One of the hardest parts about building a business is building brand awareness. No one can take advantage of your product or service if they do not know about it, thus making advertising a priority.
Doing it as cheaply as possible should be another priority and that means being as sneaky as possible; more direct campaigns such as print, television, and radio can be expensive while a more indirect campaign can actually be done for free if it is done right. That just means that a business should not only be advertising through traditional media but also take advantage of other options as well for the most cost-effective method possible.
Social Media Is Your Friend
It should go without saying that social media should be your highest priority. Social media accounts are free and should only take an hour or so a day in order to properly maintain. The biggest problems will be deciding which site you should go with and deciding how to best take advantage of that site.
If you are mostly video then Youtube is your friend, while Twitter is good if you can manage graphics and short messages. Tumblr and Instagram work if you work mostly in graphics or short videos. Facebook works if you are building a community.
The thing to keep in mind is that you need to engage your community. While you can merely post your advertisement that will not garner as much attention if you have somehow engaged your community. Consider if you are a restaurant running a hamburger special: If you just place the ad on your social media you will get the word out to your most ardent followers but not much further. On the other hand, if you talk up the hamburger and people are talking about it then they are more likely to spread the word of the special, and you are more likely to have people coming in just to try it. Find ways to engage your followers and your campaigns will be more successful.
Print Can Help
Not all print advertising costs money. People pay attention to review columns; if you can manage to get your business reviewed by the local paper then that can create interest in your service or product. Some papers run columns on local businesses that are always looking for stories or short news flashes; these are perfect for getting out news about anniversaries, moving sales, or even new products or services if they are novel enough.
Other papers interview business owners, especially those that have done something interesting in their business such as won some sort of major award or have become major news. Make sure that you clip the article when it happens and either frame it or scan it in for your website and it can help draw in customers well after the fact.
You can also run a postcard campaign such as offered by a business such as postcardmania. While this is a little more direct than the other ideas presented here, it can persist well beyond the campaign. For example, it can be placed on a refrigerator door in hopes of using it, but if the person misses the opportunity to use it the postcard may remain up.
Later on, when the recipient is looking for that sort of business they are likely to see the postcard and be reminded of the business. This is arguably how dry cleaners get most of their business; they send out postcards offering a shirt cleaning special but they are rarely used in time. The card remains, however, and so when it comes time to have a shirt cleaned they have a dry cleaner where they can see it.
Time To Work Events
Every town and city has certain events where businesses put up a tent. The most obvious of these are farmers’ markets, but there are other events. These work for businesses on two levels: The first, and most obvious, is that potential customers see the business in surroundings that they may not have been expecting to see it in, and so take advantage of it.
The second, however, is that the stand acts as an advertisement for the brick and mortar shop; as the person is now aware of the business, even if they do not purchase anything then they may search out the business later on.
Last, but not least, is to work in conjunction with other businesses. This means that you can offer to sponsor a small stand of some sort with business cards or freebies that lead to other business and they can do the same for you. You can also put up a notice on the local community board; these are great for those businesses that like local business. All of these can work for the right business; it is just a matter of finding which works for you and exploiting it for your personal profit.