There's nothing more powerful in new business development than word of mouth. Yet with the pressures of today's economy, you can't depend solely on referrals. You need to step up the promotion to be as visible as possible to potential clients - and even current ones. It's true that some marketing activities come with a cost, yet there are many ways you can raise awareness without spending lots of money.

For starters, get involved with social media, if you haven't already. Since childhood, we have always been encouraged to reach out to others. Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter cost nothing more than your time and let you engage directly with your customers. As your clients 'talk' to you online, they are exposing you to their own network of friends so that over time your reputation grows among people you otherwise may never reach. A pretty compelling proposition don't you think?

I wouldn't disregard some of the more traditional online marketing activities either like email or newsletters. An occasional email offering a new treatment or special promotion keeps you 'top of mind' with clients. And you easily can put together a newsletter about your new services, products you retail, or an interesting development in the spa and massage marketplace. If you don't want to create your own template, there are online newsletter services you can use for a small fee.

You also want to think about building your market presence through partnerships. Think about who you can partner with to complement your offering and help expand your own marketing efforts. As a massage therapist, you might want to partner with an esthetician or a health service provider for referrals or joint promotions, including a possible open house. Partners can be a major source of referrals and also enable you to provide a more comprehensive service offering. Be sure, though, they are your philosophy about customer service and professionalism.

Get involved in your Community

When you volunteer your services to individuals who otherwise may never be able to afford the kinds of services you offer, you showcase the skills you have to other community members. Also consider becoming a board member of an organization you support. Board membership is a wonderful way to meet other influential members of the community.

Online Advertising

Facebook ads for example - are not inexpensive and you target your demographic pretty easily. You might even want to consider an ad in a community newspaper if they are doing a special feature that relates to your business or sponsor a location event where there is high visibility.

Those are just some suggestions to get you going. I'm sure you have other ideas for cost-effective marketing. What has been your most successful marketing effort to date that didn't break the bank? We'd love to hear about it.