Four affordable tools that can help you market your business

Small business owners feel the pinch of cash flow, especially at first. They may think that because their resources are limited, they must also limit their marketing efforts. They may not know they already possess some potent marketing tools.

Business owners should learn from inventors in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They had an uncanny talent for turning a commonplace item into something exciting and new. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

As soon as customers or prospects call, start marketing

Your phone is suitable for receiving and making calls. If that’s the only thing your phone does, you miss out on great opportunities.

Consider a virtual telephone service for your small business. Most businesses use their local phone provider. This type of service can be added to any landline or mobile phone and offers a variety of features. These include a single number that you can use to contact anyone at the company, multiple extensions, an enhanced voicemail, intelligent call forwarding, caller identification screening, etc.

Virtual receptionists and multiple extension features can be accommodating in your marketing. Imagine having three product lines, but only one is familiar to your customers. In your virtual receptionist message, you can tell callers that they should select extension 101 for product 1, 102 for product 2, and 103 for the third product. You may be the only extension, but you have informed all callers of your three products.

By assigning an extension to the virtual phone and recording information, you can use it to deliver informational messages. Virtual receptionists can direct callers to dial 107 for additional information on a particular product or service. The caller will play the recording. It’s like having your own virtual sales team.

Turn email into a profit center

Direct Marketing Association reports that email marketing returns $43.62 on every dollar invested. Email marketing is easy if you’re using a good service.

Email marketing services will provide templates you can customize with your logo and colors. To make emails more effective, many services offer advice on creating lists, personalizing emails, and writing emails. Many services will provide metrics that tell you the number of emails delivered, opened, clicked links, etc., to make your emails more effective.

Just follow the steps. You’ll be able to create an effective, attractive email in no time.

Online video can make a big splash

Video capabilities are now available on nearly all mobile phones, including the Flip Video and those by Kodak. Why not bring one into the office and set it up on a desk to create a short video of you or a colleague discussing your field of expertise or reacting to industry news?

Video can be uploaded directly from most devices to popular social networking sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Video cameras come with basic editing programs to edit your video before sharing. Customers and prospects will not only be able to hear your message, but they’ll also get an idea of who you are. This helps you build stronger relationships with them.

What is the popularity of video? According to a report from comScore in April 2010, 178 million US Internet Users watched the video during that month, equivalent to 83.5% of all US Internet Users. Pocket-sized video cameras can put you in front of these users.

Create a personal relationship using social media

Social media can be a cost-effective way to establish a one-to-one relationship with a segment of your audience. A quick tweet about a product or service or a Facebook fan page can help you generate interest from your fans and followers. Both are simple to do and free.

You can also build your online reputation by answering questions on forums and blogs dedicated to your field. Both allow you to show off your expertise and provide a link to your website.

You can create your blog to show off your expertise. If you can send an email, you can probably blog. If done correctly, blogging is one of the most effective ways to gain insight into your company, opinions, and industry. Posting early and often can help you establish yourself as an industry thought leader at little or no cost. You can also start conversations with your critical readers.

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