There is no shortage of promotional ideas and Internet marketing strategy when there is a marketing budget. However, how does one promote a business starting out with no money? Having successfully done this twice, I can attest that it can be done. This system works particularly well for a service business, such as consulting, real estate, medical, legal, accounting, computer servicing and so on.
In both cases where I built a service business with no money, the lowly business card played a major role. The business card is probably the most undervalued promotional item in your marketing arsenal. Now with the huge shift to the Web, I have also included a starting point of an Internet Marketing Strategy.
1. The first step is to get a supply of business cards. Every printer in the country can print business cards at a reasonable price. If you can afford it get your picture added-the name of the game is to promote you. The picture makes it easier to remember you compared to a card without one. Ever throw out a business card, as you had no idea who it was?
The business card must be self-explanatory-think of it as a mini brochure. It must include the usual contact information (name, address, company name, phone, fax, email and website if your have one. ) Also include a short description of what you do. E. g. for an attorney it could be something like: “Family law & estate planning. " That way you won't get calls to bail someone out of jail. If you offer a lot of services, get them listed on the back of the card. Don't cram a lot of information on the front of the card, as you want the card to look good and represent the professional services or products that you offer. Don't use words that the average person will not understand. Of course, include your email address.
2. Now that you are armed with business cards, you can start your promotion. The name of the game is to get your cards into the hands of prospective customers. Set a target of say 10 per day that you plan to distribute. Carry cards with you everywhere you go. There are many ways to pass out cards including walking door-to-door to prospects, attending networking meetings, trade shows, social events, conferences, sporting events and so on. What you are after is volumes of cards in the hands of your prospects and obtaining their card in return. If they don't have a card, get them to write their contact info with email on back of one of your cards. Collect as many emails as you can.
To start with you want to collect cards (identities) from volumes of people-don't be too concerned that they may not need your product or services right now. They have lots of friends and associates-many of whom could be prospects. Ask them permission to send them some information. If they are not qualified and never will be toss their card. Only keep the ones that are willing to be in communication with you. I only keep ones that have an email address-if the card doesn't include it, ask for it.
Sales are a numbers game-so you want lots and lots of names. The more names you get the better.
Of course, you are not just collecting cards-you are starting a relationship that hopefully will result in a sale. Make a good first impression.
3. Armed with pockets full of business cards of prospects (identities) you are now ready to start your promotion. The promotion I recommend to start your Internet Marketing Strategy with is a very cost effective tool-a regular newsletter. I only send it by email, which saves the cost of printing and postage. What you are reading here is a newsletter. Short, to-the-point communication about your field of expertise is all that is needed. If you are stuck for ideas on what to write, do a search on the Internet.
A newsletter is in the field of public relations, which is how brands are built and always precedes advertising. Your target audience (called publics) are going to be much more receptive to your offers once you have established a position in their mind as an expert or professional in your field.
Once you have a few hundred names I recommend an email distribution service. I use one called Constant Contact visit them for a free tutorial on how email marketing works. For a small mailing list the costs are something like $30 per month. As part of your Internet Marketing Strategy-it not only distributes your newsletter inexpensively by email, it also gives you lots of stats: number of emails sent, bounce backs (ones that have bad email addresses), number of people who opened your email and number of people who clicked onto your web site (if you have one).
4. Repeat steps 1 to 3-promotion is a daily activity. If you write your own newsletter your entire marketing budget will be under $100 per month to start with. The electronic newsletter is a great start on your Internet Marketing Strategy. You don't even need a website to start. Once you are generating more sales, then allocate 10% to 15% of your income to promotion. With the additional budget, you can utilize a variety of Internet Marketing tools such as a web site that is optimized for good search engine rankings, online press releases and electronic post cards.
Good luck with this Internet Marketing Strategy, as it has great potential to be a successful one.
Sally Falkow is President of Expansion Plus, Inc. , and author of Website Marketing Strategy Ebook. She is an authority on Internet Marketing and search engine optimization strategies. For more information, visit http://www.expansionplus.com