There are many variables to consider.  It is much more of an art form rather than a perfect science.  If you feel like you are not getting the results you should be, here are some tips on how to review and revamp your marketing strategy.

The first thing to look at in your marketing strategy is whether or not you are targeting the right market.  Your target market is the group of people you are trying to promote your product or service to.  For example, if you have created a nursing bra, your target market would be new mothers who are breast feeding.  If your marketing efforts are not hitting that target market, you are probably not going to be seeing much response.

Another thing to consider is the color of your website and your ads, as well as the graphics that you use.  Choosing colors in complementary tones will work best. If your website consists of harsh colors or colors that do not match, your visitors may click away before they even finish reading your advertising.

People enjoy seeing graphics on a page as it helps to break up the wording and adds visual stimulation.  However, the pictures you choose should be easy to see and convey the proper message about your product or service.  If the pictures are blurry or out of focus, or if they contain potentially offensive material, your website visitors will click away and they may not come back.

You may also want to re-evaluate your sales copy.  Your copy is the advertising message that you communicate to others.  You will want to make sure your headline is catchy and that you cover the benefits the customer will receive from your product or service.  Many people are only concerned with “what’s in it for them”.  If you do not clearly specify the things they will receive, they’ll move on.  It is a good idea to be honest and keep things simple and concise.  Avoid any hype or exaggerations.

Along with the actual wording of your copy, the layout should also be reviewed.  Many people simply skim websites rather than read them from top to bottom.  You can use a larger font for the headline, in order to draw the reader in, and then you can use things such as bulleted lists to highlight the important parts of the copy.

Finally, you will want to look at the amount of exposure your ads are getting.  If you had a certain sales goal that you are not meeting, you simply may not be reaching enough people to meet that goal.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.

Tips for Shy People Who Want to Network

shySome people are scared of the networking process. If you are naturally shy and the idea of going to a business function, shaking hands with strangers and making small talk makes you quiver, don’t despair. You don’t have to go to an actual business event to network. There are opportunities to meet new people in everyday situations. The following are some tips to help you network, even if you are shy.

Friends and Family
Many people hesitate to go to their friends and family when they need help with their business. They don’t want them to think they are unsuccessful or obligated to help. Chances are, your friends and family would love to help. Ask your friends and family to spread the word about your business and the services you offer. Let them know you are not expecting them to buy anything from you; just put in a good word about your business to others.

Neighbors
You may talk to you neighbors casually from time to time. If you have not told them about your business before, you may want to bring it up the next time you talk to them. They may know someone who is looking for your services.

People You Know Because of Your Children
If you have children, you have boundless networking opportunities. If you have an infant, you may want to consider joining an exercise group for new mothers. If your child is a bit older, you probably find yourself at the park several times a week. And if your child is in school, you are surrounded by other parents on a daily basis.

Introduce yourself to the other parents. You can make small talk about the weather, a store that is having a sale on children’s clothing, or anything else. Eventually, the conversation will turn to what you do for a living. Briefly explain what you do; but try not to turn the conversation into a commercial about your business. The next time these parents need someone who offers the type of services you offer, they will think of you.

Volunteer Groups
Volunteering will make you feel good, and it can also help grow your business. You will be meeting lots of people; again, the conversations you have with these people may bring up the topic of what you do for a living. The more people that know about your business, the more referrals you can receive.

On the other hand, the organization may recommend you to other organizations and groups who are willing to pay for your services.

While it may seem unnatural at first to bring up your business in these types of conversations, it will become easier. You can always ask the other person what they do first. If you already know what they do, ask how their business is doing. This will lead them to ask you the same type of questions.

julianne-wish-avatar15Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, homeschooling mom, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of The Wish Place. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.