Promoting your business is a costly exercise. It takes money and time out of your business with no guarantee of a return on that investment. So for many small businesses, it is a gamble that they simply must take, yet can ill afford to lose.

However, there are a number of ways to get the ball rolling and reach your potential customers without laying out a fortune up front.

Get permission to put your prospects onto your email list and you then have a low cost database of customers that you can build a relationship with and market to over and over.

Here’s three ways to make first contact with your clients without breaking the bank.

Joint Venture

Get in touch with complimentary businesses and market to each others customer base. For example, a hair salon could create a special offer just for customers of the local fitness center, restaurant or nail salon.

In turn, the other businesses could make similar offers to the hair salons customers. This gives each business instant access to a highly targeted list, with the added benefit of an implied endorsement from the “host” company. Of course, you need to choose your partners carefully.

Don’t Advertise, Inform!

People are bombarded with advertising, from the moment they wake up until they finally shut their eyes and sleep. They have become hardened and cynical to ads and can smell even the faintest whiff of a sales pitch from a hundred yards. So don’t advertise, inform.

It is now cheap and easy to create electronic information products such as short movies, articles or PDF reports that will position you as the expert in your particular field. While it’s possible to do this with a traditional printed newsletter, the cost of printing and postage could be prohibitive to smaller businesses.

Of course, you should put your contact details at the end of the message so that your viewer can get in touch. Now instead of you trying to sell them, the customer is coming to you to buy!

Just remember to include some information! Turn your report or movie into a pitchfest and you will lose any chance of making a sale.

Affiliate

It is possible to grow a sales team the size of a small army for zero outlay. Many bricks and mortar businesses are setting up online affiliate schemes that pay a referer only when a sale is made.

Companies such as Shareasale make the process cheap and easy to do online.

Of course, affiliate schemes are not limited to the online world. Service industries such as restaurants or beauty salons have been running voucher and coupon schemes long before the internet ever existed. By keying your coupons it is possible to know who made the referral and a suitable reward given.

However you kickstart your marketing, it is vital that you capture the contact details of your prospects and then keep in touch. It takes an average of seven times more to acquire a new customer as it does to sell to an existing one. So you can slash your overheads simply by staying in contact with your customer base.