The troubles in the mortgage and real estate markets have spilled over into other parts of the economy. If you've found business is off a bit and you have more time than cash for marketing right now, here are some things to keep in mind.
Two things you DO NOT want to do:
Don't waste time worrying about what you can't afford to do. There are plenty of things you can afford to do and now you've got some time to do them.
Don't try to cut costs by not advertising during slow times. If you "go away" in the minds of consumers, someone else is going to fill that space.
Here are some low cost or no cost marketing activities for the Time Rich and Cash Poor:
Newsletter Sponsorship: Homeowners Association, Neighborhood Watch Groups, Chambers of Commerce and other organizations often put out monthly or quarterly newsletters. Most would be happy to put an ad in for you if you offer to pay for all or part of the printing cost. Depending on the type of newsletter and the size and type of distribution, you can often get advertising for as little as $25. What it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. You can create great goodwill by showing your support for even a small organization that someone belongs to.
Get Social: If you haven't been to your networking group in a while, this is a good time to get reacquainted. If you don't belong to any, ask your colleagues to recommend one. Even if they don't result in a slew of new referrals, it's a great place to meet like minded business people and bounce ideas off one another. You can also make more time for social events in general. Get out in the community. Catch up with friends. You don't have to give them the pitch. They know what you do. But the old addage is true "out of sight, out of mind" Get back in sight.
Self Distribution: You could use the excercise anyway right? Instead of paying the ever-rising rates of postage, get yourself some door hangers or flyers and take a walk. Contrary to your reservations, most people are friendly and will give you a pleasant smile if they see you out there working the neighborhood. Those that don't.. well give them a smile anyway and just go on to the next house. If you're not up to it yourself, there are plenty of young entreprenuers who would be glad to have the work at 10 cents/house or so. Just remember, Trust But Verify. Do a driveby afterwards to make sure, and let your helper(s) know in advance that you'll be checking.
Co-op: Partnering with other businesses on things like calendars, memo boards and other handy promotional items not only reduces costs by enabling volume buying, but it greatly increases the distribution. You're not just putting your ad in front of your customers and prosects, but you're getting in front of the other participants customers and prospects as well.
Car Magnets: Make all those trips around town work harder for you. A pair of full color 12 x 18 car magnets can be had for around $89. Compare that to the cost of other advertising media. When you consider the visibility and the duration, the cost is next to nothing per month. What? You don't want to put an ad on your car? Your business paid for that car. The least you can do is let it use the outside of the door. Besides, your already providing free advertising for the car manufacturer and probably the dealer that sold it to you. Don't you deserve as much?
Happy Customers: The best form of marketing still is, and always will be, happy customers. Your marketing efforts will be greatly enhanced by delivering on your promises. They'll be greatly diminished if you don't. Take good care of the customer in front of you first.