One of the most difficult aspects of operating a small business is attempting to decrease your customer acquisition costs to improve profits and in many cases high acquisition costs are what prevent the business from being profitable at all. Most small businesses do not keep track of acquisition statistics so they are unsure of how much it costs for them to acquire each new customer. Without knowing this statistic, it is impossible to truly measure the effectiveness of your advertising and marketing.
One of the ways to help reduce acquisition costs is to use free advertising resources to increase your customer base. With these resources the primary cost is time, which for advertising is a relatively low price. Here are a few resources that small businesses should be taking advantage of to grow their customer base as it will definitely give you a competitive edge over your competition:
Craigslist - Craigslist.com is an online classified website that is free to post listings. Craigslists is one of the top 10 visited websites in the United States and can drive a tremendous amount of traffic to your business. Craigslist has a services section where local businesses can list the products and services that they offer for potential customers. Craigslist is organized by local geographies, therefore you have the potential to drive very local customers to your business. Total time to post an ad on Craigslist is probably about five minutes and will be less once you get the hang of it.
Google Base - Google Base is a free online classified that benefits from the large amounts of traffic generated by Google.com. A simple listing on Google Base can help to drive traffic to your website and although Google claims that it does not make a difference, it is a good bet that the more activity you have on the web properties, the better you will rank in their primary search engine.
Press Releases - The days of needing to be a professional writer to submit a press release are long gone. Now anyone that has knowledge of a product or service should submit press releases to media outlets and can be done easily with free resources. A couple of the sites that I recommend are prleap.com and prfree.com, but there are many others. These services submit your articles to the Associated Press which in many cases will be a distribution of 40,000 subscribers. If only a fraction of the subscribers pick up your article, you benefit. It first establishes you as an authority on the subject matter, but it also generates links back to your website which will increase your search engine rankings. The benefits of these free services can be massive in reducing your customer acquisition costs.
Merchant Circle - Merchantcircle.com is an online business directory that is focused on offering small business websites to promote their business. The main benefit of their service in my opinion is that their pages rank highly in the search engines, therefore, increase the ranking of your website in your local geographic ares. To set up you page only takes about ten minutes.
These are just a few examples of free resources that your business should be using. Think out of the box and do a little research to find out other free resources that will benefit your business. With only one new customer, this form of advertising pays for itself.