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Tips on starting your business

With the next class of newly state-certified translators and interpreters ready to go out into the “real world” next week, I thought a little help on the way into setting up one’s business might be appreciated. I found these tips on how to get started over on business know-how and thought I’d share them here, even if they are not specifically for translators/interpreters:

32 Low-Cost Ways to Promote Your Business 

Starting a business on a shoestring? Looking for
ways to stretch your small business marketing budget? Here are 32
low-cost, high-impact methods to advertise and promote your business.

What’s
the best way to promote your business? How can you advertise your
business and get your name in front of potential prospects when money is
tight or you’re just starting up? How can you get the word out about
your business in the most affordable way?

Promoting a business is an ongoing challenge for small businesses.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for years,
these proven marketing strategies will help your business find new
customers without spending a fortune.

  1. Plan your attack. Define who your best prospects
    are, and then determine the best way to reach them. Be as specific as
    possible. Is the decision maker the CTO of the company, the director of
    human resources, or a 37-year-old working mom? Will you find them on
    Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest or Facebook? What about in-person networking at local business meetings?
    Will they be searching for your type of product on Google or Bing? Do
    you want to start promoting your business to them at the start of their
    buying cycle, or when they’re about ready to pull out their credit card
    and make the purchase.  Write your answers down, and refer to them
    before you start any new marketing tactic. Use this marketing plan worksheet to gather your information.
  2. If you don’t have a website, get one set up. If you can’t afford to have someone custom-design your website,
    put your site up using one of the companies like SiteSell.com or
    HomeStead.com that provide templates and tools that make it easy to
    create a basic website.
  3. Set up a listing for your business in search engine local directories. Google and Bing both offer a free listing for local businesses.To get listed on Google, go to Google My Business.  To get listed on Bing, go to Bing Places for Business. Yahoo charges for local listings, but you get listed on a lot more than Yahoo if you buy their service. The service, called Yahoo Localworks, costs
    $29.99 a month and lists you in 50 directories including Yahoo Local,
    Yelp, WhitePages, Bing, Mapquest and more. The benefit of paying: You
    have a single location to enter your data to make it consistent and
    available on multiple online directories that your customers might
    search to find what you sell.
  4. Set your business profile or page up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter.
    Be sure your business profile includes a good description, keywords and
    a link to your website. Look for groups or conversations that talk
    about your type of products or services and participate in the
    conversations, but don’t spam them with constant promos for what you
    sell.
  5. If you’re just starting out and don’t have a business card and business stationery, have them made up — immediately. Your business card,
    letterhead and envelope tell prospective customers you are a
    professional who takes your business seriously. Be sure to list your
    website address on your business card and, letterhead and any handouts
    you create.
  6. Sign up for an email service, and send an email
    newsletter and/or promotional offers to customers and prospects for your
    business. Be sure you ask for permission to send email before putting
    any person’s email name on your list. One good way to build a
    permission-based email list of people who want your mailings is to give
    something away. It could be a free ebook, or even a free tip-sheet on
    how to do something related to your business.   If you’re a health
    coach, for instance, you might offer people who sign up for your free
    newsletter a tip sheet with “10 Easy Ways To Lose Weight Without Going
    on a Diet.”  An email service like Constant Contact* makes it easy to manage your list and send professional-looking mailings.
  7. Get your business cards into the hand of anyone who can help you in
    your search for new clients. Call your friends and relatives and tell
    them you have started a business. Visit them and leave a small stack of
    business cards to hand out to their friends.
  8. Talk to all the vendors from whom you buy products or services.
    Give them your business card, and ask if they can use your products or
    service, or if they know anyone who can. If they have bulletin boards
    where business cards are displayed (printers often do, and so do some
    supermarkets, hairdressers, etc.), ask if yours can be added to the
    board.
  9. Attend meetings of professional groups, and groups
    such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, or civic associations.
    Have business cards in a pocket where they are easily reachable. Don’t
    forget to ask what the people you speak with do, and to really listen to
    them. They’ll be flattered by your interest, and better remember you
    because of it.
  10. Pay for membership in those groups that attract your target customers.If
    the group has a website and publishes a list members on the site, make
    sure your name and website link get added. Once it is added double check
    to be sure your contact information is correct and your website link
    isn’t broken.
  11. Become actively involved in 2 or 3 of these groups. That
    will give you more opportunity to meet possible prospects. But
    remember: opportunists are quickly spotted for what they are, and get
    little business. While you won’t want to become involved in many
    organizations that require a lot of your time in, you can –and should–
    make real contributions to all of them by offering useful ideas and
    helping with projects when possible.
  12. Look for something unusual about what you do, and publicize it. Send
    out press releases to local newspapers, radio stations, cable TV
    stations, magazines whose audiences are likely to be interested in
    buying what you sell. Be sure to post the press releases on one or more
    online press release services, too, being sure to include links to your
    website. To increase your chance of having the material published, send
    along a photo (but not to radio stations) with your press release.
    Editors of printed publications are often in need of “art” (drawings or
    photos) to fill space and break up the gray look of a page of text.
  13. Write an article that demonstrates your expertise in your field. Send
    it to noncompeting newspapers, magazines, and websites in your field
    that accept submissions from experts. Be sure your name, business name,
    phone number, and a reference to your product or service is included at
    the end of the article. If the editor can use the article you get your
    name in print, and possibly get your contact information printed for
    free, too.
  14. Publicize your publicity. Whenever you do get
    publicity, get permission from the publisher to reprint the article
    containing the publicity. Make photocopies and mail the copies out with
    sales letters or any other literature you use to market your product or
    service. The publicity clips lend credibility to the claims you make for
    your products or services.
  15. Ask for work or leads. Contact nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges, and even other businesses that have customers who may need your services.
  16. Network with others who are doing the same type of work you are. Let
    them know you are available to handle their work overloads. (But don’t
    try to steal their customers. Word will get out, and will ruin your
    business reputation.)
  17. Offer to be a speaker. Industry conferences,
    volunteer organizations, libraries, and local business groups often need
    speakers for meetings. You’ll benefit from the name recognition,
    contacts and publicity you gain from being a speaker at these events.
  18. If your product or service is appropriate, give demonstrations of it to whatever groups or individuals might be interested. Or, teach others how to use some tool you use in your work.
  19. Put videos of your product or service on YouTube and other video-sharing and slide-sharing sites.
  20. Find out what federal, state, and local government programs are in existence to help you get started in business. Most offer free business counseling, and some can put you in touch with government agencies and large corporations that buy from small and woman-owned businesses
  21. If you are a woman-owned or minority-owned business look into getting certified by private, state or federal organizations.
    Many purchasing agents have quotas or guide for the amount of goods and
    services they need to buy from minority- and woman-owned businesses.
  22. Send out sales letters to everyone you think might be able to use what you sell. Be
    sure to describe your business in terms of how it can help the
    prospect. Learn to drop a business card in every letter you send out.
    Follow up periodically with postcard mailings.
  23. If you use a car or truck in your business have your
    business name and contact information professionally painted on the side
    of the vehicle.
    That way your means of transportation becomes a
    vehicle for advertising your business. If you don’t want the business
    name painted on the vehicle, consider using magnetic signs.
  24. Get on the telephone and make “cold calls.” These
    are calls to people who you would like to do business with. Briefly
    describe what you do and ask for an appointment to talk to them about
    ways you can help them meet a need or solve a problem.
  25. Get samples of your product or your work into as many hands as possible.
  26. Offer a free, no obligation consultation to people
    you think could use your services. During such consultations offer some
    practical suggestions or ideas–and before you leave ask for an “order”
    to implement the ideas.
  27. Learn to ask for referrals. Ask existing customers, prospects and casual acquaintances. When you get them, follow up on the leads.
  28. Use other people to sell your product or service. Instead
    of (or in addition to) selling your products yourself, look for
    affiliates, resellers or people who will generate leads for you in
    return for a commission on sales. Be sure your pricing structure allows
    for the fees or commissions you will have to pay on any sales that are
    made.
  29. Get together with businesses who serve the same market, but sell different products and services. Make arrangements to pass leads back and forth, or share mailings.
  30. Have sales letters, flyers and other pertinent information printed and ready to go. Ask
    prospects who seem reluctant to buy from you: “Would you like me to
    send information?” Follow up promptly with a note and a letter that
    says, “Here is the information you asked me to send
  31. Run a contest. Make the prize something desirable
    and related to your business — it could be a free gift basket of your
    products, for instance, or free services.
  32. Test buying Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on the search engines. If
    you are not yet advertising on search engines search for offers that
    give you $50 or $75 in free advertising to start. Read the directions
    for the service you plan to use, and very carefully watch what you spend
    on a daily or more frequent basis until you are comfortable using PPC
    ads and see you are getting a return on your investment.
Find dozens of additional small business marketing ideas in our marketing channel.

© 2015 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved

*Business Know-How is a Solution Provider and Authorized Local Expert for Constant Contact

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JanetAttard

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