Since launching this blog, I’ve been inundated with people asking for marketing advice. The requests have come from entrepreneurs who do business online and offline. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to provide free in-depth to small business owners and I no longer take paid clients. I thought I’d provide a quick and dirty list of 14 common (and not-so-common) ways to generate prospects and customers.

.

If you’re interested in new marketing ideas – or perhaps ones you aren’t currently using – I suggest picking one thing from this list, do some research and then get to work on it. Once you have the system in place and it’s maximized for generating results, then you can revisit the list and pick something new to try out.

1. Start an Email Newsletter

Email marketing is very cost effective. Many services allow you to set up an account for free for up to a certain number of emails sent or a subscribers. I do not suggest handling delivery yourself or from your own web hosting account. Making sure your emails get delivered to in-boxes should be a priority.

Three quick tips here: 1. Get your current and past customers to opt in to your list. If you’ve been operating for a long time, you may want to get your list cleaned before mailing to improve deliverability. 2. Add a subscription form to your website and blog. 3. Integrate opt-in with any purchasing process on your website or in your business (if you do business offline).

2. Get Listed with Google Places

If you have an offline business, make sure you are listed with Google Places. It amazes me how many establishments I frequent who aren’t.  It’s a relatively easy process to do and it can help better connect you with people who are searching for you.

3. Participate in Online Forums

Although online forums get very little buzz these days due to social media, there are still tens of thousands of forums in different niches flourishing.  Depending on the type of business you are in, you’ll want to consider different forums. For example, a hair stylist may want to look at forums in his/her area that are generic in nature. To find forums in the area you are interested in, just go to Google and type in forum + whatever term.

4. Video Email Marketing

Want to improve the conversion rate of your email marketing efforts? Include a thumbnail to a video you’ve made and link to it.  One of my clients who sells women’s fashion online recently created a video featuring some of the top fashion highlights for the winter season. A whopping 45% of people who opened the email clicked through to watch the video!

5. Trade Guest Posts on Blogs

This can be a great way to get fresh content on your blog that would appeal to your visitors and bring new traffic to you.

6. Create a Contest

You don’t need to be a large company to reap the benefits of a contest. Social media and viral sharing can result in a massive influx of new business. For several years – before social media hit its stride – I owned a company that specialized in contest promotion. The results even without social media were phenomenal. Just make sure to do some research on laws pertaining to contests and sweepstakes before you put a promotion together.

7. Start an Affiliate Program

An affiliate program is a way to offer people compensation for sending you leads and/or actual business. They work best when you are selling products online, digital products or services that are fixed rate. Depending on your circumstances, there are software programs that you can purchase or you can outsource most of the management of it to companies like Commission Junction.

8. Offer a Referral Incentive

Affiliate programs don’t work well for every kind of business online and they don’t work for offline business. But you can still benefit by offering incentives for referrals. With one of my services, we offer a credit to the account of anyone who refers us a new client. It’s a 10% credit based on the initial invoice total of the referred person. We ask all new prospects/clients how they heard about us and the majority are able to remember. We then thank the person who referred the prospect/client.

9. Send Real Holiday Cards

We send out holiday greeting cards to most of our larger clients every year. It’s amazing how few companies do this now!  We also send them to prospects we feel there is still potential with. About 1 in 20 prospects will end up contacting us to close the deal after. It’s important to note that I am referring to mailing physical cards and not sending out e-cards!

10. Attend Local Business Mixers

With all the hype of online marketing, many people tend to overlook traditional in-person networking opportunities. Make an effort to attend just one of these a month and you’ll see leads start to flow in.

11. Offer a Free Teleseminar

A teleseminar is where people will call in to listen to a live call. Free teleseminars can be a great way to build up your email list and generate new business. It’s best to avoid making the teleseminar a sales pitch and instead focus on providing valuable information. Let’s say you are an accountant. You might want to offer a teleseminar offering tips on maximizing home office tax deductions. Don’t forget on your landing page once someone has signed up to give them the opportunity to share the call information on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+!

12. Offer a Free Webinar

Webinars can be used in the same fashion of teleseminars. Where they differ is that you can put specific information on attendees’ computers. This can come in the form of sharing your desktop, a PowerPoint presentation or even a live video.

13. Be a Guest on Radio Shows and Video Broadcasts

Investigate regular shows which reach your target audience and see what type of experts they are looking for along with the procedures for contacting them to be a guest.

14. Register At Expert Sites

There are many different sites such as ProfNet which connect experts with journalists, researchers, bloggers etc. Research and register at them. It will help generate PR for you and also possibly inbound links.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the ideas I have to share with you. I’ll be back with some additional ideas soon!