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How to market your small business almost without budget

It’s important to remember that your consumers are not your employees – they don’t care. And marketing is like a one-sided marriage, only one party has to make it work and that is the marketer, wrote Muzi Kuzwayo in his book ‘Marketing through mud and dust’.

As most small businesses, especially black-owned and start-ups, lack resources to hire marketers to sell their products, entrepreneurs have the ‘suicide-mission’ to aggressively market their business (make it work to paraphrase Kuzwayo), in a view of attracting customers.

Failure to do so might result to low sales and profits, one of the top 10 reasons why small businesses fail.

Here are some of the statements collected about marketing from various small business owners:

  • ‘I don’t need to market my business because it will market itself.’ How? ‘I charge a good price, better than my competitors – that’s my only marketing strategy.’
  • ‘Marketing is too costly: TV, radio, print, internet, man I don’t have that kind of money.’
  • ‘My business is too small and doesn’t need marketing, word-of-mouth will do – for now.’
  • ‘I started like a house on fire without worrying about marketing, and I’m doing well right now, so no need for it.’

However, the truth is that it is not what one says that will attract consumers, but rather the way one says it. And there is no guarantee that sales and profits (without marketing) will be consistent and sustainable in a long term. Nothing last forever!

South African reputation management and training consultant Deon Binneman, quoted by ‘Small Capital’ (a publication of Standard Bank), recommends the following as being essential to any small business management strategy:

  • Identify your ideal customers, their needs, the products they use, and how they use them
  • Define your competitive advantage: what is your company good at doing? What do you like doing?
  • Build your reputation and credibility by maintaining high standards of quality and reliability. “Price is relevant, but so is quality in determining the long-term success of a strong brand,” wrote Kuzwayo (above-mentioned book).
  • Constantly ask yourself: how can I provide what my customers want, better than anyone else?

The ‘Small Capital’ brochure, published in 2011, has the following cheap marketing tips:

  • Market via email: send electronic newsletters, and include contact details and your logos at the end of every email message.
  • Market via the web: the internet boosts one’s ability to deliver products or services, so market yourself to a larger audience.
  • Become an expert: read wisely, and share your ideas and understanding of your business, and offer advice that positions you as an expert in the field.
  • Network: people like to do business with those who they know and trust, and networking allows you to build relationships.
  • Use your customers as salespeople: customers will remember how you helped them. Don’t just sell them a product, solve their problems.And they won’t hesitate to recommend you to someone if they were happy with your services.
  • Maintain good relationships: with your suppliers, friends and associates.  Who knows, they might share advice and spread the word-of-mouth.
  • Manage your information: compile and maintain a database of potential customers and media contacts, and use it to manage your relationships.
  • Collaborate: link up with another business that has a similar customer base, so that you can cross-sell your products and services.
  • Create a good impression, cross-sell to existing customers and donate your services to charity fund.
  • Don’t stop marketing yourself!
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