5 Ways to Improve Your Business on a Micro-budget

Guest post by Mike McClure, Partner, Executive Creative Director & Social Media Director for The Yaffe Group

LinkedIn photoIf you’re an entrepreneur or smaller business looking to get more business on a small to miniscule budget, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that with all the free and low cost tools available in the digital and social media world, you can be quite effective without spending a lot of money. The bad news? To make it work, you do need to invest a lot of time sprinkled with inspiration and innovation. Having a personality helps, too.

More good news: many individuals and companies are finding a lot of productive leads and connections through these channels. More bad news: it’s not a quick fix. It’s something you need to commit to and keep at. That doesn’t mean it will take you a year or two to see any results. But, it does mean you can’t just post a brilliant blog or open a Twitter account and expect the new business to start flooding through your doors.

Here’s 5 ways you can start improving your business without seriously hurting your bottom line:

1. Connect, connect, connect.

Use all the social networking tools available to you. Social networking is a great way to connect with people who may need your product or services. Just make sure you don’t start by broadcasting how great you are or trying to sell something. It’s like a cocktail party. Start with small talk; find out where you have common interests and where you can help them with their needs. It’s a good way to get to know someone you’ve never met before. Once they like and know you, they’ll be much more likely to want to do business with you.

I would suggest starting with LinkedIn if you haven’t gotten into any network. It’s the most business oriented site. Here’s a good post on how one business owner used LinkedIn to get a board of directors seat (http://bit.ly/21gfNB). From there, it’s a matter of preference and what type of business you’re in. You may want to start a Facebook fan page or personal page next. Or you may find the immediacy of Twitter is more to your liking. Here’s a good post by Lara Galloway on how she uses Twitter as one of her main new business tools (http://bit.ly/1wTAFo).

2. Answer Questions on LinkedIn

One the best features on LinkedIn is the Q&A section. Why? It gives you a chance to meet people out of your network, help them with a problem they have and display your expertise. Just go to the sections where questions are being asked on subjects that fit your business offerings and your area of expertise.

Here’s just one example of how that’s worked for me. I saw a question from a guy writing a book on social media. He was looking for examples of social media success stories. I told him about a campaign we’d done for one of our clients that had worked well. He liked it, we linked together and over the next 6 months had several conversations through LinkedIn messaging. This fall he was looking for judges for a big Blog Off competition his company was having. I volunteered and became part of an international “Dream Team” panel (http://bit.ly/6xs3XH) Besides the publicity of the contest itself, I will be listed in an upcoming book as one of the world’s top social media people, will be talked about on a Blog Talk Radio show that reaches millions and in video shows by one of Europe’s top providers of online content.  Not bad for a small business owner in Detroit.

3. Use Blog Talk Radio

This is a free, easy way to create podcasts for your own enterprise. There are two ways you can use Blog Talk Radio to help your business. One is to sign up at blogtalkradio.com and host your own show. This way you can have your own radio talk show.  You can invite guests who will speak on subject matters relevant to your audience or you can invite guests who represent companies you want to do business with. Or you can sometimes just speak on subjects you’re knowledgeable about and make those podcasts available to your potential clients. For an example of doing your own show, you can look at the Mom Biz Coach show. (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/mombizcoach)

The second, and easier, way to use Blog Talk Radio is to volunteer your expertise to someone who has a show. Our head of Yaffe Direct, Michael Morin, went on the Chuck Talks Business show and had an hour long interview. It went well and, with Chuck’s permission, we downloaded the podcast and posted it on our Yaffe Tidbits site (http://www.yaffetidbits.com/podcasts/radio/morin_marketing.html). We then edited a 2-minute teaser of some of the best parts of the interview. We emailed the two minute version to a list of prospects along with a link to the full podcast. Within a few weeks we got several inquiries from potential clients who we never would have gotten to talk to otherwise.

4. Buy a Flip Camcorder

You can get a really nice Flip Camcorder for around $125; I’d also pop for the small tripod that’s about $20-25. The Flip is an extremely easy way to shoot, edit and post videos to your site, blog, Facebook fan page, YouTube channel or wherever you can add video to your online presence. Video is a way to really put a face on your business. You can simply set it up on the tripod, point it at yourself and record a video blog. You can also record and post client testimonials. (http://bit.ly/8UXVZ8)  It’s also small and portable that you can carry it with you when you go to a conference, meeting, seminar, tweetup or wherever. At these events you can ask people’s opinions on whatever issues you’d like to cover for your clients/potential clients. It takes nothing to plug the Flip into your computer and use the included edit system to string together the comments you like and post that video to one of your sites. All this adds to both your content and your credibility.

5. Blog about potential clients

If you have a blog for your business (if you don’t, start one now), you can meet potential clients simply by asking them if you can interview them for an upcoming blog post. It’s a great way to meet and get to know someone in a non-sales environment (important note: don’t try and sell yourself or company during the interview). Who doesn’t like the idea of someone wanting to interview them for their expert opinion? More often than not, you’ll be able to find someone willing to talk about their business for the free publicity for both their company and themselves.

Even if you don’t get an interview, do research on the company and write a blog post about what they’re doing right as a company. Here’s an example of a post I wrote about Biggby Coffee. (http://bit.ly/6Hferc) After creating it, send the post to them. Even if it doesn’t peak their interest in you, they may link the post to their own site or blog. We still get traffic to our blog from companies that have linked to a post about them from many months ago.

There you have it. Five ideas that should get your business some attention without spending an arm and a leg. I’d say good luck, but it really is just a matter of good hard work.

To learn more about Mike McClure, The Yaffe Group and the great marketing work he does for his clients, visit his site and be sure to follow him on Twitter!

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