NAWBO Insider - winter 2009
Dirt Cheap and Easy Ways to Grow Your Small Business
By Erika Flora
The world’s becoming more and more technology-based, and many small business owners are not taking advantage of some very low-cost ways to get themselves and their businesses in front of potential customers. There are a few ways that (with very little time, money, and effort) can connect you and build your business.
Get some cool domain names
If you don’t have domain names for yourself and your company, you’re missing out on potential customers. There are lots of low-cost domain name providers, and you can purchase a domain name for less than $10 a year. For example, I purchased erikaflora.com and creativeenterprisesolutions.com. It’s important to secure domain names for both your own name and your company, even if you currently don’t have plans to build websites around them — or someone else can snatch up your own name. One benefit of branding both is that you can have a professional site as well as one that might be educational, to help potential customers connect with and trust you. Ultimately, people do business with those they know and trust. Plus, email@example.com is much easier to remember than firstname.lastname@example.org, don’t you think?
Create a basic website
Once you have the domain name, there are a ton of products that can help you build a site. If you are somewhat tech savvy, a low-cost option is to buy a do-it-yourself website building tool. Godaddy.com has a product called "Website Tonight" that costs about $5 a month and allows you to build a basic 3-page site. You can pick the template and colors, upload pictures, and copy text into each page. It only takes a few hours to get a site like this up. If you aren’t so tech savvy, I recommend connecting with a few web designers who can either create a custom site (more expensive, but ultimately the better looking, long-term solution) or a site from a template (not as nice looking, but much more cost-effective and a good first step).
Use the Internet to expand your network
A colleague turned me on to LinkedIn.com, and I have become a huge fan. It’s a free site that you can use to keep in contact with anyone — people you meet at networking events, former colleagues, co-workers, etc. As a rule, I connect with people on LinkedIn after I get their business cards. You can even find potential employees there. I recently had a friend find a great new job because an employer saw his experience and who he was connected to and reached out to him. It’s a great way to build a sense of community with those you know and get introduced to their contacts.
If you follow these tips to expand your network and create a web presence, the cost is minimal. Further, the return on investment is so great that there is absolutely no excuse for any small business owner to not immediately do all three. What are you waiting for?
Erika Flora, MS, PMP is the co-owner of Creative Enterprise Solutions, a management consulting company in La Jolla specializing in the areas of IT/project management training and consulting. She’s also passionate about helping other small business owners grow and develop and is always excited to share her experience and knowledge.