How do you let the whole world know all about the amazing business you’ve just started? The answer is? You don’t. The whole wide world doesn’t need to know about your business. Just the people toward whom your business is marketed. If you’ve never heard this before and you’re just starting your own business, I assure you that you’ll hear it a million more times. The number one rule in marketing is to know your target audience.

If you’re pitching your business to people it isn’t meant for, you’re going to strike out. Hmm, maybe that’s not the best analogy since strikeouts are a pitcher’s ultimate goal. Well, you get the point. You need to know exactly who your market is and where they hang out. Once you’ve got those things down, you can focus on how to get their attention.

This knowledge alone will save you unnecessary spending of your valuable marketing dollars. And let’s face it, every dollar counts. Starting a small business is no small venture, with all sorts of start-up costs, business filings, licensing and permit fees coming your way. When you’re making your business checklist of anticipated expenditures, don’t forget to add Marketing costs.

There are, of course, areas where you should spare no expense. Using quality materials, paper and products for your business cards, brochures, press kits and other print materials says a lot about you. Which business card would you pull out of the file for services, the one in black and while on cardstock or the professionally designed card, printed on heavy, glossy paper with 3-color ink?

Make sure your message is clear. Clients should be able to tell exactly what your service offers, how it will benefit them and why they should choose you. If you need to hire a good copywriter to get that message across, it’s worth the investment.

Now, the good news. Although marketing is on the expense list, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some low-budget marketing ideas that can produce high volume results. Some are obvious, others are outside the box. Use what works for you.

  1. Establish a website – There are plenty of web hosts with easy to operate software that can help you set up your own site. If you’re not comfortable with that, it’s worth the investment in a web designer. Try to create a memorable URL.
  2. Social media – If you aren’t Linked-In, tweeting, on Facebook and YouTube, sign up for every one of them today. There are a lot of features on these sites that can really propel small business exposure. For example, on Facebook, you’re better off having a Business Fan Page than a regular Business Account. Hire a social media instructor if you want to learn the ropes of social media fast.
  3. Put a face to your name – Post a photo of yourself on your site, print it on your business cards and other literature.
  4. Make your company visible – Put your company name/logo on your vehicle or on your license plate.
  5. Brag Post –  testimonials on your website and print them in your literature. Previous satisfied clients are your best advertising.
  6. Focus on clients – Successful companies know that repeat customers account for a significant percentage of business. The CEO of Zappos.com, which has 11 million customers, estimates that 75% of their orders are repeat customers; so they take most of the money they would have spent on marketing and put it into the customer experience. You can do this by keeping previous customers updated on promotions, updates, new offerings, etc.
  7. Joint ventures – Partner with other businesses to cross-promote offerings or share contact lists. Distribute materials, such as brochures and coupons, through these other businesses. You’ll pay a percentage of the sales you make through them, but you’ll increase your exposure and build your contact list as well.
  8. Cause marketing – Contribute to a charitable cause, if possible, one that is somehow tied to what your business offers. This can not only give your business tremendous exposure, but by giving back to the community, buyers feel good about doing business with you. Disney is doing a form of cause marketing right now, offering free days at their park to those who do charitable work at participating organizations.
  9. Keep people informed – Publish and distribute a newsletter to your existing contacts.
  10. Know your audience – Know which social media your target audience uses. For example, young teens don’t email, they IM on FB or MySpace, or text on mobile media.
  11. Direct mail – If you’re sending an offer via snail mail, concentrate on the outside of the package as much as on what you’re enclosing. Make your envelope or package stand out by using colors, shapes or intriguing printed messages.
  12. Join the club – Join your local Chamber of Commerce or other organizations.
  13. Be diverse Reach non-English speaking audiences by having your ads translated and published in relevant publications.
  14. Share your story – Tell your story in your marketing materials if it’s relevant to how you came to start your business. People are more inclined to do business with someone with whom they feel a personal connection.
  15. 1Use resources – Buy a marketing book or attend a seminar.