Make those moments count
If you're one of many in an area, a cheap way of differentiating yourself is making all points of customer contact meaningful. Think of everything from how your front door looks to what your voicemail sounds like, says Terri Langhans, author of "The 7 Marketing Mistakes Every Business Makes and How to Fix Them" (Blah Blah Blah Publishing). "If everyone has horizontal business cards, make yours vertical," Langhans says. "Little things can have a huge impact."
Build a network
Over the years, Jill Lublin, co-author of "Guerrilla Publicity: Hundreds of Sure-Fire Tactics to Get Maximum Sales for Minimum Dollars" (Adams Business), built up a network of 200 people she contacts regularly via email. She calls them her champions or advocates. So whenever she wants to get the word out about a new book, she fires off an email to this group. As a result, she's been able to spend less on marketing and promoting her books. "I spent a lot of money on my first book," she recalls. "By my third book, I spent a couple of thousand dollars max."
Another inexpensive, in some cases, free way to develop relationships with potential customers is to have a company blog. But don't let it be a rehash of your company press releases. The blog should provide readers with useful information, insight into the industry or a behind-the-scenes look at the company. "Also get people in different parts of the organization to blog," says Ryan Buchanan, CEO and founder of eROI, an Internet marketing firm. "The most clicked thing on our home page is one of our three blogs. It's dynamic every day and people get a more personal, human take on the company and industry."
Blogs can, in addition, drive traffic to your company Web site by being search engine optimize-able and linkable.
Turn employees into advocates
Also free is getting staff members to be gung-ho about the company and what it does. Web sites Facebook, Twitter and MySpace have changed the way people reach out to one another. By getting employees involved internally and with customers, "everyone wins," says Buchanan. "Internally, there is more knowledge sharing, personal connections and a positive employee culture. Externally, customer service improves, more sales are generated through word of mouth, and more customer evangelists mean more profitable, loyal customers."
Expertise is marketable
If you have nothing but your experience and career to market, don't be shy to toot your own horn to those other than your family or friends. Becoming the go-to-person a journalist can turn to for insight or a snappy quote about the industry is as guerrilla as you can get. Not only do you get instant credibility for your company, you get free publicity and marketing.
Publicity expert Rick Frishman started with his local Long Island newspaper. He called the editor of the Jericho Tribune to pitch himself and his new book. After sending her a press kit, she called him two days later for a story. The next day, he was front-page news. From that front-page story, he crafted another career, as author of 10 books, including "Guerrilla Publicity" (Adams Media). "Writing a book is probably the best marketing thing that a business person can do," he says. "It makes them the perceived and real expert. You wrote a book so people assume you know what you're talking about."