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Bulls-eye over businesspeopleHemera Technologies

Looking for ways to increase awareness for your small business but don't want to blow your budget right out of the gate? Gary Lipovetsky, president of online group-purchasing site Dealfind offers entrepreneurs these solid tips for maximum exposure on minimum investment.

1. Know your audience: Just who are you trying to reach? Ask yourself this question before you embark on any type of marketing activity. Knowing what kind of customer you want to reach and where your demographic "sweet spot" lies will result in a more targeted, efficient and successful campaign.

2. It's all about performance: Don't speculate on whether your marketing efforts are successful. Small businesses in particular should stay away from running ads that cannot directly be tied to revenue. By using a performance-based marketing model, you will have a clear view of your return on investment, which will allow you to continue a more strategic marketing plan moving forward.

3. Mum's NOT the word: Word-of-mouth advertising is one of the best ways of reaching a new audience. Let your happy customers be ambassadors for your business. Whether you choose to offer incentives for referrals or not, making sure that people are more than satisfied with your product or service will virtually guarantee a referral - and possibly a new customer or two.

4. Plan, plan ahead: Set clear goals for your business and stick to them. This means putting together a comprehensive business and marketing plan, and sourcing the various elements required in order to achieve success. Without a clear roadmap about how you plan to garner awareness for your company there will be no success. Be prepared and you will be profitable.

5. Slow and steady: Move at a pace that your infrastructure and finances can support. This means pacing your advertising and marketing goals with your available cash flow. Don't over-extend yourself and work within your existing financial parameters until such time when you can expand. Your accountant will thank you.

6. Premium partnerships: When budgets are tight and businesses are just starting out, find a reliable partner that can help you get your message out. Whether it's through cross-leveraging of services or a quid pro quo arrangement of services in kind, this tactic will guarantee that you get more for your marketing buck.

7. Social networking strategies: There's no doubt about the fact that online social network sites are now considered to be a key conduit to new customers. As well these online outlets allow you to keep the lines of communication open with existing customers as well as gauge what's going on in terms of trends and hot topics within your industry. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offer incredible value for small businesses with limited budgets. Sign on and get into the conversation.

8. Building blocks: Efficiency is the name of the game as is building upon your already-existing assets. Consider making your company website more robust by adding a forum for discussion or interactive capabilities. Wherever possible, use marketing to direct customers back to your website, collateral and marketing materials through cross-promotion and similar strategies.

9. The customer is always right: Not enough can be said about the value of customer service. Treat your customers well, give them what they want and listen to their concerns and feedback. They will appreciate you, come back for more and likely bring their friends and family as well.

10. Sweeten the pot: The strategic use of incentives and referrals as part of your marketing strategy is a great way to increase awareness for your company. If you can, offer existing customers discounts or products or services in kind for bringing in new business. Not only will you potentially gain new customers by using this strategy, but you will gain new ambassadors for your company and brand (see point #2).

Gary Lipovetsky is the President of Dealfind, a leading Canadian online group-buying site. In May, 2011, Dealfind received $31-million in capital investment from three key venture capital partners in a testament to the company's success.