Hospitality businesses often spring out of a personal dream and founders pursue them as labors of love–but successful owners quickly learn that hospitality businesses operate on some of the tightest margins of any sector and face stiff competition.

Your business needs to connect with customers, make an impression, and keep them coming back for more. But you can’t afford to overspend on marketing. Here are our top tips for affordable ways to grow your business.

Know your customer

Start by digging into what your customers care about. That could take some trial and error if you haven’t been operating long and don’t have conclusive data on what kind of person spends consistently, but it’s absolutely critical to your . If you know your customer, you can target your business investments more efficiently.

Niche down

You want to be known for something. Specifically, you need to be the best in your niche. Narrow down your focus until you find something you can stand out as and beat the competition.

Keep in mind that it still needs to be something your customers care about. If you’re running a coffee shop, you want to offer the best baked goods, or the best atmosphere for first dates, or the fastest service, etc. If you’ve a hotel, you want to be the best for business travelers near the airport, or the best for romantic stays in the heart of the city. But if your best customers are most interested in business travel and you try to niche down into romantic getaways, you risk alienating them and orienting yourself toward a market that doesn’t exist, or one that is being better served by someone else. On the other hand, you can always pivot your brand to an under-served market.

Keep your brand simple

Finding your niche and knowing your customers makes it easier to market your brand for less. By keeping it simple and targeted, you waste less money on trying to get the word out to people who aren’t likely to spend on your services, or on sending messages that don’t connect and make an impression.

There are practical ways of keeping your brand simple, too. Stamps are a option for saving on printing costs. A single-color logo is another way to save. A clear, to the point, niche-based brand is faster to convey, whether that’s in a poster, radio or video ad, or a media post. Be consistent and simple.

Entice with specials

You can draw people in through the door with specials. That doesn’t necessarily have to involve sales, although use of sale can have results. If your margins are too tight for selective discounting, feature limited-time goods or services instead.

Use a chalkboard at the point of sale till or in a sidewalk standing configuration with erasable markers from to promote sales or specials with no additional cost. Chalk art can be adapted to a variety of styles, from rustic to elegant, and is easily erased and redrawn to keep content fresh and appealing.

Social media is the digital equivalent; inexpensive and effective. Location-target posts or ads so your sales and limited-time specials reach people near your location. You should also target content by interests to people who fit your customer profile for better results.

Invest in partnerships

Look for other businesses to partner with. That is usually best done with local businesses or ones with a complimentary sector or niche. There are a few ways to benefit from this. You might refer or advertise each other’s services to your own customers. You can distribute sales, discounts, gifts, or giveaways to each other’s customers. You might trade services or goods to save on cash purchases. You can also band together for group promotions to keep advertising costs down.

Mutually beneficial partnerships or business relationships open doors. It can expose unexpected opportunities for your business, but perhaps more significantly, it tends to appeal to customers. Position the connection as being supportive of local business; it makes you look more charitable. You can also bill it as expanding your services to better meet your customer’s needs. For instance, you might locally baked goods in your café, and instead of white-labeling them you promote the baker’s brand as a special feature.

The best way to grow your hospitality business on a is to get specific about what your customers want and what niche your brand fills. Then use low-cost marketing tools like chalkboards and social media to promote sales, specials, and local partnerships to attract and appeal to your customers.

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