Small Business Marketing is tough, in fact, when people attend our BNI meetings, they usually have one primary question on their minds: “How do I grow my small business?”

They often have a limited budget, not much spare time, and an urgent need to bring in clients quickly so they can pay their bills.

If you’ve found yourself asking “What are affordable ways of growing my business?” you’re in the right place, because I’m about to reveal four low-cost ways for small business owners to attract clients.

4 affordable ways to attract clients

In last week’s blog post, I gave you guidelines to help you figure out how much money you have to spend on your small business marketing. In a couple weeks, we’ll do a deep dive on how to use that money wisely, but for now, I want to give you a few low-cost methods to start out with.

Small Business Marketing Method 1: Establish a presence on review sites.

According to a 2013 AC Nielson study, 84% of people in the U.S. rely on personal referrals when making a buying decision.

So how can you get personal referrals, and use them to show your credibility to a large number of potential clients?

A great way to do this is to reach out to your best customers, touch base with them, and ask if they’d be willing to give you a review on YELP, Facebook, Google, Bing, or any other sites that potential clients visit to seek information about businesses in your industry.

Having positive reviews on multiple websites makes it easier for the people who are actively seeking your services to find you, and it gives them the incentive to choose you over your competition.

If your clients are too busy to write a review themselves, you could create a pre-written review for them, and ask them to post it if they agree with it. If they feel it’s inaccurate, ask them to tweak any details you got wrong, and then post it.

And if your clients are willing to write a review, but aren’t sure what to write, you could provide a list of questions to help get their creative juices flowing.

Here are some examples of questions you might use:

  1. What were you struggling with before we worked together?
  2. What daily problems did you have because of that issue?
  3. What made you choose to work with me?
  4. What are the best results you’ve gotten through our work together?
  5. In what ways have you noticed that your life has changed?
  6. What’s the earliest that you started noticing changes?
  7. How would you say I’m different from other professionals in my field?

These questions can help your clients to see just how big a difference you made in their lives, to get them excited about sharing your valuable services with others, and to write a review that makes people want to hire or buy from you.

Small Business Marketing Method 2: Blogging

If you want to make it easier for people to find you on Google, blogging is a good way to improve your odds of showing up in the search results, while proving your expertise and establishing you as a valuable source of information on your chosen topic.

You can spread your message by running your own blog, and by sharing guest blog posts on other people’s sites.

Each blog post should include the following elements:

  1. A name that closely matches the phrases your target audience would search for when seeking information on your topic.
  2. Keywords and key phrases within the blog post, which match other phrases they may search for.
  3. An introduction, explaining what the blog post is about and why they need that information.
  4. Teaching points that give your readers value, while helping them to understand why they need your services.
  5. A call to action, whether to comment, click a link, fill out a form, or get in touch with you.

If you write out a list of all the things you can write about, and turn it into an editorial calendar, that will save you the last-minute struggle of figuring out what to write on the day when your blog post is due.

After publishing your blog post, be sure to send a link to your email subscriber list with a blurb encouraging them to read the post, and to spread the word on social media. Don’t wait for people to find your blog post – put links to it in places where they’re already hanging out.

Small Business Marketing Method 3: Participate on social media.

If you’re a recluse who prefers to connect with your potential clients from behind a computer, you can use social media to build your business by participating in groups, running your own page, commenting on others’ feeds, and sharing interesting and informative content in your own feed.

It’s best to choose groups that are large, active, and frequented by your ideal clients. While participating in these groups, don’t make a bad impression by constantly selling yourself. Instead, offer valuable advice, information, and feedback to other members, and establish yourself as a trusted authority in your field.

The same principle applies to your business’ page, and to all of your small business marketing: give before you ask for something in return.

According to BufferApp, you should create 4 educational and entertaining posts for every 1 “soft promotion” and every 1 “hard promotion”.

After all, people probably aren’t on your page to be sold to – they’re there to find entertainment or valuable information. If you give them what they want, they’ll be motivated to keep coming back.

When you’re posting, be sure to use hashtags that are relevant to your topic, and images to catch people’s attention.  As this article on HubSpot explains, Facebook posts with images see 2.3 times more engagement than those without images.

If you aren’t familiar with hashtags, hashtags are to social media what keywords are to Google. If someone wants to know more about marketing, they could type #marketing into Facebook or Twitter to see all the posts that include that hashtag.

By including one or more relevant hashtags, you tell social media  – and the people searching it – what your post is about, and make it easier for the people who are looking for it to find it. But don’t go overboard with the hashtags, or your post could end up looking cluttered and spammy. Start with two or three, and see what your audience responds best to.

While you’re participating on social media, keep track of the amount of time you’re spending, and the results you’re getting.

Not getting many views? Consider adding a Facebook hosted short video, which at the time of this writing is being shown more frequently as part of the post, or pay to have the post boosted to your ideal client

Are you getting a lot of interaction on your posts? If not, try changing the kind of content you post, using different hashtags, or posting elsewhere.

Are you getting interaction, but no clickthroughs or appointments? It’s time to improve your call to action.

Always be aware of what you’re trying to accomplish, and be prepared to adapt if your current strategy isn’t producing a return.

If you have a large number of followers, and you want to run different ads for different demographics without clogging your stream with ads, I recommend using dark posts to advertise your business. These are posts that you pay to boost to a specific and highly targeted group of potential customers.

Small Business Marketing Method 4: Look for referral partners.

Is there someone in your area whose services complement, but don`t compete with, your own?

For example, if you’re a wedding planner, you could set up a referral program with a bakery that makes wedding cakes. You get a percentage on every cake they sell to a customer you brought to them, and they get a percentage on every wedding you plan for someone they referred to you.

To figure out who your ideal referral partners might be, ask yourself:

  • What do my ideal clients need, that I’m not providing to them?
  • Does my service necessitate, or provide the groundwork for, a second service?
  • Who else might be serving my ideal clients, and offering a different service than the one I provide?

Other examples of good referral partners would be realtors partnering with mortgage brokers, home inspectors and home insurance agents, and copywriters partnering with video makers, photographers and graphic designers who provide marketing services that the writer doesn’t.

This is one of the reasons why BNI is so valuable: it provides you with a great opportunity to network with like-minded entrepreneurs and to find partners who can not only increase the value you bring to your clients but also bring lots of new clients to your business.

Other potential sources of referral partners include Meetup groups, local chambers of commerce, networking groups, and seminars.

As I mentioned above, 84% of people in the U.S. rely on personal referrals when making a buying decision. If a provider the client already trusts recommends you to them, they’re far more likely to trust you and to buy something from you. So if you haven’t already done so, I strongly recommend that you choose at least one networking group and attend it regularly.

You don’t need to do all of these at once, but you DO need to do SOMETHING.

As you can see, growing your small business doesn’t have to be expensive. It just takes time, dedication, effort and knowledge, and the ability to connect with the right people at the right time.

If you want to connect with more like-minded entrepreneurs who could become your clients or referral partners, I invite you to join us at a special seminar on understanding your customer journey and how to use it to grow your business  on March 1 from 5 to 7 PM – for more details click the link below.

I hope to see you there!

Get more information about how to grow my business in 2017