Tight operating budgets are a fact of small business ownership. In order to stay afloat and get ahead, entrepreneurs have to vigilantly look for money-saving options. This has been especially true since 2007 when lending restrictions tightened, placing more of the burden of upfront funding on business owners.
Banks, particularly midsized ones, are no longer the friend to small businesses that they once were. Recently the analytics company Trepp, LLC reported that one in eight banks are failing. This conclusion was reached based on a survey of 600 U.S. banks in areas like revenue, capital, and asset performance.
The group of banks with the worst performance records was midsized institutions. These numbers are not really surprising and as a result, a rising number of small business owners are forsaking traditional lending routes in favor of alternate financing methods like crowdfunding.
Tight lending restrictions are just one factor in the financial squeeze small businesses owners are feeling. The cost of owning a business is also up, along with stricter spending oversight on the part of consumers. All of these perceived negatives actually add up to a golden opportunity for business owners, however. There has never been a better time to look at your business budget, spending and goals in order to hatch money-saving ideas.
One of the easiest areas in which to maximize savings and revenue is marketing. Here are a few ways to do it:
Develop Your Online Brand
Think of your website, blog, and social media accounts as your storefronts. There is a reason why big-box stores have intricate floor plans and rules for display aesthetics – people buy more if a certain formula is followed. Apply that concept to all of your digital entities. Make your goods and services very easy to find through effective inbound marketing tactics. Once customers arrive, capture their attention and implement convenient navigation. Complement your official website with social media platforms. Consider giving customers a coupon code in exchange for a review of your company or products on sites like Yelp, ChamberofCommerce.com, and MerchantCircle.
There are so many different routes to take with online brand development – many of them inexpensive and effective. Take advantage of the business-friendly aspects of the Internet. Taking smart, not hard, marketing steps online is an easy way to both save money upfront and bring in more revenue through higher sales.
Form Strong Partnerships
There really is strength in numbers and forming the right promotional partners is no exception to this old adage. If you are trying to build local clientele, consider co-sponsoring a charity race or other fundraiser with another area business. Exchange business cards with other offices and consider setting up a referral program with incentives for the businesses that help you out. Pairing up with other companies for promotional purposes carries a low cost and can bring your company more clout through association.
With the prevalence online that small businesses have, there is no need to limit partnerships locally. Consider a product giveaway on a blog that targets your customer base. Approach like-minded business owners about blog swaps once per month with a link back to your site in the bio section. Trade banner ads with another website and look for other simple ways to use the online resources you already own for promotional purposes.
Sweeten Super Users
There are a lot of trusted individuals online that can give your products and offerings a business boost through a recommendation. These “super users” can act as online superheroes on your behalf. Approach bloggers or individuals with massive Twitter followings to test out your products or services and then write about it. The upside for the super user is the chance to get something for free. The upside for you is free publicity. Of course, you want to be careful to avoid a bad review but in most cases, a super user will be honest if he or she is uncomfortable promoting your product after trying it out.
Usually all that is needed to get the ball rolling in this capacity is a quick email or direct message on Twitter. You will likely not be the first person to ask for this recommendation and the super user will already have a process in place when it comes to product endorsements. If a particular online persona agrees to give you a shout out, show your appreciation.
About Author: Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com which is the largest business directory on the web. ChamberofCommerce.com connects local businesses to their local Chamber of Commerce. Megan also writes business news.