Whether you’ve just opened your doors or you’re a well-established company in your community, marketing is essential to the growth and profitability of every small business. From traditional direct mailings to robust social media campaigns, there are hundreds of ways to market your business. Ultimately, your business objectives, target audience, budget, and other variables influence which marketing tactics you choose, but here are four marketing ideas that have proven to be effective for many small businesses. And the best part? They’re inexpensive.

Networking

As a small business owner, networking is one of the most important - if not the most important - tactics in your local marketing strategy. Forming meaningful connections in your community and building a strong, personal network is critical to your overall success. 

Trade shows, business networking groups, industry-specific groups, chambers of commerce, neighborhood associations, schools, friends, customers, community events, churches, LinkedIn and Facebook are all great avenues for networking. Just remember: Wherever you go, always bring your business cards!

Online Reviews

In today’s digital age, local online business reviews are one of the new forms of word-of-mouth marketing that can have the biggest impact on customer growth. According to Business2Community.com, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from a friend or family member, and 72% of consumers will purchase a product or service after reading a positive review. So, what does this tell us? Consumers make purchasing decisions based on online reviews. Yelp, Google and TripAdvisor are some of the most popular local review sites among consumers today, and these are the sites you should be monitoring and managing on a consistent basis.

If you receive a positive online review, it’s imperative that you respond right away and thank the customer for their business and patronage. If you receive a negative review, make sure to respond in a timely, thoughtful manner and use it as an opportunity to provide feedback and resolution to the customer. Here’s a tip: On Yelp, in your settings, you can set up your account to receive email notifications when a customer leaves a review about your business online. This is helpful so you know if/when a person leaves a review about your business and allows you to respond promptly.

Direct Mail

A well thought-out and consistent direct mail strategy is a great way to increase brand awareness and attract new customers. Direct mailers can come in many different shapes and sizes -- postcards, brochures, envelopes, boxes, catalogs or even newsletters. It’s important to think through your strategy when deciding which direct mail tactic is best.

If you’re looking for a low-cost way to saturate the market (getting into every mailbox on a chosen postal carrier route), then Every Door Direct Mail, often referred to as EDDM, might be the right choice for you. Started by the United States Postal Service, EDDM focuses on geo-targeting, eliminating the need for a pricey mailing list and permit, and the postage is less than half the cost of a postage stamp.

If you’re looking to target a specific group of people, a specific set of behaviors, or have an idea for a special design, a targeted direct mail campaign might be your best option. Sky's the limit on how specific you can get with a targeted list and your design, plus these campaigns typically have a better return.

Social Media

Social media allows you to gain visibility into your customers’ wants and needs, promote your business and interact with customers and prospects on a personal level outside of in-store interactions.

In the crazy world of social media, Facebook is the best place to start. With the largest user base of over 1.5 billion users, Facebook allows your small business to have a branded, professional presence, but still show your personality.

LinkedIn is another great social media channel to tap into if you haven’t already. With LinkedIn, you have the opportunity to leverage your personal page to grow as a small business owner, promote your business and network with like-minded professionals. It’s one of the best places to showcase yourself and your business through relationship building.

Marketing your small business is crucial to your success, but that doesn’t mean you have to invest a ton of capital to make a big impact. Try these four, inexpensive marketing strategies to increase awareness, engage customers, build relationships and drive customer acquisition in 2017!