Promote your business – and all it will cost is your time

AS small businesses, we tend to spend too much money but not enough time on marketing.

We all need to ensure that we have an effective online presence through our websites and social media accounts, but this doesn’t mean we should forget some of the more traditional “free” ways of promoting our businesses. Here are a few ideas:

Get yourself in the media

Newspapers, magazines and the trade press are all on the look-out for news stories, as they have pages to fill every week and month. They are likely to welcome well-written articles and news releases. While you will have to pay to advertise your business, media coverage of this type is free. But make sure you have a genuine story to tell – the editors won’t be interested in just promoting your business, so you need to make it newsworthy. One of the simplest ways of doing this is to send in a news release written in an appropriate style for the publication or media you are approaching (you may have to create different versions for different media). You need to refer to yourself or your business in the third person, as if the journalist is writing about you. You are making the journalist’s job easier.

Win an award!

Winning a business award can be a great way to get free publicity for your business. Local papers, networking groups, professional associations and chambers of commerce run business awards and are on the look-out for entries. Don’t wait to be nominated – often you can nominate your own business. Make sure you read the rules, enter in exactly the way described and meet the deadline.

Don’t just copy existing marketing materials – focus on exactly what the judges are asking for, and give as much evidence of your success as possible, if possible using actual data. You are too late for this year’s Nottingham Post Business Awards. But maybe next year!

Speak up!

It fills many people with fear, but if you can muster the courage, speaking at events can be a very effective means of promoting your business. Don’t feel you need to be an after-dinner speaker – if you can share useful information with others, then they will be happy to hear from you. If you are nervous, start with smaller groups and work up to bigger groups once you have built up your confidence.

The type of event depends very much on your target market – work out where they go, whether it is trade conferences or the University of the Third Age, and then how your content can be tailored to their needs. You could even run your own event, or plan a joint event with a business in a related sector, but remember you will then have to market the event, too. Don’t use it as an excuse to sell what you do – let your skills shine through so that they want to know more about you.

Beryl Pettitt is director of Ridgeway Marketing, a business adviser on the NBV Enterprise Solutions start-up scheme, and a marketing trainer for the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce. You can download her free ebook Ten Top Tips to Improve your Marketing with lots more ideas on how to market your business here: www.ridgewaymarketing. small-business/