Sell yourself--without breaking the bank

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Q. I'm a small business owner with limited resources for marketing. Outside of visiting referral sources, we've never spent much money on marketing. How do we ramp up our efforts without breaking the bank?
A. It's a common misperception among small business owners that marketing requires a big budget and an experienced marketing staff. Although some things are best left to professionals, there are many things you can do on your own with some hard work and creativity. Here are a few tips:
Know your target market inside and out. List as many characteristics as you can about your potential customers. Where do they live? Where do they shop? What kinds of hobbies might they enjoy? After characterizing your potential customers, look for opportunities to get your name in front of them. Perhaps the local senior center would let you post fliers or give a seminar, or your grocery store might allow you to place an ad on their scooter-powered carts.
Partner with similar companies. Seek alliances with businesses that market a related--but not competitive--service or product to your target market, such as a home health agency or even a non-profit organization serving seniors. You can share referrals with one another and share the cost of your marketing activities, as well. This might include sharing a table at a local health fair.
Borrow ideas from others. There are likely dozens of people marketing to you every day, so take the techniques you like best and retool them for your business. Invite patients and caregivers to an open house to meet your staff. Sponsor a speaker on a timely health-related topic at your senior center. Create a simple monthly newsletter offering information on new products or services plus health tips and other fun facts. Also, go to the library and look for books on marketing like "Guerrilla Marketing" by Jay Conrad Levinson.

Jennifer Keirn is the director of marketing communications for Roscoe Medical. Reach her at (440) 572-1962 or