As a sole proprietor, I understand when business owners feel like they can’t afford certain marketing activities. Funds are precious and limited. So, how do you grow your business? Is there a way to stretch those marketing dollars and get the most effective use of your hard-earned cash?

The answer is to be creative. And, when I say creative, I mean C-R-E-A-T-I-V-E. You have to think of ways to spread positive word-of-mouth about your business without eliminating all of the cash you have on-hand. Also, don’t be afraid to copy or modify those marketing techniques that you have seen; most marketing ideas can be modified to fit almost any budget. Below you will find several activities that I have done; fortunately, they have been well-received and continue to make an impact.

First idea: Print cards that contain your logo. I tend to call these “thank you” cards, but they can be used for so many different reasons. The cards that I have simply have my logo on the front and my contact information on the back; the inside of the card is completely blank. This gives me the freedom to use the cards as ‘thank you’ cards, ‘it was nice to meet you’ cards, or ‘I hope to see you soon,’ cards.

Second idea: Do the unexpected. I send Thanksgiving cards to all of my clients. How many of you receive Thanksgiving cards? My guess: not that many. And, that’s the point. Sending Thanksgiving cards allows my information to stand out among various vendors. Everyone sends Christmas or holiday cards; why not beat the rush and get your information there a month earlier? And, my Thanksgiving cards are simply my own printed cards with foam Thanksgiving stickers attached. This is a cost-effective marketing idea that works!

Third idea: Spend money on promotional ideas that actually get use. When I attended a local event this summer, it was hot outside. While pens and sticky notes are usually taken as free items, this year I handed out can coolers. In the hot July weather, these were a major hit. And, almost everyone drinking any drink during that event had a purple can cooler that said “Feather Communications.”

Finally, consider talking to others about what they have done in the past and what has worked for them. My cousin and her husband recently started Computer Restore, a computer repair and sales store in Eau Claire. When I worked with them to help develop marketing ideas and told them of the Thanksgiving cards and various events she could attend to promote the business, she was amazed at the amount of opportunity in the community. Find the opportunities in your own community and think of creative ways to spread your message. Small business owners need to realize that marketing does not have to cost a fortune to make an impact.