Your best free source of information, open seven days a week, is your local library. Even though your taxes pay for its operation, it’s available at no cost whenever you use it. If you haven’t been there lately, I suggest you find time soon. There’s so much information there that you can spend an hour just figuring out what to use and look at. Make the library a destination at least once every 60 days.
You will find directories with hundreds of pages of new possible customers with contact names. The reference department will have information on all the media companies you can use for publicity. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, a reference librarian will cheerfully guide you in the right direction (no tipping necessary!). Most of the books in the reference department are not available for checkout, so bring a pen and paper to jot down any details you want to take back to the office with you. If you’re checking out books on marketing, sales, or any subject, don’t take just one; take three or four so you have different ideas from different authors.
Many libraries have copy machines so you can copy full pages of information from reference books that you can’t take with you. Bring change or dollar bills so you’re prepared if you need them. You never know when you’re going to find a list of potential customers or ideas in a reference book and want to start using the information right away.
Many libraries in medium and large cities have websites where you can go directly to other sites with information for which the library has a subscription. If there are publications or websites you would be interested in but that aren’t available, make a request to a librarian or write a letter to the library’s executive director. If they get enough requests for the same thing, you just might get it. You could always cheat a little and ask your friends and relatives to help you out and make similar requests.
A small-business owner who’s serious about growing his or her company should visit the library weekly or at least twice monthly. Using every resource available is what the winners do, so use your library regularly. When you’re out of town and have extra time on your hands, stop at a library there and pick up some new ideas. They may have directories or publications you don’t have in your city. It’s certainly better than sitting in a bar—and a lot less expensive, too.