Budgets are tight, the hours are long, and you must wear many different hats. One area that can often be overlooked in the day-to-day of operating a business is the implementation of an effective marketing plan. It takes time and research to put a tailor-made plan in place that reaches your target customer.

Budgets are tight, the hours are long, and you must wear many different hats. One area that can often be overlooked in the day-to-day of operating a business is the implementation of an effective marketing plan. It takes time and research to put a tailor-made plan in place that reaches your target customer.

There are many approaches to developing a good marketing plan. Cost is often a factor when creating a plan. Plans that rely heavily on traditional marketing efforts can quickly eat into the budget.

However, being a small business with a limited budget doesn't preclude you from spreading the word. There are many "organic" ways to become known in your community of choice, it just takes a bit more elbow grease. You can:
Get involved: Giving time or product donations to worthy community causes and gatherings that make sense for your business can be a great way to get your name out and build goodwill. Network: Go and meet people at local business networking events. You'll make new friends, gain access to resources and ideas, learn what's working for others and tap into opportunities for cross-promotions and referrals. Great places to start include the Upper Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Columbus Business First Events and even joining MeetUp.com to find groups of people with similar interests meeting locally to learn about each other's businesses. Showcase your business: Be on the lookout for unique ways to get your name out. Sell tickets for a local event or be a distribution point for an upcoming charity activity. And don't forget to participate in the chamber's annual Taste of UA event each August. Co-op marketing and cross promotions: Join with complementary businesses in your district on co-op efforts such as shared ads, seasonal sales promotions and events. Build and use your customer database: Send your existing customers reasons to come back, be it a frequent buyer program, advance notice on an upcoming sale, or news of new products that might be of interest. Find ways to have them become your sales team, spreading the word to friends and neighbors. Get social: There are many free or cost-effective online options are available for reaching out to potential customers, but it takes a little savvy to be effective with them. Here are a few ways to get started in the right direction:

Build a Facebook Fan Page to engage your target audience.

Start a Group on LinkedIn to promote your expertise, find new customers and build your brand online.

Start Tweeting: It only takes minutes a day to get the word out to hundreds (thousands) of potential customers about your latest offerings!

Website: Make sure you have a website that compliments your business and drives traffic in your door. With most people now searching online for local products and services before ever leaving their homes, having a well-built and optimized website has never been more important for the small business owner.
Track results: Keep up on what's working for you. Code ads, coupons and online specials, ask your customers how they found out about you. Hold yourself accountable: set yourself daily or weekly goals for reaching new customers and how you are going to do it. Follow up on those goals. Experiment: don't be afraid to try new things, and if something isn't working, stop doing it and put your energies elsewhere. And finally... use the Chamber. That's what we're here for. Have questions about how to get started with any of the above strategies? Don't hesitate to reach out to us and we'll be happy to help point you in the right direction staring with "Ask the Expert" event on June 9 on creating a marketing plan that works for you.