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10 steps to promote your business

1) Word of mouth is the most cost-effective, powerful form of promotion. Write a list of 50 people you know but don't see regularly ? relatives, friends, ex-colleagues etc. Send each of them a friendly email or postcard to let them know what you're up to. Ask them for feedback, advice or contacts of anyone who might be interested in hearing about your business. Don't be shy! People love to help. For practical tips on promoting your small business visit Guerrilla Marketing

2) Networking may seem intimidating but there are ways to make it less scary. Don't feel you have to sell, sell, sell - the number one rule of networking is to listen. It's about building relationships - go to a networking event looking for opportunities to help others. Ask questions, gather information, offer contacts and advice ? people will remember you for it. Networking PLUS is Business Link's popular monthly speed-networking event ? for details visit the events section on the Business Link website.

3) Business cards need to stand out from the crowd. Get a new batch printed on unusual material ? textured card, plastic, wood ? or make it an unusual shape. Offer a business tip or special offer on the back. Include your photo on the card ? this makes it more personal, easier to remember you and harder to throw away! For excellent free tips on killer business cards see Card Sharks on the Lean Marketing website.

4) The internet is an amazing market place to promote your business ? but it's easy to feel lost or insignificant. Join specialist forums and exchange links with complimentary websites. To reach a targeted audience, join Affinity Trading Network ? an active online network for small businesses. You get a full web profile about you and your business, and access to the Trading Boards, providing an effective way to increase your online exposure.

5) Newsletters are a great way to build up a following, sign up potential customers and provide people with a regular reminder about your services. Write a simple one page resource of news, advice and latest offers each month. Run a competition or poll. Promote your customers or suppliers. Use it to build your reputation as a useful hub of up-to-date information. Encourage feedback, keep it enjoyable and personal. To help you build a mailing list, create a newsletter and measure results, look at Mailing Manager

6) Testimonials support your credibility. It's good practice to ask clients for regular feedback either verbally or in a quick customer satisfaction survey. When you have a happy customer ? ask whether you could get a quote from them. Be clear as to how you will use the testimonial ? on your website, in your newsletter or letterhead etc. Make sure you accredit the quote explicitly with the name of the client ? anonymous testimonials don't hold much punch. After all, testimonials can also give your clients good publicity.

7) Cold calling can send shivers down your spine! However, it is a highly targeted way to promote your business. Don't expect to close a deal over the phone ? again this is about finding out information as much as selling. Use phone calls as the first step to getting to know your prospective clients better. Don't make a full pitch but arrange an appointment or ask permission to send on further materials about your business. And remember to speak s-l-o-w-l-y! For a Cold Calling Crash course to get you over your fears and anxieties, take a look at Do Your Own PR.

8) Referrals are a valuable and inexpensive way to find new clients. It's not about being pushy, it's about building long term business relationships based on trust. Start by asking each of your clients or suppliers for three contacts of other people who might like to find out more about your business. You could offer to reciprocate and provide three useful contacts in return. Make it a regular habit to give referrals as well as ask for them. For an effective referral marketing system, visit 1quickreferral

9) Press releases must be targeted. There is little point sending round a generic press release to hundreds of newspapers. Start by focusing on five publications ideal for your target market. Read back editions thoroughly ? understand what kind of stories they like to publish and the style of language they use. Find a relevant news hook and tailor your press release specifically for each publication. The first paragraph is key and must provide the who, what, where, when and why of your story. For excellent tips on writing press releases visit Bizhelp24 .

10) Patience and persistence are the most important tools to promote your small businesses! If you try each of the strategies above and build them into a regular marketing plan, you will certainly boost your profile, without a doubt!

Article written by Jo Hill, For further resources and tips on marketing visit Affinity Trading Network.

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