Are you looking for no-cost or low-cost marketing solutions? While these local marketing tips may take time to get traction, they could reveal a whole new side of your business.

When people think of marketing, they typically think of tactics such as flyers, social media or commercials. When you own a small business, your time and your budget are very limited, so it’s important to have a marketing strategy that will give you the greatest return on investment without breaking the bank.

The best way to do this is to use some out-of-the-box thinking. Need help getting started? Check out the five tips below.

  1. Going green

Becoming eco-friendlier doesn’t require a pricey grand gesture such as switching to a form of alternative energy (though there are tax incentives and programs to help with that). There are plenty of budget-friendly alternatives available to help reduce your carbon footprint, such as using recycled materials for your products, working with other green vendors and suppliers, going paperless or using recycled materials for packaging.

You can also make energy-efficient changes to your business location, such as using LED light bulbs and aerators on your water faucets. Consider also donating a portion of your proceeds to an eco-friendly cause, such as water or rainforest conservation.

Whatever you do, make sure people know about it by including it in your marketing materials, including your website and social media. People like to use businesses that have the same values as them. It will also make them feel like they are expanding their own efforts to help the planet by using a green business — and they’ll tell their like-minded friends about you, too.

  1. Community service

People like to work with businesses that work with them. Consider participating in some form of community service. You can organize a local park clean-up, collect pet supplies for the local animal shelter or sponsor a local youth sports team. Or allow employees to use work time to volunteer at a local non-profit. Depending on your budget, you could also offer to donate a portion of your proceeds from a specific sales period to a local cause.

If time is an issue, consider volunteering to sit on the board of a local non-profit organization. Not only is this a great way to get involved in the community, but it’s also a good way to network, as these boards typically consist of other business people. People will see their purchases as an investment in the community and will be more likely to work with you when they are in need of the goods or services you provide.

  1. Promotional packets

Be ready with promotional packets when a customer needs more information about your goods or services. Include customer testimonials and a brief history of your business as well as your mission, values and details about your goods and services. Depending on how much you know about the potential customers, you can also include information specific to them to illustrate how your good or service will make their lives easier.

You can also include promotional products such as magnets, decals or stickers; these are expressions of your brand that are also useful and practical, making recipients more likely to hold on to them. It helps if the product is closely related to your brand in some way, or at least visually reminiscent of it. StickerYou has the die-cut technology to create prime stickers, decals or magnets in unique shapes and sizes relevant to your brand, allowing the recipient to make a connection between it and your business.

How you package your information is just as important as the contents. While paper clips and staples are an inexpensive route, consider using something more professional and durable, such as a binder. They are especially the best option if you are putting your information packet in the mail. The hardcover of the binder will protect the contents and ensure potential clients receive them in one piece. Binders are also useful when it comes to your efforts to go green because you can reuse them and some are made from recycled materials.

Instead of sending plain binders, step up your game and send binders with a custom design to best illustrate your business and your brand. More than 60 high-quality binders are available at Office Works, including leather-like, clear view and easel binders, available in a variety of stocks and imprint methods. You can select the options best for you based on the use of the binders and the message you are trying to convey.

Based on your budget, you can also include an assortment of accessories such as sell sheets or index tabs. In some cases, this will be the first representation of your brand that clients receive, so make sure it shows you are professional.

  1. Guerilla marketing

Like guerilla warfare, guerilla marketing is all about the element of surprise. The idea is to get your business in people’s face when and where they least expect it. Consider using some sidewalk chalk to create murals advertising your business along popular public walking areas such as trails or boardwalks; have someone dress up as a business mascot or wear a sandwich board advertising your company at a community event; or create some sort of outdoor art piece promoting an upcoming event or sale.

The goal is to design an innovative, engaging piece that stands out and leaves an impression on people. Look for opportunities to add your own unique spin to classic guerilla techniques. For example, instead of a mural, use your sidewalk chalk to write clues for a scavenger hunt that leads people to your business and wins them a small promotional prize.

  1. Guest speaking

Another way to get out in the community is to become a guest speaker. This will help establish yourself as a thought leader in your field, which will make people more likely to turn to you for goods or services. It will also give people a chance to put a face to the name they have been seeing sponsoring local teams or on their direct mail. Ultimately, it helps form a connection with potential clients.

Offer to speak at local community group meetings about topics in your industry from which you feel people will benefit. For example, if you’re an accountant, you can talk about common mistakes people make on their taxes, the most common write-offs people miss, or how to organize information to make the process go smoother for a tax preparer. If you’re a hairstylist, consider talking about common at-home treatment mistakes people make or quick, easy tips people can use to make their salon look last longer at home. You can also host informational events at your business and invite the public to attend. Keep the speech conversational and limit it to three key points so people will remember them.

As you implement these tips and techniques, remember to keep the fundamentals of customer service in mind. The best (and cheapest) marketing you can have is the recommendation of others. As a small business owner, you have to be willing to go the extra mile for your customers; it’s all about building a strong relationship that they can trust in.

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