Marketing for SMBs Doesn’t Have to be Hard: Promote Your Business without Blowing Your Budget

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What’s unique about your company? What makes you different from your competition? The quality of the products you offer? Maybe. Your prices? Sometimes. But more often than not, it’s the attention you pay to your customers that keep them coming back to you; it’s the people you work with and the relationships you develop in and around your business location.

As a small or medium-sized business, part of what makes it unique is that you and your employees are a part of the community. Your kids go to the same schools as your customers; you attend the same functions, churches, fundraisers, and meetings together.

As a part of the community, you need to stay in front of your customers. While the easiest way is through word of mouth, the best way to reach the most people in the shortest amount of time is with publicity.

Publicity is far from advertising. Sure you can put an ad in your local paper or post a special on Facebook, but those kind of things have a short shelf life and certainly aren’t the greatest topic of conversation. Publicity, however, is about getting focused attention on your business. The greatest thing about it is that it doesn’t have to cost a dime. All you have to do is get the attention of the media.

But, how do you do that? It’s easier than you think. Here are just a few topics that are sure to garner you some press.

Company moves—expanding the company or moving to a new location? Now’s the time to write a short press release (I’ll teach you how to do this in an upcoming post). Take a picture of the new building or your existing building (picture taking tips will also be in an upcoming post) with all the staff out front and a great big sign. People love to look at pictures. They want to see if they know someone who works there and pics like these are always a winner.

New hires and advancements—whenever you bring on a new person, promote someone, or celebrate a milestone (for example, 20 years with the company), whether it’s a C-level or the cashier, promote it. Take a picture and write a two-paragraph press release stating whom the person is, what their position is, and what they are going to be doing. Adding what town your new employee lives in adds to that local feel.

Charitable events—doing something nice in your business community is always a winner with the press. Invite the press to come see you dish out dinner at the local haven. Participating as a group at an event? Get a picture of your entire team. Show your support for a co-worker who is doing a good deed by taking a picture and sending it to the local paper.

Community service projects—check with your local Chamber of Commerce, Department of Natural Resources, or school to see if there are projects that you can help with. Helping to build a playground, plant gardens, or clean up a park is not only a great thing to do for your community; it’s a great team-building opportunity for your business.

Contest winners—have you ever held a contest for your customers as a promotion? Publicize the winning entry by personally going to their business and getting a picture of your executives or managers with the winner and their prize.

Scholarships and giveaways—just a few hundred dollars goes a long way when you’re talking scholarships. Hold a local contest, choosing an area that’s important to your community. For example, if you live near the beach, offer a scholarship to a graduating high school student who will be studying oceanography. Or, if you are in a town known for its music scene, hold a contest and give a scholarship to a promising young talent for lessons at another local business. The possibilities are endless and the publicity is huge.

Each of the publicity efforts above can be enhanced using social media like Facebook. Through a company page, you can post all of the pictures you take. By tagging the location and the people in the pictures, you have the ability to reach thousands of potential customers. Be creative, be inspiring, be a community leader.

Alicia Ellis

About the Author

Alicia Ellis is the Content Strategy & Operations Manager for ECI and has been with the company for more than five years. Prior to her content position, Alicia was the Field Marketing Manager for ECI's Distribution and Field Service Divisions. Alicia spent six years as the Director of Marketing & Communications for the Independent Office Products & Furniture Dealers Association (IOPFDA) and 12 years prior to that as editor in chief of many dealer trade publications including imageSource and Office World News. Alicia lives in Baltimore City with her husband of 30 years, Jeff, and is a tenor drummer for Shamrock & Thistle Pipe and Drum Marching Band.