Once upon a time, a marketing campaign took bucks, big bucks. Now, with the tools and access provided by the Internet, any small business can dive into marketing without throwing money down the drain. And for flea market and swap meet vendors on a budget, low- or no-cost marketing is an easy choice.
Here are a range of tips from two marketing experts — Annie Mueller at American Express and Nicholas Jervis at BizCommunity.com — who recently posted some valuable ideas for small businesses who want to begin promoting themselves. Not all will work for every business, but some might fit yours.
Create A Corporate Image
Create a name and a logo for your business. There are several free logo generators online, such as CoolText.com and LogoMaker.com. You can also use your photo to represent yourself; make sure your head shot is on focus, free from clutter, and looks professional. It may be worthwhile to spend some money on a logo or photo. As Mueller says, “Find a friendly photographer or skilled friend and barter for something in exchange for a photo shoot. Or find a decent photo of yourself and edit it to look as professional as possible.”
Also write a short (250 words at the very most) description of your business. Make sure it is free of typos and grammar errors. Have a friend or two read it over, out loud. Proofread it 15 times. You can use this as an e-mail signature, text in ads, your social media profile info, and so on.
Collect Customer Names And E-Mail Addresses
The power of Internet marketing is the ability it gives a vendor to reach out to fans and customers. Put an e-mail sign-up sheet on a clipboard at your booth. Ask for e-mail addresses when customers make purchases. Hold a contest or drawing with entry forms that ask for an e-mail address.
Vendors can also encourage customers to get in touch via e-mail. Put your e-mail address on receipts, business cards, product labels or stickers, and so on. Save the e-mail addresses of customers who write to you.
Put Yourself Out There
FleaMarketZone has already offered advice for vendors who want to get on Facebook. There are other ways to push your message at little or no cost. Many flea market managers offer Web pages or listings to vendors as a free service on a vendor page on the market Web site, such as the Shipshewana Flea Market and College of the Desert Street Fair. There are also free and inexpensive ways to put up your own Web page or site.
Consider other free social media options besides Facebook. Add your business to LinkedIn. Post videos of your booth and products on YouTube. Tell customers where you will be selling on Twitter. All these ways to get your name out there are cheap as free.
You also might want to start a blog — free on Blogger. If you do, putting information about your business and products online is a great way to build awareness. Let media outlets, including FleaMarketZone, know that you are online. Reach out to local newspapers and TV stations.
Most of all, do not get discouraged, and just be yourself, as Mueller explains. “Simplicity and consistency are key. Keep your descriptions simple and true-to-life,” she writes. “Talk like a real person, not like a business textbook. Keep it consistent for an image that’s true to you, true to your business, and true to the professional reputation you want to create online.”