Though most of the conversation around advertising focuses on major corporations, its efficacy is equally important to small business owners. What’s just a drop in the bucket for large corporations could be a significant investment for the average small business owner. Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, has studied over 1500 small businesses, including his own, to try to figure out how small businesses can spread their messages in the most cost-efficient ways.
In an experiment with his own business selling travel guides, Guillebeau spent $10,000 on ads and sponsorships. He compared the results of this to the results from spending just ten hours doing what he defines as “hustling.” Hustling includes all free promotional activities, such as talking to journalists or writing guest posts on other sites.
He found that hustling for ten hours allowed him to acquire 84 new customers worth $7,560 collars. The $10,000 spent on advertising didn’t recoup its cost, resulting in only 78 new customers worth $7,020 dollars.
Of course, Guillebeau acknowledges that it’s hard to state the results of his single experiment as fact. The size of your business, nature of your business, and your existing networks could radically change the results. And if your small business has a staff of one (you), it might be hard to dedicate even ten hours to promotion. Hustling doesn’t cost money but it does cost time.
In order to make sure you’re taking advantage of your own networks, regardless of your advertising budget, Guillebeau suggests a “One-Page Promotional Plan:”
- Every day you need to check your social media. Post at least one item and respond to any customers that need help.
- Once a week ask for help from colleagues or launch a joint promotion with them. Make sure you are communicating with prospective clients.
- Once a month make sure your existing customers are happy.
- Every now and then make sure your projects are directed at your goals. Evaluate any potential opportunities you are missing.
This plan is a loose guide to not get overwhelmed. If your customers seem to respond better to more frequent communication, make the effort to do so. Engaging with your customers is the best way to understand how to attract new ones. Business is half creating and half connecting.
Featured Image: Flickr/Lord Jim