Sole trader: 18 ways to market your business on a tiny budget

Sole trader

As a sole trader it's vital that people know about you and your brand.  The more people you reach the more sales you'll rake in. Simple. You could be the greatest underwear designer or sandwich maker in the world, but if you fail to market your business and customers don't know about you, how do you sell them your product or services?

That's why marketing is such a valuable tool for sole traders. However, it's essential that you get your marketing strategy right. Don't blow your whole budget on one channel: you need to make sure the marketing reaches a wide, yet targeted audience.

Another point to keep in mind when marketing is that the innovative methods are always the best. Take the route less travelled and make your business stand out from the crowd.

We've put together a list of the top 18 ways to market your business on a shoestring. Give them a go. After all, what have you got to lose? They are as cheap as chips, or cheaper!

1. Write a press release

Send out a press release detailing your business proposition and what makes it unique. Target all relevant newspapers, websites, magazines and radio. Do this even if you think your product isn't the most exciting.  It could be a slow news day and you might be exactly what they're looking for.

2. Use Twitter

Set up a Twitter account for your business. You need to make people aware of you and your products or services.  If you have a shop or stall, tweet your whereabouts. Twitter's also a fantastic way to spread discounts and offers: tweet out every time you're offering a bargain. Tweet regularly enough and pretty soon you'll have an army of followers, or as they're known in the business world, potential customers.

3. Use Facebook

Set up a Facebook page for your business. Upload photos of your products and update your status to let customers know what you're up to.  It's another way of letting people know you exist and makes you look professional.

4. Set up a website

For a business to be successful today it's essential that you have a website. The first thing a customer will do when trying to find out about your business is Google it. An attractive website can make your business look ultra-professional and should be the home of your online presence. Your social media channels should link back to your website as much as they can. This will help drive traffic to your site, and is another way of creating sales.

5. Start a blog

This is a fast way to keep your website relevant. It could also encourage people to spend longer on your website and will encourage repeat visitors. You should style yourself as an expert on your particular field or industry. It's the perfect way to enforce brand messages and engage with customers. If people read and like your posts, they'll respect your brand even more.

6. Email marketing

Email lets you communicate with thousands of customers, or potential customers, at the touch of a button. And, for smaller mailing lists, it's usually free. Get customers to fill in a form with their email address on it whenever they buy from you and have a 'Sign up for more information' field on your 'Contact us' page. This will help you build a list of email addresses to contact whenever you have a new product or offer.

Once you have your list, make sure you're getting the most out of it by using A/B testing. Check out our guide to what it can do for your business right here.

7. Convert your customers into promoters

Potential customers are a million times more likely to use your business if it has been recommended by a friend. So why not turn your customers into brand ambassadors? Give them a discount on products if someone they recommended buys something from you. That way they'll be singing your praises and getting you more customers in the process.

8. Turn your customers into fans

You only have to look at the outpouring of respect for the late Steve Jobs to understand the power of brand loyalty and the impact of a visionary leader. You need to make your service and product - even yourself- so positive that customers can't wait to tell their mates about it.

9. Offer a discount card

It's a great way to reward customers for their loyalty and persuade them to keep using your business. For example, 'buy 9 t-shirts, get the tenth one free'. In order to get the free one, the customer may buy more than he or she originally intended.  This tactic is a favourite of major companies such as Starbucks and McDonalds.

10. Get happy customers to tell you

Encourage customers to write a short email or letter about the positive experience they had when using your business. Put these testimonials on your website and maybe frame some exceptional ones in your shop/office. People will be more willing to use you if they see that other customers have had a positive experience.

11. Run a competition

Give something away and get people talking about your business. You could run a competition from your shop and advertise it online. This could get more people visiting your shop; more people will see your awesome products and ultimately buy from you.

12. Offer to write for a trade magazine or website

A sole traders is the CEO, CTO, FD and CMO of their business. That makes them experts in every aspect of running their venture and their industry.  So offer to write a blog on your business for a trade publication. It's another way of getting your business known and makes you look even more reputable.

13. Try and win an award

Entering for an industry award can be easy. For some, all you need to do is write an application. If you're successful, local press may be interested in speaking to you and it's another accolade to put on your website or business card. It also gives customers confidence in your business.

14. Form a partnership

For sole traders, a business partnership can be a godsend. Pairing with another business means that you will have access to their network of customers. You can also pool contacts and share advice. Want an example? A freelance marketing expert could team up with a sole trader in the printing industry. This way, the marketing expert can give advice and help with some social media advertising for the printing firm, while the printers can provide the marketer with branded stationary for his or her client.

15. Help out a local charity

Help organise a fundraising event or give 5% of your earnings from a particular product or campaign to charity. It will win your business brownie points in the local community and may even get some coverage in the press. TOMS footwear has made corporate social responsibility synonymous with its brand. Its USP is: "With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need."

16. Ask experts to write on your website

Just like you, thousands of other businesses and people are looking to market themselves. If they're relevant, why not allow them to write a comment piece and post it on your website? Regular updates help your website to climb the Google rankings and guest posts are great link bait - your blogger will tell everyone they know to read it!

17. Get on YouTube

Have a YouTube page where you can put videos of your business. If you're a carpenter, film yourself building your latest project. If done well, it can show customers that you really care about what you're creating. It also gives customers an opportunity to see how much effort goes into building that chest of drawers. The same can be done for people selling burgers or even cleaning offices.

18. Make a memorable business card

Business cards are cheap to make and a great way of ensuring people remember your business. When you meet potential customers at an event, give them your business card. If it's fun and memorable they may show it to friends. Effectively they're marketing your business for you.

 

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