Utilizing Your Marketing Budget

Finding ways to market your business (whether it's a small storefront in town or an online shop and you're just starting out) can be draining to both your energy and your pocketbook. Word of mouth is great, sometimes a game-changer, but there's more to it than that.

Here are a few ideas to jump-start the marketing side of your brain:

* Carry your business cards with you - EVERYWHERE! You never know who you're going to talk to, and they might even pass some on to people they know.

* Pay attention to stores and restaurants that have bulletin boards out front. Carry a few push pins with you (since it's probably a busy place) and tack up a card or two. Check back often to see if it's still there and readable.

* Use, wear and display your product. If you knit scarves, wear them. If you make scrapbooks, give a few as gifts. If you design jewelry, show off a piece with every outfit. Then when people strike up a conversation about that scarf, scrapbook and necklace, you'll have business cards handy to give them directions.

* Utilize the wide range of social media options. Nothing is cheaper than free, and all it takes is a little time to decide what to post. A blog, Twitter and Facebook are great places to start, and you can always look in to others like Instagram and Pinterest.

* Start an email list. When a customer makes a purchase, ask if they would like to be added to an emailing list. Then only send out important, shop-themed information like sales, coupons and release of new lines. NO jokes or funny dog pictures.

* Spend a little time on blogs and websites (like this one). Read what other creative businesspeople are doing and see if that might work for you. You don't have to come up with tons of trail-blazing ideas on your own - read about what works and what doesn't work from an experienced seller.

* Remember that it's all about customer service. People will come to your shop if you invite them. They will buy if they like what they see. And they will come back and become repeat customers if you show them that they're important and appreciated.

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