1. Offer Services at Cost – And Do a Great Job
I know you did not get into business so you could do work at cost – that's not what I'm saying. The point is to get the word out in the marketplace that there's somebody out there doing great work – doing it at cost is just to more people through the door, so there are more people out there that could potentially refer work to you. You can think of that initial lost margin as advertising expense. Word of mouth is probably the highest quality advertising there is, as the leads generated were not "sold" on you but were recommended to you by their family or friends.
2. Set Up Beneficial Partnerships & Alliances With Related Companies
This tip is based on the assumption that you have connections with people in your industry and parallel industries, so if that is not the case, get out there and mingle. It can be hugely beneficial to have a formal or informal arrangement with another company that compliments rather than competes with you – so you'd either be looking for companies that do the same thing you do – but services another location – or a company that offers a related but non-competitive service. You could either set up a system wherey you pay a spotters fee for each lead, or you both pass leads on to each other without a monetary attachment. In either case, the leads are easy to convert, as you come off looking like a recommendation.
3. A Website + Pay Per Click Marketing
Getting a website created can greatly vary in cost, anywhere from $ 100 for a cheap and nasty job to $ 100 000+ for a top of the line e-commerce website with built in SEO and social media integration. A services based website probably does not need to spend more than $ 2500. The second part of this equation – Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) is an advertising system where you target people typing keywords in Google and other search engines. Your ad will display on the right hand side of Google, and sometimes above the main search results. Every time somebody clicks on your ad, a cost is accrued – this can theoretically cost anywhere from 1c to $ 100, but most of the time you'll probably be paying .50 to a few dollars a click. The great thing about PPC is that you can create a campaign in a couple of hours and be up and running immediately, and if it's going great guns and you're fully booked out, you can put it on pause. Tracking your results and your ad spend is also really easy with Google's system, called AdWords (Google is the main player in the PPC market). The ROI is often fantastic and there is no minimum spend requirement.
4. Yellow Pages Online
You'll hear it said over and over again, "The Yellow Pages is a dying advertising medium, it's only use is to fix wonky tables, and it costs thousands a year for a tiny little ad!". That may be true, but the Yellow Pages online still has some legs – it's a little cheaper and it leads to real leads. In any case, you can track exactly what enquiries Yellow sent you with your website's statistics, so if it's not performing then just do not renew.