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How to Promote Your Business in Uncertain Times

How to Promote Your Business in Uncertain Times

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Bootstrapping entrepreneurs face numerous challenges and many of them are, for long periods of time, uncertain if their company will have a future. Giving themselves a year or two to make it is common with people who left behind a decent 9 to 5 job to chase their dreams. Getting new clients and losing them, getting a lucky break and then entering a slump, all take a toll on an entrepreneur’s mental well-being. They might start wondering if it’s all worth it, if they should continue or just close shop and move on.

In uncertain times, making decisions about how to promote your business can be more difficult than ever. If you’re not promoting your business, how are you going to land new clients, attract new customers? You know you should promote your business but you’re also scared you’ll waste even more money and get no results.

As a frugal marketing agency, we take these concerns very seriously. Many of our clients reach out to us when they’ve already spent 70-90% of their marketing budgets and got nothing or almost nothing in return. So their (legitimate) question is:

Should I keep promoting my company like I did before or change the way to do it?

To answer this, you actually have to dive deeper into the question, because it involves a bit of decision engineering. You see, the issue here is that the decision problem is framed as a binary one: keep doing vs. change. This amplifies the tension. It looks like you don’t have any other option, which is usually untrue.

An amazing woman named Michelle Florendo, a career consultant for Type-A professionals, usually deals with clients framing their questions this way (this vs. that). Very often it’s about staying in or quitting a job. What she does is to ask:

What other options might they be leaving out?

There are always ways to widen your options. So that’s also what we do. We explore other options and the decision to be made gets reframed, and just like Michelle’s clients, ours also discover that many options aren’t mutually exclusive.

Promoting your business while dealing with uncertainty

Let’s say your business is struggling to make money and you think the problem is that your communication isn’t effective – people don’t know your product exists or your product is presented in a way that puts people off. There are a couple of questions you should answer in order to figure out your next steps:

  • How do you know you achieved product/market fit?
  • What were your marketing goals and what did you actually achieve?
  • How could you implement the same strategy but cheaper?
  • What would it take to change your strategy?
  • What would a new strategy entail?
  • How could you implement a different strategy cheaper?
  • Could you keep on implementing your old strategy and add some new elements?

Of course, we’ll get as many different answers as many entrepreneurs we talk to, but there are a few things that apply no matter the market or the product. So, when you’re trying to promote your product while your business is struggling:

1. Leverage your assets.

If you have an email list, figure out how to get the people on your list to promote your product. If you have a social media following, find a way to get your followers to send in buyers.

2. Track the hell out of your Customer Acquisition Cost.

If you don’t know how much you’re spending to get new customers, you don’t know if your strategy is effective. Include all your marketing and advertising related activities in the cost, not just your media budget.

3. Stop looking at vanity metrics.

Ignore them completely. Sales will improve your business, not likes. You can worry about consumer engagement and the number of people following your brand on Facebook after you’re out of the woods.

4. Stop paying to remove the software creator’s branding.

There are hundreds and thousands of tools to help you build an email list, get traffic, improve your lead generation. Few people care if you’re using their free or the paid versions, they’re interested in how they help them get what they need – your product or services.

5. Creativity matters.

Think just of Facebook ads – good design and creativity capture people’s attention = people interact with your ads = your costs drop. Creativity is a great competitive advantage.

 

The are no easy fixes and there are no recipes, but if you’re working with a team that has your best interest at heart, and you’re transparent and open to experimenting, you can surpass any obstacle.

lead magnet ideas

Lead Magnet Ideas: 41 Types to Choose From for Your Business or Blog

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Everybody’s talking about the importance of lead magnets, but it can be difficult to pick the right ones for your website. First of all, you need to figure out what is it that you could offer. Then you need to find out what is it that your prospects want so badly that they’d share their personal information with you. Last, but not least, you gotta figure out how you’re going to package the bribe you’ll offer.

So, let’s back up a little and start in the right place:

What exactly is a lead magnet?

Lead magnets are “bribes” to get your potential customers to give you their contact details.

Because they’ve mainly been used by businesses in the B2B sector, they’ve often been portrayed as white papers, industry trend reports, eBooks and guides. Lately, bloggers have also started to use them, disguising the bribes into recipe eBooks, checklists, and printables.

The truth is that anything can be a lead magnet. What makes a lead magnet an effective tool in generating new leads is its value. People aren’t giving away their email addresses because they love collecting PDF files, but because they want the info the PDF file contains, and they want the info because of what they can do with it. That also means that you can offer many other things than eBooks, guides, reports, or printables, and that you can ask for other things than a user’s email address.

Email is good, other details are better

Almost every lead capture software out there focuses on capturing emails, but that’s not always the best way to reach a potential customer. This happens because for too many years people were ashamed to ask for a lead’s contact details and tried to go around the bush saying something like, “we can only give you this if we email it to you, so please give us your email address.” Well, yeah, by email is a great way to deliver a PDF file, but not all customers look for that in the first place.

So, that is why I’m proposing a different approach to identifying the best lead magnet ideas for your online business or blog. Let’s focus more on the value the potential customer is getting, and also bring social media handles and phone numbers in the mix. SMS marketing is 10 times more effective than email. Having potential customers in your own secret Facebook group is also better than emailing them to an address they rarely use (let’s be honest, we all have that one email address we use to sign up for websites we’ll only access once).

Creative and Popular Lead Magnet Ideas

With those side notes out of the way, let’s dive into a short list of lead magnet ideas, what contact details you could ask for, and how to deliver them:

#1 Free Shipping Code

If you’re selling physical products, you must already know that people don’t like to pay for shipping. You can offer free shipping for their next order or for a whole month in exchange for their phone number. Tell them you’ll text them the free shipping code and also ask for permission to send them marketing messages.
(I’ll get into SMS marketing compliance some other time, but make sure you keep proof of people’s opt-in).

#2 Dropbox File Link

People love snooping around other people’s folders. Why not give them the opportunity to do just that? Ask people for their email address in exchange for a Dropbox link to a folder where you keep things you have collected over the years (past articles, infographics, digital assets you created for your business, presentations, audio files, vectors) – anything that might be useful and relevant to someone in your niche.

#3 WhatsApp Chat Invite

You can have a phone number you could use just for business and you can connect with potential customers by using modern technologies and channels. For example, Millennials hate talking on the phone, but they text all day long. You can ask people to give you their phone number, so you could add them on WhatsApp for chat sessions. You can schedule the chat sessions with a few leads at a time, and answer their questions on your desktop computer or laptop since you can also use WhatsApp’s web version.

#4 Text Summary

Your potential customers are probably super busy, so anything you could do to save them even a few minutes will be greatly appreciated. You can ask your website visitors to opt-in to receive text message summaries every time you post a new lengthy article they might be interested in. As I said before, make sure your form clearly states what they’ll receive once they opt-in for your SMS marketing list.

#5 Quiz

Depending on your niche and what current trend is on your prospects’ radars, you can also bribe people into giving you their email with a quiz. You can do it yourself or work with a digital agency to create it. It doesn’t even have to be very complex, but it should really help the user figure out something about themselves/their needs/their potential.

#6 Template

What makes a template truly magical is the effort to end result ratio. That’s why designers love downloading all sorts of mockups, and why marketers love swipe files and templates in general. You don’t have to invest too much time into something and the end result is spectacular. It’s not really about offering people something they could never do on their own, but rather something that will save them a lot of time. You can ask people to give you their email to be able to download your amazing template.

Facebook Secret Groups for Lead Magnet Ideas

#7 Facebook Secret Group Invite

If you’re seen as one of the top experts in your field, you should take advantage of Facebook Groups. While there isn’t that much value in a group that anyone can join, being among those chosen to be invited to a secret group is a quite exciting. The best part about secret groups? You don’t have to worry about your competitors coming in and stealing your prospects. Also, you can really make your customers feel special. After all, they were granted access to a place where you share all sorts of goodies and knowledge.

The easiest way to get people into your secret group is by asking for the email address used for creating their Facebook account. If you plan to use those email addresses for anything more than adding them to the Facebook Secret Group, don’t forget to state that in the opt-in form, you know, just to be on the safe side.

#8 Timeline

Timelines facilitate learning. They also help you show off – if you’re able to create a timeline, explaining how things were and how they changed over time, you must be really clever. So, if there’s something in your niche that needs explaining, for which a timeline would work wonders, go for it. If it’s something people really want, they’ll have no problem with sharing their email address with you to get it.

#9 Industry Benchmarks

You’d be surprised how many people have no point of reference for evaluating the performance of the things they do – business, writing, conversions, you name it. Only when you’ve acquired many years of experience you can sometimes establish some benchmarks, so you could figure out how good or bad your results really are. If you’re a thought leader or aspire to be one, being able to share some benchmarks relevant to your niche will help you consolidate your expert status while getting people to subscribe to your newsletter or join your secret social media group.

#10 Contact Sheet

Maybe you’ve been super lucky and you’ve never struggled to find great freelancers to work with, but you’re in the minority. Most people dread having to find a designer or a PPC specialist because it’s a lot of work. That’s why business owners love recommendations. It’s so much more enjoyable to reach out to someone you’ve heard great things about, who is guaranteed to treat you with respect and be genuinely interested in what you’re working on. You can offer a list of contacts – the freelancers you’ve worked with, the support or sales people in the SaaS companies or ad networks you love, etc. Just make sure you ask for their permission before emailing the list to your prospects as a thank you for subscribing to your newsletter or giving you their phone number.

#11 PowerPoint Presentation Download

There’s something interesting about PPT presentations. For most professionals, they’re a pain in the butt. For people just starting out in their career, who just graduated or landed a new job, getting to see other people’s PPT presentations is a great opportunity to learn. If you’re a blogger or the manager of an online business, people might be interested in how one of your presentations looks like and what it contains. If you’re a public speaker you can just offer the presentation from one of your talks. You can even repurpose some of your blog posts to create a new presentation, just make sure the topic is one your prospects are interested in and ask for their emails.

#12 Fact Sheet

Think of something as simple (and delicious) as coffee. It’s good for you. Also, it’s bad for you. There are studies supporting both claims. That applies to many topics. People aren’t happy with the uncertainty surrounding so many aspects of their life. If you promise them to deliver a trustworthy fact sheet on something they care about, they’ll be willing to give you their email or phone number.

#13 Calendar

Once again, save your prospects time, and they’ll wanna hear what you have to say. If there are any important events, relevant to your niche, any programs, deals, or schedules people should know about, create a calendar and use it as a lead magnet. It should help you collect emails for as long as it stays up to date.

#14 Daily Planner Stickers

Some people are crazy about stickers, and it’s not that hard to see why – they’re funny, colorful, sometimes saucy. Now that we’ve reached peak laptop sticker madness, a new trend is coming – daily planner stickers. They’re tiny enough to fit in your planner next to your daily activities and deliver a bit of fun and motivation. They also fit perfectly in a simple envelope, so it won’t be ridiculously difficult to mail them. If you’re running an eCommerce website or a company that likes to have fun, you should totally create your collection of daily planner stickers and get people to give you their mailing address to get them.

#15 Challenge

Doing things as part of a tribe can build your self-confidence and motivate you to go on. That’s why so many artists are signing up for the InkTober drawing challenge. You can create a challenge that’s relevant to your niche, with results or goals that are important to your prospects. Get people to sign up for your mailing list to be a part of the challenge.

For the next ideas, I’ll just speed though, because you’ve probably heard them before. If you have any questions, do leave me a comment down below. If any of them sounds appealing, you can search for tips on using them online and you’ll certainly find some great examples.

Lead Magnet Ideas 16 to 40

I’ll end with one of my favorites:

#41 Mind Map

Mind maps can be fascinating. For some people, drawing a mind map is really easy, but for others things get tricky. A mind map, even though it’s simple in its shape, can start a lot of creative endeavors. Allowing your prospects to see your mind maps can help them solve problems, discover things about themselves and figure out how you think about important topics in your niche. The easiest way to share a mind map with your prospects is to send it as an image to their phone, and yes for this to happen they’ll have to give you their phone numbers.

No matter what niche you’re in, there’s something of value you could offer, and if you still don’t have an idea what that could be, post a comment below and we’ll figure something out. If there’s just one thing you’ll leave with from this web page, I hope it’s that you can be creative with the type of lead magnet to use. A white paper might be interesting in B2B marketing, but it’s an awful choice for a fun B2C brand. Content marketing really shouldn’t be about imitating other companies but identifying what value can we add to our prospects’ lives.

Challenge your assumptions and start saving money!

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There are three main assumptions that small business owners make about their business, and they’re dangerous. They’re restricting a business owner’s capability to solve problems and innovate, making it harder for the entrepreneur to cut costs and speed up entire processes.

The best indicator that these assumptions need to be challenged is that big corporations have already unlocked the potential for growth they were guarding.

The three assumption holding your business back are these:

  1. You need an office or a brick-and-mortar shop to have a “real” business.
  2. You can only look for candidates for your open positions only in your own area.
  3. You get what you pay for.

Let’s talk about them, one by one.

Assumption #1: You need to buy or rent space for your business.

If you’re running a coffee shop, yeah, you’ll probably need to rent a space. If you run a taco truck, you’ll probably need to rent or buy a truck. If you’re recruiting staff, handling accounting, crunching numbers for financial investments, offering coaching sessions or providing any other service that can be done on a laptop or over the phone, you might not need an office. Commuting is stressful, both for you and your employees. A store or an office means paying money on something that has no or little impact on the quality of the service you’re offering. Only a fraction of what you’d normally pay for rent, can give you access to exceptional tools that would allow you to collaborate with your team and contractors and efficiently communicate with customers and serve them.

Assumption #2: You need to hire locally.

There are jobs for which someone’s physical presence is a must, but there are also countless jobs for which remote work delivers the same or even better results. Take it from someone who worked and is still working with people thousands of miles away. It works. You do have to learn how to share what you’re working on and use tools that would help you track time and progress made, but it works.

By hiring remotely, you’re opening your company up to more talented individuals, because your recruiting pool is now the entire planet, and to lower labour costs, because you can now hire people from parts of the world where the cost of living isn’t as high as in your own country.

Assumption #3: You get what you pay for.

You might expect me to say that I’m referring to cheap things that are actually high-quality, but you’d only be half-right. Another important thing, and this causes small business owners more trouble, is something you really need, that costs a lot, and doesn’t deliver. This can be the case with online advertising – buying ad space on niche websites, spending hundreds or thousands of dollars and getting only 2 or 3 clicks in return. This can also be the case with buying services like custom business cards locally, 4-5 time more expensive than in other parts of the world, without having the quality that would explain the huge difference in price.

Working with people who know the prices of services and products across the Globe, and who also regularly test systems and software, can help you spend less money on things that won’t bring in any value.

At Nollar, we’ve never thought we’ll end up recommending suppliers or contractors to our current clients, but ended up doing so because we were shocked to hear how much certain things cost and we knew there were better (and cheaper) way of obtaining the same products or results with the help of other globally-connected professionals.

If you have any questions about saving money while ordering business cards or hiring staff, give us a sign, we might be able to help by connecting you with the right people.

Hi. Let’s see if we’re a good fit!

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We usually work with small business owners, startup founders, and kick-ass brand managers who need to build their online presence with sales in mind.

On the other hand, we’re a small multidisciplinary team, focusing on the needs of our clients more than we focus on our own needs – we’re just built that way. Because we’re a bit more protective with our clients than many other agencies our size, and because we put our clients first, we don’t take on every potential client knocking on our (virtual) door. It’s not because we’re arrogant, it’s just about being honest with ourselves and the client about what we can offer and what they are looking for; and if we’re not a match, we’re always happy to refer work to people who might help better than we could.

We’re a match (made in Heaven) if:

  • you heard about frugal marketing, and you realised that would be a great thing to test out for your own business, or
  • you have a vision for what your business should be and become, and you genuinely want to bring something positive in the world, or
  • you are always in a hurry because you’re balancing your company’s growth and your family life and need someone reliable to help you get things moving.

If you think we could have a great relationship, beneficial to both parties, please give us a sign using any contact form on this website or by emailing us at hello @ nollar.co.

Why Supporting Women It’s Our Thing

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Women are being called the emerging market of the emerging market. That is a good thing. That means that there’s hope we’ll see the same funding going into developing products and services to support women as it went into emerging markets. Unfortunately, that doesn’t absolve women and men from contributing to closing the opportunity gap.

Supporting Women Should Matter to All of Us

It’s 2016 2017, and we still talk about the need to support women. There’s still a lot more work to be done. We need everyone’s involvement to make the systemic changes our society requires to actually happen. Women have the credentials to build amazing products, lead companies, generate profits, become successful entrepreneurs. And they’re still underrepresented both in business and in politics. They still have to breathe a toxic air – the cues about what “they’re supposed to be.”

As a woman, I also have systematically underestimated my own abilities. I’ve faced prejudice. I’ve been judged based on my sexiness or lack of it and not based on my abilities. I’ve missed opportunities because I didn’t have a female mentor to guide me. Surviving as a bootstrapping entrepreneur is difficult. It’s even harder when you realise that society perceives men as pioneers and women as exceptions.

We’ve Made It Part of Our Mission

Here at Nollar, part of our mission is to help women get the most of their ideas and hard work. We’re ready to advise and collaborate with the female business leaders of tomorrow, giving them access to low-cost but effective marketing solutions, best case studies in growth hacking, access to top creative and strategic talent, and the straight talk too few agencies are offering.

We’re happy to work with mompreneurs from all around the world. We’d be delighted to support any #girlboss who wants to improve her sales or build a brand. We wish we could work with young entrepreneurs who have an idea but haven’t quite figured out where to start yet. We do great work when working with established brands trying to reach female consumers in a more meaningful and cost-effective way.

As a woman running a business, you don’t have to be stuck in a productivity trap. You can access frugal solutions that would help you better monetize your time, make a bigger splash with less money, and become a leader that would inspire others to action.

June 2016: Our First Essay on Marketing Personalization to be Published in Admap

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Back in February, I was writing an essay on the future of marketing personalization for the Admap Prize. A few months ago I was thrilled to find out it was shortlisted. This was the second time one of my essays was shortlisted for the prize after 2013. Just as the first time around, I’ve been surprised and happy to receive such great news.

tara duveanu nollar

This year, the reasons for celebration didn’t end there – the essay has also been awarded a Judges’ Commendation, and it will be published in the June issue of Admap. The best part about this opportunity is the fact that Nollar is on the same list with big industry names, which feels unreal because of all the struggles we’ve been through this past year.

What is Frugal Marketing

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Frugal marketing is the low-cost, creative, ready to turn disadvantages into opportunities type of marketing bootstrapping entrepreneurs turn to when they realize they’ve wasted too much energy, time, and money on vanity metrics. Like in all things, there’s a learning curve to marketing your business, and frugal marketing is rarely the first option because it’s not glamorous or flashy like the expensive type. When you turn to frugal marketing, it’s usually after you’ve burned through a big chunk of your budget and got nothing or almost nothing in return.

You shouldn’t beat yourself up, though. All entrepreneurs make a few wrong steps, and it’s ridiculously easy to make these mistakes when there’s so much buzz around some social media experts and internet marketers, about how much freedom and money your own startup would bring you if you just start, about how easy it’s to handle all things yourself with software automation.

To be effective, marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to be smart.

At Nollar, we don’t recommend the same old things “experts” recommend when talking about frugal marketing like giveaways, volunteering your time, networking, using your email signature to promote your business. These are indeed free or low-cost, but they’re rarely effective. They’re not helping you differentiate yourself from your competitors. They’re not delivering results as fast or as often as the marketing specialists have you believe. Just because it’s low-cost, it doesn’t mean it has to be half-cocked.

Putting something on the internet is not the same as getting people to see something you’ve put on the internet, and that is something business owners turning to social media without a plan realize as soon as they are confronted with their actual sales.

For us, frugal marketing is about knowing where to display your message as much as what that message is. Some channels are effective, others are just machines designed to scam business owners. Knowing the difference takes effort – examining assumptions against delivered results, running multiple tests, paying attention to what data becomes available and integrating new insights into the process used for making decisions. There are hundreds of websites where you can waste hundreds or thousands of dollars and get 1-2 clicks in return, there are channels that deliver 0 results because they’re not used correctly. There are tricks one can take advantage of to cut the PPC costs on Facebook adverts. There are many solutions business owners can choose, they just need to be open to giving something else a try, something like frugal marketing.

Running a Frugal Business

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Starting a business is easy, keeping it alive is difficult. When you turn your side hustle into an actual business and start hiring staff, things can spiral out of control in weeks if you don’t watch your spending. If you’ve thought about leading a frugal life, you might also be interested in applying the strategies of frugality in your business life:

  • if you can barter, do it
  • always compare prices
  • use cost-free solutions
  • automate time-sapping tasks
  • avoid cash traps
  • reduce waste (time, money, other resources)
  • curb costly habits
  • try outsourcing first
  • have a strict spending diet
  • don’t care what others think
  • seek effectiveness

With financial experts saying a new economic crisis is just around the corner, frugality becomes more and more important. By understanding how to run a frugal business, you’ll manage to save money while your competitors will keep on overspending.

#1 Barter
In the U.S. alone, over 450,000 companies actively participate in barter. Their trade reaches over $12 billion in annual sales. So, no, it wouldn’t be weird to say “hey, I’m low on cash, would you be interested in barter?”. Many other small businesses are struggling to make ends meet, and barter is a good way to get what you need and avoid spending any cash.

#2 Compare Prices
Hiring a new accountant? Ask for at least 3 cost estimates. Buying a new laptop? Check out its price on a few websites. Don’t settle for the first price you are getting. Do a bit of detective work if it could save you some money in the long run.

#3 Use Cost-Free Solutions
Many small business owners buy the same software licenses they used to use when they were employees, but without getting the volume discount their former employer got. For a new business, it makes more sense financially to take advantage of free software solutions (Pixlr, PicMonkey, Google Apps, browser extensions) even if some adjusting time will be necessary.

#4 Automate Time-Sapping Tasks
Use Buffer to schedule your social media posts, use GetResponse to automate your email marketing and boost sales by emailing people after they activate one of the triggers you selected. Visit ifttt.com/recipes and see what IFTTT automations you need.

#5 Avoid Cash Traps
Before signing up for a free service ask yourself if there’s a risk the service will request payment in the future to give you access to what you once got for free. For example: Don’t invest in building a Facebook page if you don’t have the money to pay for reaching your fans, because the organic reach will be too low.

#6 Reduce Waste
Optimize your workflows and production, implement the Kanban system, get informed about what worker efficiency is and how you can achieve it, investigate ways to reduce the time you and your team members waste waiting for somebody else to finish working on something so the next person could intervene. Keep track of what goes into your products and services and what comes out, so you could fix what wastes resources.

#7 Curb Costly Habits
When you’re a small business owner, not reading the fine print of an agreement is more costly than when you are signing up for Netflix. So is taking on too many responsibilities or fixing your employees’ mistakes over and over again. Make sure you know what bad habits you need to kick.

#8 Try Outsourcing First
One of the worst things new entrepreneurs do is hire the wrong people. You can hire too soon, hire the wrong people, expect the wrong thing, pay too much just because you want to be a “good boss”. Outsource for a month the position you’d like to fill locally. You’ll find out how much you can actually pay, what to look for in a candidate, what to expect, and what to ask from your employee.

#9 Strict Spending Diet
Take your projected cash flow into consideration when you are planning your monthly expenses and track every single thing you want to buy. Make sure you only buy what you really need, and that you’re not passing you monthly limit.

#10 Don’t Care What Others Think
Some will say you don’t have a real business if you’re working from home, others that you should change your wardrobe because you can’t be an entrepreneur if you’re wearing a hoodie, not a suit. F*** ‘em! Work from home. Move into an office only if you really must. Keep your personal shopping to a minimum. Don’t buy (or pay for things) just to fit into expensive social norms.

#11 Seek Effectiveness
Pay attention to who is complaining that a marketing tactic failed miserably, check out this list of websites on which you should never run your ads, ask people how much they pay for PPC advertising, content creation and seeding, etc. If you pay attention, you’ll find cheap and efficient ways to promote and run your business.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends and help them go frugal!