Ah, the bane of every acupuncturist's existence...marketing! For most of us, it goes against everything in our nature. We are here to nurture and heal, not to commercialize. However, it's a necessary evil. All small business owners need to face the fact that you or your product can be amazing, but if no one can actually find you, it doesn't matter. I had to discover the world of marketing on my own, since I had no business background when I started. The problem is that advertising can be insanely expensive. And, of course, when you are starting out, money isn't something that you have unlimited access to. So, I decided to do as much free marketing as possible before shelling out any cash. And you know what? I managed to create a decent online presence without paying anything at all. So, for all of you small biz owners out there, here are a few ways to start getting your business out there, at no cost:
- Take advantage of all the social media sites that you can. Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In are three major ones...and there is no excuse not to set up accounts on these sites, because they are both free and incredibly easy. If you don't already have profiles up on these sites, get it done ASAP.
- There are a TON of local online papers where you can create free listings for your business. Granted, you will not get a full page color ad without spending money, but you will at least be visible. Just google your town (and perhaps the surrounding towns), find all of the corresponding publications, and look for places to list your business.
- Post your business cards everywhere that you can. Coffee shops, gyms, restaurants...anyplace that has a billboard in your area should have one of your business cards attached to it.
- Create a Yelp account. It's free, and this is how people look for businesses these days. You can also create online coupons through Yelp, which will make you stand out a bit on the site, and may get you a few extra clients (I have had several patients contact me after reading my reviews and finding my coupon on Yelp.)
- When you start a small business, you will have people calling you constantly, telling you that you need to pay $XXX a month to be visible in online search engines. This is only partly true. You can list your business on almost any site for free; paying for it just means that your business will be listed in a slightly better location. Start by listing your business on Google Local, Bing, Foursquare, Mapquest, and Yellowpages-these are all free, and simply being listed will raise your search engine rankings, making you easier to find.