Building your business on a budget

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest Survey of Business Owners (SBO), the number of women-owned businesses is on the rise.

The SBO revealed that women own nearly 8 million businesses or about 29 percent of the total. In addition, firms owned by women employ 7.6 million people and generate $1.2 trillion in receipts.

However, a difficult economy has made staying in business while maintaining a work-life balance challenging for many female entrepreneurs. In fact, a recent study released by Bank of America revealed that women business owners do not give themselves as much free time as men (62 percent compared to 53 percent.).

Additionally, the Small Business Owner Report revealed that nearly half of all entrepreneurs say increasing the marketing of their business in order to acquire new customers is the most important action they can take to generate revenue. Increasing the customer base was rated more important than increasing sales to existing customers, better cash flow management and acquiring additional capital.

But attracting new customers without increasing your marketing budget can be a difficult undertaking for some entrepreneurs. Founder and CEO of Women for Hire, Tory Johnson, recently shared some budget-friendly methods to increase exposure to your small business via an article on The Huffington Post.

Johnson suggests researching and soliciting media coverage via local newspapers, magazines and/or radio and television stations.

"Study what they cover and connect with the reporters, writers and producers who'd have the greatest interest in your story - maybe it's a trend you're part of, or an anniversary, or something seasonal," Johnson wrote on The Huffington Post. "Be sure the story you are looking to tell not self-serving -all pitches must truly benefit the audience more than you."

Bloggers that target your potential customers are also great resources to expanding your customer base.

Johnson also suggests joining forces with others who are targeting the same customers. Consider cross-promotions, joint ventures, special projects and other mutually beneficial ways to appeal to these people.

"Think of the companies or organizations that share the same target market with you - and reach out to them for opportunities to promote each other using email and social media," she wrote.

Women-owned business owners can also increase their customer base by sharing some of their knowledge with potential customers via large-scale conference calls (she calls them "teleclasses") or other speaking engagements. Figure out what type of expertise you can share with your potential clients and then promote the events on social media and elsewhere to recruit attendees. You may be surprised at how this type of self-marketing can increase your bottom line!


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