Small business owners frequently wear so many hats that they struggle to make time for marketing. Yet for a small business, finding new customers is almost always a top business challenge. So today in part 4 of our 4-part small business health check series, we are going to discuss some simple ways you can give your small business marketing a boost.

First, take some time for an assessment. What marketing tactics and programs have you tried over the last year? What worked and what didn’t Is there something that you’d like to try again but in a slightly different manner? It’s a great time to take stock of past initiatives and proceed with those that work, and end those that didn’t produce real results for your business.

Now you’ve likely got some room to try out something new. It’s time to think about at least one new initiative you are going to try this year. Whether your budget is large, small or non-existent there are plenty of marketing programs to try out:

For the nonexistent budget:

  • Online Listings and Reviews. Improve your listing in free online locations, like Google Places. Search for your business to see where else it is listed and make sure the data is accurate. Also check for posted reviews respond to any that are negative and encourage loyal customers to post positive reviews.
  • Blog. Start writing content that will articulate your business and draw in new traffic to your site. This is a great way to get your small business personality out there and get a lot of extra traffic and awareness to your website. It’s great to commit to writing on a routine basis whether that be once per week or once per month. Be sure to include locale keywords in your blog entries if you only serve your local area. And if you need extra manpower to get some content together, don’t be shy about asking your customers, you might be surprised how excited they are to contribute.
  • Website Optimization. Spend some time doing on-page seo optimization of your website to improve your search rank. Don?t feel intimidated; there are lots of automated tools out there that can help you with the basics.
  • Social Media. Start engaging in social media via Facebook and Twitter. You can simply get your profile page going and start to push some content whether it’s informational or special promotions. Encourage your existing customers to start to follow you on the social media channels you participate in.
  • Referral Program. Start a customer referral program by incentivizing your existing customers to refer you to a friend.
  • Press Coverage. Think about an interesting story about your business, or even something joint with your business and a customer. Reach out to journalists for local publications and see if you can get them to interview you and publish your story. It’s also a great idea to subscribe to HARO to easily identify other reporters that are writing stories that you can contribute to.

With a small budget:

  • Pay-Per-Click Ads. Pay-per-click advertising can be started with a small budget and is an excellent way to get new customers. It’s very simple to get started and allows you to narrowly target your best potential customers.
  • Run Ads in Local Paper. Local publications still have a very high readership. Running a promotional ad in your local paper or other community publication can produce a great ROI. Always keep some extra copies with your promo on hand, so you can provide to customers who don’t come in with one. It will help them know to look there for the future and they’ll be grateful you shared the offer.
  • Signage. Even if your location is amazing, signage can be an incredible helper. From something on a busy road notifying of a turn to your business location, to decals on your car. This is a great way to get your name out there.
  • Events. Participate in events where potential customers will be whether it’s through your local chamber of commerce, or through some other local community events or programs, start to get your business name out there as a positive member of your community.
  • Welcome Wagon. Capturing customers who are new to your area is a great opportunity. Get your offer incorporated into the welcome wagon package with some memorable swag.
  • Paid Directories. Depending on your type of business, some paid directories such as Angie’s List can be a great source for getting new customers.
  • Local Radio. Running ads on local radio stations can do wonders for the recognition of your company. Advertising on stations such as NPR makes it easy since they will read your ad for you and you won’t need to spend the money to create a jingle.

Once you’ve figured out what marketing programs you want to try for 2012, it’s time to create some model planning so that you can track and monitor your progress to be sure you are getting the best possible results for every dollar and hour that you spend.

What marketing programs will you small business be trying in 2012?






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