For many businesses, the most powerful type of marketing available does not have to break the bank. It’s called grassroots marketing. Grassroots marketing is about targeting a small group, then allowing your message to spread.

Like any good marketing plan, the key to a successful grassroots marketing plan is starting with identifying your target audience. Thinking about those in your backyard is the best way to start. Ask yourself, “Who in my community could be a potential customer and how can I reach them?”

Instead of thinking about how much to spend to reach these potential customers, think about how you can reach them effectively through hyper-local, low-cost efforts. Executing inexpensive grassroots efforts to your marketing plan can add up to impactful results. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Make it Easy to Find Your Business
There are lots of do-it-yourself ways to make sure your customers will find you when they’re looking for products and services online - and most of them are free! Claim your online real estate by ensuring your business has a listing on websites like Google Places, Yelp, and CitySearch. If your business has events, find out how to list them in local events calendars online, or even in community newspapers and magazines. Many times online listings can be submitted by filling out an online form or sending an email. Assure that your online listings link back to your business website. Every online link helps lift your website results to the top of search engines when someone is searching locally.

Strengthen your Community Ties
Low to no-cost ideas to increase your visibility in your local community include joining your Chamber of Commerce, attending meetings with any small business group in your area and even supporting your local school’s PTA organization or sports teams. If you are visible in the community as a business leader, your business will be in the spotlight too.

Cross-Promote with Other Businesses
Find other businesses that complement yours and make a connection with those business owners. Cross-promotional offers and events can drive mutually beneficial customer traffic to both of your businesses and raise your visibility. If your business is on the same block as other businesses, connect and find ways to help each other keep customers in your area.

Offer Your Expertise
You have a skill, a service or a product people want, so offer up what you know. Consider hosting a workshop or event that helps people and also shows off what you can offer them for a cost. Let your local media know what expertise you can offer--you may find yourself being quoted in a newspaper article or could even end up as an expert on a local TV segment, all at a cost much lower than traditional marketing efforts.

Grassroots marketing efforts can offer an amazing boost to both new and established businesses, and should be a part of the marketing mix in your business plan.